CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Mexican American Studies Program, and the Division of Student Engagement and Success celebrated Dr. Hector P. Garcia’s official state holiday with a one-hour program held Wednesday, Sept. 17, in the O’Connor Building.
“We’re honored to have 50 year Tejano star, Linda Escobar, and Dr. Garcia’s daughter, Cecilia, to help celebrate his memory and the contributions he made to the Hispanic culture on this official state holiday,” said Dr. Anthony Quiroz, Professor of History, who organized the event.
Escobar opened the event by singing songs in Dr. Garcia’s honor. Cecilia Garcia Akers then offered an overview of her father’s work throughout his life. She closed the event by announcing a new annual scholarship called the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Scholarship, worth $5,000 for an academic year. It was established through the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Foundation to promote education in the good doctor's memory.
“I want everyone to know what an incredible man my father was,” said Akers. “He was completely unselfish and made so many sacrifices so that we all could have a better life.”
In 2009, the Texas legislature passed a resolution making the third Wednesday in September “Dr. Hector P. Garcia Day.” The World War II veteran founded the American G.I. Forum. He and the new organization rose to national prominence after the war when Rice Funeral home in Three Rivers, Texas, refused to hold the wake for Army Pvt. Felix Longoria, who had died in the Philippines. Dr. Garcia became involved and the incident sparked the Mexican American civil rights movement.
In 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded Garcia the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed on a civilian. Six years later, Pope John Paul II awarded him the Equestrian Order of Pope Gregory the Great. In April 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing Garcia’s historic contributions to the Hispanic community and his efforts to combat racial and ethnic discrimination. Following his death, Garcia’s official papers were donated to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and are a centerpiece of the Special Collections and Archives Department of the Mary and Jeff Bell Library.