A daughter’s perspective of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, founder of the American GI Forum and a Mexican-American civil rights leader, is how author Cecilia Garcia Akers described her new book, “The Inspiring Life of Texan Hector P. Garcia.”
Akers read from the book and signed copies at a reception and book signing Wednesday, April 13, at the Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Mary and Jeff Bell Library.
Hector P. Garcia (1914-1996) was a Corpus Christi physician who founded the American GI Forum in 1948 to organize veterans to fight for educational and medical benefits. The University’s Library exhibits several of his letters and photos as part of its special collections. The Garcia papers represent one of the most valuable resources in existence on the Mexican-American experience during the last half of the 20th Century.
Akers shared the inscription to her father and read from a section telling of the family’s visit to Washington, D.C. when Dr. Garcia received the Medal of Freedom.
“There’s lots more in the book,” she said. “It was fun writing it but it was real emotional for me. There were many times I had trouble getting through the chapters.”
She thanked several in the crowd, including University officials for hosting the event and housing the papers and librarians for assisting with photos for the book from the archives.
“This book is a gift to me from above and now it’s a gift to friends, family, colleagues and veterans,” she said. “So we’ll never forget the struggle to improve (the lives) of all Americans.”
Dr. Anthony Quiroz, Professor of History at A&M-Corpus Christi with expertise on Mexican American issues, spoke on the significance of Dr. Garcia, whom he compares to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as they both fought against segregated schools, against taxes and jury discrimination, among other civil rights issues.
But the book gives insight to the more personal times and struggles, which can inspire students as well, he said.
“I think it will help folks to read and understand the struggles that even important people have to go through,” he said.
Students Jasmine Rodriguez and Simbai Mutandiro also told the group of Dr. Garcia’s lasting impact as a beacon of inspiration. They shared the traditions of touching the foot of the statue for good luck and a new tradition where ROTC students, when in uniform, salute the statue
“We keep his tradition of excellence and service alive,” Mutandiro said.