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Voces Oral History Project Interview with Federico Garza

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0:25 - Preliminary Questions/Childhood

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Segment Synopsis: Federico Garza grew up on a farm north of Mission, Texas, a rural community. Garza describes himself as a farm boy. As a child he enjoyed riding tractors, riding go-karts, and living the farm boy lifestyle. Garza's family grew tomatoes, and he was nicknamed the tomato boy. Garza went on to sell tomatoes until he was seven years old.

A rule in Garza's house was that education was a must and his parents made sure everyone got a proper education. He grew up with the values and beliefs of his relatives that lived near him.

Keywords: Alton, TX; Rio Grande Valley

Subjects: Childhood; youth

2:34 - City of Alton/Educational Initiative in South Texas/Educational Resources/Inequality

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Segment Synopsis: Garza found role models who inspired his career and motivated him to get involved with his community. During that period the Higher Education Coordinating Board realized there was a lack of professional school programs in the district. The lack of educational programs affect him when he was growing up in the area. Over the years since then, a medical school has been established in the area and he is hopeful that they may even gain a law school in the area as well.

Garza faced many challenges and did his best to find a solution for each of them. One challenge was the incorporation of the city of Alton; another challenge was fighting to keep the local law school from shutting down. Another challenge for Garza was the water district election and maintaining an adequate drinking water system for the residents of the area.

Garza describe his elementary school years. The facilities were not the greatest. When Garza went to high school he found it almost overwhelming to be surrounded by 350 students, in contrast to his elementary school years where it was 30 students.

The inequality in education resources in South Texas continues to present a major challenge.

Keywords: activism; Anglos; City of Alton; community; education; McAllen, TX; politics; Reynaldo Garza Law School

Subjects: Higher Education; Inequality; Spanish language- usage

10:15 - College/Early Career/Mission School Board Election/Jobs During College

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Segment Synopsis: Garza's work ethic and determination to excel served helped him succeed in his classes. He also did a lot of civic work and became a public servant. He sought to help the community and gain knowledge about the problems that were taking place and needed a solution.

During his first race in 1984, he lost the election by 20 votes. A year later he decided to run again, and this time he did not have an opponent. He went on to win four terms on the Mission School Board. His loss in 1984 propelled him to be a board member for the next twelve years.

Garza was a manager and bookkeeper for three entities. He describes himself as being not only the bookkeeper and the manager but also a humble worker as well.

Keywords: Attorney; Hispanic; Mission, TX; political office

Subjects: College; Education; Pan American University

13:45 - Incorporating the City of Alton/Resources at the Reynaldo Garza Law School/ Pan American Merger Debate/Close Contacts

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Segment Synopsis: The City of Alton became incorporated when Garza was 18 years old. He met someone that would later become his inspiration to become an attorney, his longtime friend Brinkley Oxford. Garza recalls attending various meetings and discussing the city's problems and the changes the citizens wanted to see. Garza had to seek many approvals before any real change started to happen. They won the final vote on getting the City of Alton incorporated. Garza appointed members to become the mayor, commissioners, councilmen and so forth. Garza was the director of the Alton Senior Citizens Department. He was also a founding member of the Alton Lions Club, and he became a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Garza was not only a student at the Reynaldo Garza Law School but he was also actively fighting to keep the school from shutting down permanently. Garza recalls going to Austin and lobbying legislators to help the school gain accreditation. There was a continuous negotiation with other universities to try to merge or get affiliated with the law school. The Reynaldo Garza Law School never gained accreditation, but the Supreme Court gave the current students a waiver to take the bar exam without being accredited. Garza was one of the lucky people to take the bar exam and become an attorney during that time period.

The resources at Reynaldo Garza Law School were quaint. The school did not meet the ABA requirements, and Garza recalls having to take classes in the Business Department at Pan American University because the law school's building was deteriorating. They had folding chairs and folding tables. They lacked a proper library, and they did not have enough professional staff.

There were more problems. MALDEF became a concern. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie that Garza got to take, but only two graduating classes gained the access of the bar exam as mandated by the Supreme Court's decision. After that, the Supreme Court ruled against students wanting to take the bar exam, and the law school never won accreditation.

A proposed merger with University of Texas in Pan American. They gained media coverage through newspapers, local radio, and local TV channels but the merger did not take place.

Garza and his colleagues worked tirelessly to gain support for their law school. They tried to get the school affiliated, gain support from legislature, or merge with another universities. They all tried working together to accomplish their goal.

Keywords: Alton, TX; colleagues; Pan American University; political office; Reynaldo Garza Law School; University of Texas at Austin

Subjects: M.A.L.D.E.F.; Mexican American Legislative Caucus

31:30 - LULAC v. Richards Case/Educational resource-based discrimination/Back to Reynaldo Garza Law School

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Segment Synopsis: Garza recalls joining the lawsuit because other schools were in the same position that they were in. They needed funding, and felt they were being pushed to the side. Garza does not recall the details of the case. The Reynaldo Garza Law School began in 1982 in Brownsville; it was named after federal judge Reynaldo Garza. When the incorporation of the law school started, it was done without the consent of the legislature or the Higher Education Coordinating Board. Garza knew they would have an uphill battle trying to gain their support. The law school was behind in every aspect.

On discrimination, Garza didn't want to be titled Mexican American, he just wanted to say he was from South Texas. He learned that there are indeed disparities and there wasn't equal funding. Garza said the Higher Education Coordinating Board did realize that their area needed a law school, and he is hopeful they will continue to gain more professional careers.

Garza is proud to say that he did not need to leave the Valley to get a law degree and decided to stay in his area to continue to help his community. He hopes to be an inspiration for future students who want to become lawyers and help their communities. He feels extremely proud that the person they named the law school after encouraged him to get a law degree and help others in need.

Keywords: Civil rights; discrimination; LULAC council number 1; Reynaldo Garza Law School

Subjects: Discrimination in higher education; Higher Education Coordinating Board; LULAC v Richards; M.A.L.D.E.F; minorities in higher education

43:51 - Board Member and law student/Reasons for opposing Reynaldo Garza Law School affiliation/Lawyers who opposed accreditation

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Segment Synopsis: Garza enrolled in law school while he was a member of the Mission School District. He missed class at least once a month. Later he became an attorney while he was still a member of the Mission School District. His work never interrupted his personal goals.

Garza had heard that there were already too many lawyers out there. He recalls there being elected officials in the county or city who were against the law school, and also actual lawyers who were against the school affiliation. Garza firmly believes that their biggest obstacle was the fact that the law school started without the consent of the legislature or the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

The lawyers who opposed accreditation thought there were already too many lawyers. Garza said there was evidence that there wasn't too many lawyers. He recalls bringing up the other law schools in different cities. But the opinions were too overwhelming and too strong; there was no way to get support for the creation of a law school in the area.

Keywords: Attorney; Board Member; Mission School District; South Texas Border Initiative

Subjects: Higher Education Coordinating Board; Hispanic American- United States