garcia_1914.jpg
A family doctor who in World War II won the Bronze Star with six battle stars, Hector Garcia founded the American GI Forum in 1948 to help returning Hispanic servicemen cope with prejudice. Shortly thereafter, a funeral director in Three Rivers refused to hold services for a World War II veteran because he was Hispanic. He had been killed in the Philippines, and the return of his body had been delayed. Garcia contacted U.S. Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, who arranged for Felix Longoria to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Johnson and a representative of President Harry Truman attended. Garcia’s work helped energize other Hispanic organizations to work for social justice. President Ronald Reagan awarded Garcia the Presidential Medal of Freedom.