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G.I. Forum

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Grade 7
Social Studies
Unit: 12 Lesson: 01
G.I. Forum
Motto: “Education is Our Freedom and Freedom should be Everybody’s Business”
As veterans returned home from World War II, many looked forward
to the education, housing, and medical benefits they would receive
as a result of fighting for their country. However, once home, many of
these benefits were denied to minorities who fought in the war.
In Corpus Christi, Texas, a World War II veteran named Dr. Hector
P. Garcia was involved in a disagreement with the Naval Air Station
because they refused to accept war veterans who were Mexican
American and in need of medical help. After realizing many
organizations that should be helping these war veterans did not allow
Hispanic membership, Dr. Garcia and others decided to organize
their own group called the American G.I. Forum. With Dr. Garcia at
the helm, the American G.I. Forum began addressing problems of
discrimination and inequities endured by Mexican American
veterans. As time went on, the G.I. Forum became an advocate for
all Hispanics in all areas of discrimination.
The G.I. Forum began by organizing classes for veterans to learn how to access the benefits that
they were supposed to receive under the G.I. Bill, especially in the area of health care. They called for
the removal of the poll tax while at the same time raising funds to pay for the poll taxes of Mexican
Americans who wanted to vote but could not pay the tax. They supported lawsuits that would put an
end to public school segregation in Texas and allow Mexican Americans to serve on juries. They also
worked tirelessly to provide health care to those who were living in poverty.
The G.I. Forum entered the national spotlight in 1948 by offering support for
an incident known as “The Felix Longoria Affair.” Three years after the end
of the war, the remains of Private Felix Longoria were returned to his wife
and family for burial in Three Rivers, Texas. The only funeral home in town
refused to allow the use of the chapel because “the whites would not like it.”
Longoria’s widow went to Dr. Garcia and the G.I. Forum for help. After Dr.
Garcia got the same answer and rationale from the funeral director, he
began writing Texas congressmen. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson
immediately wrote back with support and offered to have Private
Longoria buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.
This event became a national symbol regarding racism in Texas but at the
same time unified and expanded the struggle for civil rights for Mexican
Americans.
Private Felix Longoria
Today, the American G.I. Forum is a national organization that continues Dr. Garcia’s work. It offers
assistance to all veterans and ordinary citizens to help them improve their lives and communities.
©2012, TESCCC
05/28/13
page 1 of 2
Grade 7
Social Studies
Unit: 12 Lesson: 01
Letters to and from Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr. Hector Garcia about the Felix Longoria Affair
Photos courtesy of Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers, Special Collections, Bell Library, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Permission to use all visuals and documents
©2012, TESCCC
05/28/13
page 2 of 2
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