Give the Garcia Papers their due

As the debate continues regarding the library expansion at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, I would like to provide some information and analysis of the proposed expansion.

A&M-CC is the permanent home to the Garcia Papers. Donated in 1990 by my father, Dr. Hector P. Garcia, the papers represent the most comprehensive collection of the Mexican-American civil rights movement that exists today. No other university possesses such an important part of this struggle for equal rights. The collection expands in excess of 700 linear feet and more than 7, 500 photographs. This collection also includes information about the American GI Forum, Dr. Garcia’s work with veterans and his pioneer work in health care and education. His advocacy covers a period of 50 years of contributions to this country.

My mother, Wanda Fusillo Garcia, also donated a substantial amount of documents, books and photographs after my father’s passing in 1996.

And now, as their daughter and executor of my mother’s estate, I have a unique opportunity to donate several items of historical importance which include his Bronze Star Medal, medical school rings from the University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom which was awarded March 26, 1994, by President Ronald Reagan.

In past communications and meetings with university President Dr. Flavius Killebrew, Dr. Trent Hill and A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, we all came to terms that the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Learning Center would be built on the grounds of A&M-CC. Acknowledging the historical relevance and significant contributions to this country, a separatebuilding would be constructed and house the documents, expand staff members, and provide rotating exhibits of memorabilia and artifacts for the public, students and historiansto view. Last legislative session, the Garcia wing was placed third on the legislative budget request by A&M-CC. Immediately, the Legislature discounted items two and three which meant that a media building and the Garcia wing would not receive serious consideration by the Legislature. State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa made an Article 11 request to include $1 million for the Garcia wing and $11 million for the university’s drone program. No Article 11 items were considered even though we had tremendous support from Sen. Hinojosa, and Reps. Todd Hunter and Abel Herrero.

I was at first elated that we made it to number three; however, disappointed that it was not considered. The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation also engaged the services of LAN architecture firms to provide comprehensive renderings of a remodeled Bell Library and the new Garcia Learning Center. Classrooms would be included in the Garcia wing along with lecture and study areas.

Design of the Garcia Learning Center would be reflective of a presidential library that would display his accomplishments, life struggles and his involvement in landmark cases such as school desegregation, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and integration of hospitals, movie theaters and cemeteries.

The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation’s board of directors is committed to help the university raise the necessary funding for the Garcia Learning Center. The board of directors feels that theintentions of Dr. Garcia and his widow, Wanda, should be honored and realized by the fulfillment of a new wing to house their contributions to this country.

Access to information is not only necessary, it is a gift. As the Bell Library exists now, Dr. Garcia’s papers are not being digitized and viewing of critical historical information is limited by a person’s request for certain documents. The full potential of Dr. Garcia’s life cannot be realized under current conditions at Bell Library.

The university must now realize the historic contributions and learning experiences the Garcia Papers hold for this city, state and country. We must be prioritized as number 1, the top priority for the university and its leaders and administrators. Unfortunately, a conglomerate building center for all the donations of local history as suggested by columnist Herb Canales and co-authored by former university archivist Tom Kreneck (Corpus Christi Caller-Times, August 9, 2015) is impractical, and will fail to do justice not only to my father’s papers, but all the other contributors to Texas A&MCorpus Christi.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, Dr. Garcia’s greatest accomplishment, will stay in my possession until the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Learning Center is constructed, completed and dedicated on the grounds of A&M-Corpus Christi. Many community members, state leaders and the Garcia family are on board for the Garcia Learning Center. It is imperative that A&M-Corpus Christi join us and makes this endeavor the university’s priority also.

Cecilia Garcia Akers is a daughter of the late civil rights leader Dr. Hector P. Garcia.

CECILIA GARCIA AKERS

FORUM

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Dr. Hector P. Garcia Memorial Foundation
Working to continue the message and mission of Dr. Hector P. Garcia