Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers Come Home to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi celebrated the return of the Dr. Hector P. Garcia Papers on Feb. 19 with a public show and tell of both the digitized portions of the vast collection along with original artifacts from Dr. Garcia’s life. More than 50 people, including Dr. Garcia’s daughter, Cecelia Garcia-Akers, attended the event.

Dr. Hector P. Garcia (1914-1996) ranks among the most important figures in Mexican American history. Garcia was a physician, soldier, political advisor and civil rights activist who founded the American GI Forum in 1948 to organize veterans to fight for educational and medical benefits.

“The telling of my father’s story began as a grassroots effort,” said Garcia-Akers, “My father was a humble man, and even his own children didn’t understand the magnitude of his impact during his lifetime. Now, between the organization and digitization of his collection and research I’ve completed to write a book about his life, I’ve learned about the great work he did not just for his family, but his community.”

In 1982, Dr. Garcia began to donate his collection of personal papers to the Bell Library. In 2016, a partnership between Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and History Associates was formed to more efficiently describe, organize and digitize portions of the collection. In August of that same year, the papers were sent to History Associates headquarters in Maryland for processing, and on Jan. 30, 2018, the papers were returned to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Today, this collection – a centerpiece of the library’s holdings – offers invaluable insight into the Mexican American experience of the 20th century and shows the ways in which Dr. Garcia shaped and changed that experience.

At the Feb. 19 event, brief welcome remarks were made by Dr. Cate Rudowsky, Dean of Libraries, and Dr. Kelly Quintanilla, President and CEO of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Garcia-Akers gave a keynote address, in which she called the digitization of his collection “a labor of love.”

Also, during the event, Alston Coburn, Processing and Digital Assets Archivist, gave visitors a virtual tour of the digitized materials, while Ann Hodges, Special Collections Librarian and University Archivist, guided visitors through a display of actual items from Dr. Garcia’s collection, including personal artifacts like his AGIF founder's cap, political campaign pins and documents.

Hodges stressed how fortunate it was that the University was willing to put resources toward the provision of improved access to this important body of papers. 

“Its sheer size – if its boxes were set out side by side they would occupy the length of a football field and then some – posed a challenge that was best addressed by a large team of specialists focused on it and little else,” said Hodges.

Hodges also noted that there are more than 5,300 photographs in the collection that are now available in the A&M-Corpus Christi Repository, but that work to provide search terms for them is ongoing.

The materials in the collection span the years 1910-2015, although the bulk of the items date from Dr. Garcia’s World War II service through his death in 1996. Categories of the collection include personal files, correspondence, military service, private medical practice, American GI Forum, Latino activism, civilian service files, references and research, photographic materials, audiovisual materials and artifacts. Digitized items include a significant number of documents, photographs, and audiovisual media items from throughout the collection.

To access the digitized items and learn more about Dr. Garcia’s collection, go to hectorpgarcia.tamucc.edu.