Army Pvt. Felix Longoria, a native of the small South Texas
town of Three Rivers whose remains were returned from Luzon, in the Philippines,
for burial four years after World War II ended Mr. Longoria’s widow,
Beatriz, had been denied use of a hometown funeral chapel because the Longorias
were Mexican-American. She was told that the "white people would not stand
for it." Mr. Kennedy had indicated that he would handle the arrangements
for burial (in the segregated "Mexican" cemetery separated by a barbed
wire), but would not allow the use of the chapel for the wake
Letter to LBJ
After being telephoned by the Longoria family on January 10,
1949, Dr. Garcia called Mr. Tom Kennedy the Funeral Director of
Three Rivers Funeral Home only to be rebuffed. It was then that Dr. Garcia
wrote this letter to U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson asking for his intervention.
The incident drew commentary from the national news media Drew Pearson,
Walter Winchell, and Westbrook Pegler. Walter Winchell said, "The state
of Texas, which looms so large on the map, looks mighty small tonight…"
Because of the largely negative attention that Texas received, Dr.
Garcia and his family received many insults and threats.
Telegram from LBJ
By the afternoon of January 11, Dr. Garcia began issuing announcements
of a protest meeting. During the meeting of more than 1,000 people, later
that evening, the telegram from Senator Lyndon Johnson was read. This event
established Dr. Garcia as a force and voice of Mexican-Americans. The G.
I. Forum’s credibility was also established as a state organization that
could mobilize action and attention.