While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Cynthia E. Orozco
Matias W. Garcia
Portrait, Matias W. Garcia in the Sixty-eighth Texas legislature. Image courtesy of the Legislative Reference Library of Texas. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

GARCÍA, MATÍAS WILLIAM (1927–1983). Matías (Matt) William García, civil-rights activist and legislator, was born in San Antonio in 1927 to Matías and Victoria (Taboada) García. He married Minnie Domange in 1951, and they had four children. García attended Fox Tech High School in San Antonio and excelled in football, for which he received the title "Iron Man of the Southwest" and earned a scholarship to Southwest Texas State University. After a knee injury he turned to law and received his LL.B. from St. Mary's University in 1951. He specialized in personal-injury and workmen's-compensation law. He practiced law in San Antonio for a number of years, where he filed several racial-discrimination suits against Kelly and Randolph Air Force bases. He ran twice unsuccessfully for judge, in 1964 and 1968. He then worked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for single-member districts. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1973, to represent District 57-K, which covered part of Bexar County; the district became District 115 in 1983. He served six terms as a Democrat. He was on the Regions, Compacts, and Districts Committee in 1977–78, the Security and Sanctions Committee in 1979–80, and the Committee on Appropriations from 1980 to 1983. In 1978 he chaired the family code subcommittee. García authored a large number of bills during his legislative tenure. He was a strong advocate of higher teachers' salaries, single-member districts, and school-finance reform. In 1977 he helped formalize the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, of which he was chairman at the time of his death. He was active in the League of United Latin American Citizens and the founder and chairman of Mexican American Democrats in San Antonio and in Texas. He was one of the first lawyers to work on school-finance reform in the Edgewood Independent School District (see EDGEWOOD ISD V. STATE OF TEXAS). He also supported bilingual education.

García campaigned for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976. In 1980 he helped organize Hispanic American Democrats, a national network within the Democratic party. That year President Carter nominated him as director of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, to secede Lionel Castillo, the first Mexican American in that post. During the first hearing for the position, García's clients filed thirty-nine complaints against him with the State Bar of Texas. He was also accused of filing his federal tax returns late for eight years. Republican Ronald Reagan's victory in the 1980 election ended consideration of the appointment. Governor John Connally had considered appointing García to a judgeship around 1964, and Governor Dolph Briscoe nominated him to two judgeships, which he declined.

Garcia Family Grave
Photograph, the Garcia family grave site in San Fernando Cemetery where Matias W. Garcia (right) is buried with his parents. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

García was a member of the State Bar, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, the San Antonio Trial Lawyers Association, and the American Judicative Society. He was also a scoutmaster, a member of the Pan American Optimists, and a member of the men's auxiliary of the Pan American League, a Mexican-American women's organization to which Minnie García belonged. He died of a heart attack on October 1, 1983. Hundreds attended his funeral at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio. He was buried in San Fernando Cemetery. He was a member of Our Lady of Grace parish, where he served as a lector and president of a parents' and fathers' club. He practiced law for twenty-six years and had amassed a clientele of 5,000 by the time he died. In 1986 friends established a foundation in his name to award scholarships to Mexican Americans.


San Antonio Light, October 3, 1983. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Cynthia E. Orozco, "GARCIA, MATIAS WILLIAM," accessed April 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fga88.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on November 5, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...