GUERRA, HENRY ALESSIO, JR.
GUERRA, HENRY ALESSIO, JR. (1918–2001). Henry Alessio Guerra, Jr., radio and television news personality, known as the “Voice of San Antonio,” was born on October 27, 1918, in San Antonio, Texas, to Henry Alessio Guerra, Jr., and Elvira (Pizzini) Guerra. Guerra later described himself as being “half Mexican… half Italian…and, of course, all Texan.” His grandfather, Ramon Guerra, had established the Guerra Funeral Home on De la Rosa Street in San Antonio in 1910, and his father, Henry Sr., took over the business (which was later called the Angelus Funeral Home). His mother, Elvira Pizzini, was a graduate of Incarnate Word College and was appointed to the San Antonio Public School Board before she was married. Guerra had one sister, Elvie Louise Guerra, a graduate of Incarnate Word College. Guerra was born and initially lived on San Antonio’s South Side until the great flood of 1921, when the family fled their home and eventually moved to the north side of town. His parents wanted him to learn English and sent him to Lukin Military Academy in Alamo Heights for that purpose. At age eleven Guerra went to St. Mary’s High School/Grade School and enrolled in the sixth grade. He eventually graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1936. Guerra attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, where he majored in English and minored in history and also acted in theatrical productions and was the editor of the college newspaper, the Rattler. He graduated with a B.A. degree in 1940.
While still a senior at St. Mary’s University, Guerra was enlisted by his mother to be a last-minute substitute announcer at a Pan American Round Table event at the St. Anthony Hotel. Hugh Halff, president and general manager of WOAI radio station, was an attendee. Impressed by Guerra’s delivery and poise, Halff hired Guerra to become a news reader for WOAI. On November 30, 1939, Henry Guerra, Jr., began a long and distinguished career in broadcast journalism. His work broke ethnic barriers. Guerra, who asked to keep his Spanish surname as an announcer, became the first Mexican American to broadcast the news on a major radio station in Texas.
With the onset of World War II, in April 1942 Guerra enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps as a flying cadet after being told he would not pass a physical due to his flat feet and sunken chest. After being sent to training schools for flight and driver training, where he saw duty at Kelly Field, in Oklahoma City, and at Topeka, Kansas, his skills best suited him in supply. Guerra spent most of his time in the service managing a supply warehouse on the island of Guam and was discharged with the rank of corporal in San Antonio on December 19, 1945. Upon his return to the Alamo City, he almost immediately went back to WOAI and resumed his work as a newscaster. WOAI started the first television station in San Antonio in 1949, and Guerra served as one of the first television broadcasters and the first Mexican American television newsman in the city.
Henry Guerra married Mary Ann Noonan in 1955 and later said he waited later in life for marriage because he was a “careful type.” Guerra and Noonan were married for forty-five years and had two daughters and two sons. He left WOAI around 1957 and for three years served as director of development at St. Mary’s University. By 1961, however, he was back at WOAI, where he served as anchorman for the 10 p.m. newscast. In 1966 Guerra left WOAI to work in public relations for HemisFair for preparations for the city’s international exposition (see HEMISFAIR ’68); he later worked in its international division.
After his work for HemisFair, Guerra returned to broadcasting and worked for KONO-TV (now KSAT) in San Antonio, where he did both news programs and talk shows. Eventually, he left KSAT to help his widowed mother operate the family funeral home (Angelus Funeral Home), but he kept in touch with radio by working at a local station owned by businessman Lowry Mays. After Mays and his business partner Red McCombs formed San Antonio Broadcasting Company (see iHEARTMEDIA, INC.) and purchased WOAI, Guerra went back to work for the radio station in 1975.
Guerra was an avid history buff, and during the 1970s he wrote and narrated his famous series, 13 Days of the Alamo. His wife later explained that Guerra wanted to tell the story of the Texas Revolution that he thought had “never been adequately told.” She wrote, “But the truth in the history of Texas has been proved that the Texas army could never have triumphed without the Tejanos, early Texas Mexican founders and owners of the land who not only strengthened the Anglo army but were leaders of Independence for their land, for Texas.” Guerra also developed for radio and television a program called Henry Guerra’s San Antonio. He ultimately became the unofficial representative for the city of San Antonio and was known as the “Voice of San Antonio” due to his recognizable “rich, deep baritone.” For years listeners heard his signature sign-off—“Good night y muy buenas noches.” In 1987 Guerra opened a ceremony before Mass was celebrated by Pope John Paul II during his visit to San Antonio. When Queen Elizabeth II came to San Antonio in 1991, Guerra represented the city and gave a tour of the Alamo to the monarch. He retired from WOAI in 1992. He had also sold the family funeral home by the early 1990s.
During his later years he remained active in the community and gave presentations on San Antonio and Texas history. He authored San Antonio: A Unique History and Pictorial Guide (1998) and narrated two historical videos—The Missions of San Antonio and Alamo: From Mission to Fortress (which was researched and written by his wife). During his lifetime Guerra played an active role in civic affairs and held memberships in many organizations, including the Bexar County Historical Commission, San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Mission Road Committee, Downtown Rotary Club, Mexican American Friendship Committee, and others. He served on the boards of several museums and hospitals. He was Catholic and a member of Our Lady of Grace Church in San Antonio and belonged to the Knights of Columbus. He was named a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre by Pope John Paul II. He was also honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, was given the St. Mary’s University Distinguished Alumni Award, and inducted into the Texas Walk of Fame in Austin.
Henry A. Guerra, Jr., the “Voice of San Antonio,” died in his native city on July 1, 2001. His funeral Mass was held at San Fernando Cathedral, and he was buried in San Fernando Cemetery No. 2. In 2004 the city of San Antonio named a new branch library on West Military Drive in his honor. His series 13 Days of the Alamo was re-aired on local radio station KTSA in 2006, and a CD of the series was made available in 2011. Guerra was inducted into the San Antonio Radio Hall of Fame in 2014.
Henry A. Guerra, Jr., Henry Guerra’s San Antonio: A Unique History and Pictorial Guide (San Antonio: Alamo Press, 1998). Henry Guerra, Interview by Esther MacMillan, July 25, 1984, San Antonio, Institute of Texan Cultures Oral History Program, available on (http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15125coll4/id/784/rec/2), accessed January 23, 2019. Henry Guerra, Interview by Esther MacMillan, September 19, 1990, San Antonio, Institute of Texan Cultures Oral History Program, available on (http://digital.utsa.edu/cdm/ref/collection/p15125coll4/id/715), accessed January 23, 2019. Henry Guerra and Mary Ann Noonan Guerra, Interview by Sterlin Holmesly, April 8, 19, 1994, San Antonio, Oral History Office, Institute of Texan Cultures. San Antonio Express-News, July 3, 4, 6, 2001; March 1, 2011. San Antonio Radio Hall of Fame Inductees: Henry Guerra (http://sanantonioradiohalloffame.com/henry-guerra.html), accessed January 23, 2019.
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