While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" 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 »


Carole E. Christian
John J. Herrera
Photograph, Portrait of John J. Herrera. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Lyndon Baines Johnson
Photograph, Portrait of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

HERRERA, JOHN J. (1910–1986). John J. Herrera, lawyer and civil rights leader, son of Juan José Herrera, a descendant of the Canary Islanders, and Antonia Jiménez, was born on April 12, 1910, in Cravens, Louisiana, where his father, a former San Antonio policeman, was sheriff. His great-great-grandfather was José Francisco Ruiz, and his great-grandfather was Blas Herrera, Texas army scout during the Texas Revolution. In 1934 Herrera graduated from Sam Houston High School in Houston, where his speech teacher was Lyndon B. Johnson. While working as a laborer and taxi driver, he received an LL.B. at South Texas Law School in 1940 and passed the bar in 1943.

With Gustavo C. García, Herrera won two landmark civil rights cases, Delgado vs. Bastrop Independent School District (1948), which declared the school segregation of Hispanics illegal, and Pete Hernández vs. Texas (1954), the first Hispanic civil-rights case argued before the United States Supreme Court; this case first applied the Fourteenth Amendment to Hispanics and ruled unconstitutional the practice of systematically excluding them from juries. Herrera's efforts resulted in the practice of naming World War II Liberty ships for Latin American heroes. As the first Hispanic political candidate in Harris County (1947), he ran unsuccessfully four times for the legislature (1947–58). He organized twelve unions. He addressed civic and ethnic organizations to promote community understanding. During the Vietnam era he served on draft boards.

LULAC logo
The logo of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
American G.I. Forum logo
Logo of the American G.I. Forum. Image available by the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

As a Latin American Club officer, he successfully opposed discriminatory treatment of Hispanic municipal employees in Houston in the 1930s. Herrera revived the dormant League of United Latin American Citizens Council 60 in Houston in 1939. He filed the first complaint of discrimination in Texas (1943) with the President's Employment Practice Commission, a move that resulted in the hiring of members of minorities for skilled Gulf Coast war-industries jobs. As a local, district, and national LULAC officer, Herrera organized fifty-three new councils in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. As national LULAC president (1952–53) he initiated greater cooperation with the American G.I. Forum. He was also national LULAC legal advisor from the 1960s to 1977.

Herrera was a member of the State Bar of Texas, the American Bar Association, and the Sons of the Republic of Texas. He was legal advisor for Imagen de Texas, incorporator of SER (Jobs for Progress), dean of the Mexican American Bar Association (Houston), a Catholic, and a lifelong Democrat. He was active in local, state, and national campaigns, an original member of Texas Viva Kennedy clubs, and cochairman of the Houston Viva Johnson Club. For his civil-rights achievements he received a G.I. Forum lifetime honorary membership; the Hispanic community honored him in 1977, 1980, and 1986. In 1943 Herrera married Olivia Cisneros; they had six children. After a divorce, he married Carmen Luisa García of Bolivia in 1972; they had one son. After a stroke in 1985, Herrera died in Houston on October 12, 1986.


John J. Herrera Papers, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Houston Post, October 14, 1986. Benjamin Marquez, "Politics of Race and Class: The League of United Latin American Citizens in the Post-World War II Period," Social Science Quarterly 68 (March 1987). Helen Rowan, The Mexican American: A Paper Prepared for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Washington?, 1968). Guadalupe San Miguel, Jr., "The Struggle Against Separate and Unequal Schools: Middle Class Mexican Americans and the Desegregation Campaign in Texas, 1929–1957," History of Education Quarterly 23 (Fall 1983). United States Commission on Civil Rights, Mexican Americans and the Administration of Justice in the Southwest (Washington: GPO, 1970).

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, Carole E. Christian, "HERRERA, JOHN J.," accessed July 10, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhe63.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 21, 2020. 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...