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 »


George N. Green

GOOD NEIGHBOR COMMISSION. The Good Neighbor Commission was established in 1943 as a state agency to handle social, cultural, and economic problems of Mexican Americans in Texas and to strengthen political ties of Texas with Mexico and other Latin American nations. The commission's origins are traceable in part to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's fears that German sentiment was sweeping Latin America. In 1940 Roosevelt established an agency, soon named the Office of Inter-American Affairs, designed to promote better cultural and economic relations with Latin America. The OIAA quickly became aware of the related need to improve Anglo-Hispanic relations in the southwestern United States to counteract Latin America's fascist propagandists, for instance, who were using photographs of signs in Texas restaurant windows proclaiming "No Mexicans." In 1943 the OIAA dispatched field representatives to Texas and California to develop local interest in coping with these problems.

The wartime demand for field hands and other laborers in the Southwest led to the 1942 bracero agreement between Mexico and the United States, but in June 1943 the Mexican government placed a ban on the movement of laborers into Texas because of discrimination against Mexicans. Governor Coke R. Stevenson's eventual reaction-upon requests by OIAA field agent Tom Sutherland and others- was to appoint, in 1943, a six-man Good Neighbor Commission, funded by the OIAA. The commission emphasized education, the improvement of housing and health measures for migrant workers, and the solution of human relations problems.

The Good Neighbor Commission was placed on the state payroll in 1945. In 1947 Mexico lifted the ban on Texas, but GNC Executive Secretary Pauline R. Kibbe reported to the GNC that despite the new agreement, discrimination and poor housing were still prevalent. Pressure from Valley growers forced the secretary's resignation. In 1948 commission chairman Bob Smith avoided the migrant labor issue but continued to carry out antidiscrimination work through Tom Sutherland, the new executive secretary, who helped in desegregating the Texas public schools in favor of Mexican Americans (see DELGADO V. BASTROP ISD). In 1949 an attack on the commission's antidiscrimination stand was made by state representative J. F. Gray, when a mortician in Three Rivers refused the services of his funeral home to the family of Felix Longoria, a Mexican Texan killed in action during World War II (see FELIX LONGORIA AFFAIR). The commission supported the Longoria family in its discrimination claim, and, at Lyndon B. Johnson's instigation, Longoria was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Gray's attempt to abolish the commission failed. Under oilman Neville Penrose, discrimination issues were turned over, in part, to the newly founded Texas Council on Human Relations, and the commission became involved in counseling and information services, translating for other agencies, and publicity and liaison between the Texas government and various Mexican state and national agencies. During the following years the roles of the commission varied. Under Penrose little was done to alleviate discrimination problems. Other commissioners made significant efforts to eliminate discrimination, provide solutions to language problems, and take an active part in migrant affairs. Close ties were developed by executive directors with the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American G.I. Forum of Texas. Some discrimination cases were personally handled by commission chairmen, and under governors John B. Connally and Preston Smith the commission was used as a liaison with Mexico and Latin America. In 1965 the Texas Council on Migrant Labor was abolished and its work transferred to the commission with an increased staff and budget. The commission, however, could not compete with the newly founded federal Office of Economic Opportunity, which took over many of the problems originally handled by the state agency. In 1977 the commission was reviewed under the Texas Sunset Act by the Sunset Advisory Commission and retained as a coordinating, planning, and advisory agency responsible for overseeing migrant problems, developing national and international cooperation, and supporting educational exchange programs with Mexico. During the following ten years the duties of the Good Neighbor Commission were gradually absorbed by other agencies, however, and budget cuts in 1987 resulted in its abolition.

George N. Green, "The Good Neighbor Commission and Texas Mexicans," in Ethnic Minorities in Gulf Coast Society, ed. Jerrell Shofner and Linda Ellsworth (Pensacola: Gulf Coast History Conference, 1979). Pauline Rochester Kibbe, Latin Americans in Texas (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1946). Nellie Kingrea, History of the First Ten Years of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1954). George Little, A Study of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission (M.A. thesis, University of Houston, 1953).

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, George N. Green, "GOOD NEIGHBOR COMMISSION," accessed August 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mdg02.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. 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...