FELIX LONGORIA AFFAIR
FELIX LONGORIA AFFAIR. The controversy surrounding the burial of Felix Longoria provided a successful case for the American G. I. Forumqv, a civil rights organization for Mexican Americans, to fight racial discrimination with political pressure. In 1948 the remains of Private Felix Longoria of Three Rivers, Texas, were recovered from the Philippines, where he had been killed on a volunteer mission during the last days of World War II. His body was shipped home for burial in the Three Rivers cemetery, where the "Mexican" section was separated by barbed wire. The director of the funeral home would not allow the use of the chapel because of alleged disturbances at previous Mexican-American services and because "the whites would not like it." Longoria's widow and her sister discussed the refusal with Dr. Hector Garcia, the founder of the American G. I. Forum. He, in turn, contacted the funeral director and received the same refusal and rationale. On January 11, 1949, Garcia called a meeting of the Corpus Christi Forum, which he had organized as the first G. I. Forum chapter in March 1948; he also sent many telegrams and letters to Texas congressmen. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson responded immediately with support and an offer to arrange the burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The funeral took place on February 16, 1949, at the Arlington National Cemetery; with the Longoria family were Senator Johnson and a personal representative of the president of the United States.
After the funeral, the Texas House of Representatives authorized a five-member committee to investigate the Felix Longoria incident. The committee held open hearings at the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce and, after recriminations and exculpatory arguments, concluded that there was no discrimination on the part of the funeral director and that he had acted in anger but had apologized. Four of the committeemen signed the report. Frank Oltorf, the fifth member, stated that the funeral director's words "appear to be discriminatory." Another member withdrew his name from the majority report and filed his own account, which stated that the actions of the director were on "the fine line of discrimination." The report was never filed. The Felix Longoria Affair provided Mexican Americans an example to unify and expand their struggle for civil rights in the coming decades.
Carl Allsup, The American G.I. Forum: Origins and Evolution (University of Texas Center for Mexican American Studies Monograph 6, Austin, 1982).