Among the most revered names in public service in San Antonio is that of former City Councilman and U.S. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez.
At a recent event in honor of the late politician, District 5 City Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales joined his son, former U.S. Representative Charles Gonzalez (TX-20) and current U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro (TX-20) to reflect on his legacy. During the festivities, Councilwoman Gonzales (D5) read a proclamation by San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor.
In it, she calls for an official day of recognition for his achievements in public life. It was one of two resolutions read by local leaders highlighting the expansive impact the San Antonio native had in the city and across the state.
Rep. Castro (TX-20) underscored his monumental task of becoming the first Mexican-American to be elected to the Texas Senate.
“There is no more prestigious name in South Texas politics than Henry B. Gonzalez,” said Rep. Castro (TX-20). “I have the honor of representing this District now and [you can still see] the imprint he has on this community. After I got to Congress succeeding [Charles], who had bee there for 14 years, I would bring up his name people would still smile.”
Gonzalez’ political tenure was not without controversy. As one of the first proponents of civil rights for Mexican-Americans in Congress, he quickly became known for what was considered radical views in those days.
He would be best known for introducing legislation to impeach President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush on what he considered to be unjust treatment of minorities. Yet for as confrontational as he seemingly was in the halls of Congress, he was portrayed as a man of the people outside of chambers.
“As we consider the time in he served, you were talking about a city that was still racially and ethnically segregated. He ran for office during a time where there were no single member districts. It was not a system that was apt to change,” continued Rep. Castro (TX-20).
yet even on a local level, Councilwoman Gonzales (D5) recalled a more private individual most in his element when simply talking to his constituents.
“My father and Henry lived on the same street at one time and they were friends. Although he was not a very political person, he always supported Henry and his commitment to the community and his residents,” said Councilwoman Gonzales (D5).
While much could be said about his public life and time spent with San Antonians, it was his son, former Representative of the Texas Twentieth District that recalled his father’s dedication.
“He felt he had to be just as personal in responding to constituents if they took the time to reach out to him,” said Gonzalez. “As kids, he would arrive late at night with boxes of letters he wanted to sign personally. So at midnight, he would get us to take [his responses] to the main post office because he wanted it delivered as soon as possible.”
Reminders of his legacy still stand today in the recently renovated convention center downtown. Yet as his colleagues and past supporters still say, it will be one truly rooted in the people from the city from which he came.