American GI Forum

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American GI Forum
American GI Forum
Founded March 26, 1948
Founder Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Dr. Vicente T. Ximenes
Location
Key people
Ángel Zúñiga, National Commander
Slogan "Education is our Freedom and Freedom Should be Everybody's Business"
Website http://www.agifus.com/

The American G.I. Forum (AGIF) is a Congressionally chartered Hispanic veterans and civil rights organization. Its motto is "Education is Our Freedom and Freedom should be Everybody's Business". AGIF operates chapters throughout the United States, with a focus on veterans' issues, education, and civil rights. Its two largest national programs are the San Antonio-based Veterans Outreach Program, and the Dallas-based Service, Employment, Redevelopment-Jobs for Progress, Inc. (SER). The current National Commander is Ángel Zúñiga.[1]

Origin[edit]

The organization was established in Corpus Christi, the seat of Nueces County, Texas, on March 26, 1948 by Dr. Hector P. Garcia to address the concerns of Mexican-American veterans, who were segregated from other veterans groups. Initially formed to request services for World War II veterans of Mexican descent who were denied medical services by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the AGIF soon entered into non-veteran's issues such as voting rights, jury selection, and educational desegregation, advocating for the civil rights of all Mexican Americans. Today, the AGIF advocates on behalf of all Hispanic veterans.

The AGIF's first campaign was on the behalf of Felix Longoria, a Mexican-American private who was killed in the Philippines in the line of duty during World War II. Three years after the war, when Longoria's remains were returned to Texas, his family was denied funeral services by a white-owned funeral home. Dr. Garcia requested the intercession of then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who secured Longoria's burial in Arlington National Cemetery. The case brought the AGIF to national attention, and chapters were opened throughout the country. A women's and youth auxiliary were also formed.

The AGIF, along with the League of United Latin American Citizens, was a plaintiff in the landmark civil rights case of Hernandez v. Texas (1954). Pete Hernandez, a farm worker in Texas, was convicted of murder by an all-white jury. His attorneys appealed his conviction because Mexican Americans had been systematically excluded for years from Texas juries. But, since they were classified as white, the state court said a white jury constituted a "jury of peers" for Hernandez. His defense attorneys took the case to the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first Mexican-American attorneys to appear there. They argued that Texas discriminated against Mexican Americans as a class and Hernandez's rights were violated by Texas' exclusion of Mexican Americans from all juries. In its unanimous decision, Hernandez v. Texas (1954), the court ruled that Mexican Americans were a class in this case, as discrimination against them was proven, and that they and all other racial or national groups in the United States had equal protection under the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution.

Past Presidents/Commanders[edit]

  • Dr. Hector P. Garcia
  • Tony Gallegos
  • Francisco Ivarra
  • Antonio Gil Morales (2005 – 2009)
  • Albert Gonzales (2010-2013)
  • Luis Vazquez-Contes (2013-2014)
  • Ángel Zúñiga (2014–present)

Organization and Chapters[edit]

Each local chapter elects a "Commander" and a state chairperson. A yearly national convention is held to elect national high officers.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Henry Ramos, The American GI Forum: In Pursuit of the Dream, 1948-1983 (Houston, TX: Arte Publico Press, 1998). ISBN 978-1-55885-262-4