Henry B. Gonzalez (1916–2000) politicianHenry Gonzalez was the first Mexican American to be elected to the Texas state senate in the modern era, setting an example for Hispanics in the political mainstream. He represented the best of what one of his political opponents called the “old-fashioned public servant” tradition, anxious to remedy civil inequalities by working through the established political traditions of the state and country.
Gonzalez’s parents were part of the great wave of emigration out of Mexico following the revolution of 1910. After earning a law degree at St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1943, Gonzalez served in military and naval intelligence. He lost his bid for the Texas state legislature in 1950 but won a seat on the San Antonio city council and in 1956 was elected to the state senate. Speaking out tirelessly against segregation measures in 1957, he won statewide prominence and eventually the support of Governor Price Daniel, Senator Ralph Yarbrough, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In 1960, he successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served until his retirement. In 1989, he became chairman of the House Banking, Finance, and Urban Affairs Committee and played a prominent role in crafting the new lending and accounting regulations in the wake of the savings and loan crisis.