Listen to the interview
County commissioner, attorney, activist for Mexican American issues. Pen~a was born December 15, 1917, and graduated from the South Texas School of Law in 1950. He began his legal career by filing school desegregation suits in Hondo, Texas, and Lytle, Texas, on behalf of the American G.I. Forum and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), respectively. He was a Bexar County commissioner from 1960 to 1974. He organized Viva Kennedy Clubs in Texas in 1960 and had founding roles in the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASO) and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
Pen~a discusses his role in school desegregation cases in Texas and how he became involved in the Hondo and Lytle lawsuits. He relates how the visibility generated by these cases led to his involvement in Democratic Party politics in Texas. Pen~a describes his involvement in the founding and early development of the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations (PASO), MALDEF, and the Viva Kennedy Clubs. He recalls his association with such Democratic Party notables as Lyndon Johnson and members of the Kennedy family as well as with political interest organizations such as the Teamsters, the American G.I. Forum, and LULAC. Pen~a addresses efforts to organize voters and recruit PASO members in New Braunfels and Crystal City, Texas, and describes his involvement with political campaigns and elections. He mentions other prominent Mexican Americans such as Albert Fuentes, Pete Tijerina, Dr. Hector Garcia, and Henry Cisneros, and gives his perspective on their roles in Mexican American politics in Texas. Pen~a concludes the interview by discussing more recently established Mexican American organizations such as the Inner City Advocates.
Locations of residence or activity: