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Henry B. González: 1916-2000: Congressman

Worked To Improve The West Side

Despite economic difficulties that plagued many of the residents of predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods on San Antonio's west side, González grew up in a happy and robust household in which lively discussions on politics and philosophy were commonplace. Although González's home life was a source of comfort and stability, on the streets of San Antonio he encountered prejudice very similar to that of African Americans in the South, including racial slurs and exclusion from "white only" facilities such as the local swimming pools and restaurants. As a child González, who could trace his Mexican ancestors back to 1561, expected that his family, who retained Spanish as their household language, would eventually return to their homeland. However, as he grew into adulthood, González stopped looking toward Mexico and proclaimed his full rights as a U.S. citizen. As a result, he became one of the first pioneers of Mexican-American assimilation.

After graduating from Jefferson High School, González attended San Antonio Junior College (now San Antonio Community College), earning an associate's degree in 1937. He then studied engineering at the University of Texas in Austin until financial constraints forced his withdrawal. Upon returning to San Antonio, González enrolled in St. Mary's University, earning a bachelor's degree and, in 1943, a law degree. During his years at St. Mary's, González met and married Bertha Cuellar, with whom he had eight children. To help pay for his schooling he took up boxing, eventually becoming a Golden Gloves champion. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, González served the war effort as a civilian cable and radio censor for military intelligence. After graduating from law school, he found work as an assistant chief juvenile probation officer in San Antonio. In 1946 he was promoted to chief probation officer in San Antonio, where he was responsible for improving juvenile probation services within the Bexar County Juvenile Court system. However, in the same year González abruptly resigned from his position when he was told he would not be allowed to hire an African-American staff member.

At a Glance . . .

Born Enrique Barbosa González on May 3, 1916, in San Antonio, Texas; son of Leonides (a former mayor, businessman, journalist and editor) and Genoveva (Barbosa) Gonzales; married Bertha Cuellar; eight children. Education: San Antonio Jr. College, A.A., 1937; St. Mary's University, B.A., and law degree, 1943. Politics: Democrat.

Career: Probation officer, Bexar County Juvenile Court, prior to 1946; Spanish-English translation business, 1947-51; Councilman, City of San Antonio, 1953-56; Texas State Senator, 1956-61; Representative, U.S. Congress, 1961-98.

For the remainder of the 1950s González held several different jobs. In 1947 he served as an executive secretary for the Pan American Progressive Association, and from 1947 to 1951 he helped operate his father's Spanish-English translation business. He also wrote articles for bicultural publications and served as the director of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In 1950 he became the deputy family relocation director for the Housing Authority in San Antonio. His job was to find alternative housing for families who became displaced when their slum neighborhoods were demolished.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: E(mily) R. Frank (1967-) Biography - Personal to Martha Graham (1893–1991) BiographyHenry B. González: 1916-2000: Congressman Biography - Worked To Improve The West Side, Entered Public Office, Filibustered On Segregation Legislation, Became A U.s. Representative In Congress