For decades a quiet, unassuming physician in Corpus Christi, Texas, led an ongoing fight to help his people -- fellow Hispanics and Mexican-Americans -- obtain their full rights as citizens. Sadly, many of those he helped don't remember the name of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, even though they benefit from his crusading work. It's been more than half a decade since Garcia died.
Now the public television station in Corpus Christi has just released a splendid documentary about him. Lovingly done, with tons of archival footage and interviews, "Justice for my People: The Dr. Hector P. Garcia Story," is a tribute to a man who has little more than a statue in his hometown to honor his work.
Now before you think that the station, KEDT, cranked out the program in record time, there's something you have to consider. When a big city PBS station wants to do a documentary on the life of a famous person it musters up the financing and puts together a staff of archivists, researchers and technicians. Then it hires writers, editors, post-production engineers and finally a narrator. Then original music is written. The entire process often takes more than a year. But KEDT doesn't have those kind of resources. So the task of putting together a PBS-quality 90-minute documentary on one of the "forgotten" civil rights leaders of this country was assigned to a single producer, Jeff Felts, and some part-timers. It took Jeff some six years to bring the program to the air.
The show outlines the work of Garcia, who sought to bring Hispanics to the level of other minorities when it came to being included in civil rights legislation. He used the court system and worked within it. Shortly after the Second World War he formed a national group called the American G.I. Forum when he found returning soldiers with Spanish last names were being deprived of many of the benefits of the G.I. Bill of Rights. His personal contacts with a then-young Senator from Texas, Lyndon Johnson, gained him later access to the White House. As a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Garcia became the first American to deliver a major address to the General Assembly in a language other than English -- Spanish.
The KEDT (South Texas Public Broadcasting) documentary, complete with haunting original music, was distributed via PBS to its stations, though not put in the prime-time lineup. That was a mistake. Even though it was not produced by one of the major stations that are the mainstay of public television productions, it rivals anything any of them has done. In some ways, it's better. For more check out justiceformypeople.org on the Internet.
WRESTLER AUSTIN PLEADS 'NO CONTEST'
Popular pro wrestler "Stone Cold" Steve Austin has pleaded "no contest" to a charge that is listed as a misdemeanor in a San Antonio court. According to court records and E! Online, Austin made the plea in connection with charges that he hit his wife last summer. He will now be put on a year's probation and have to fork over a $1,000 fine. Additionally, he will be assigned to serve 80 hours of community service. During the court session the Victoria, Texas, native gave his proper name as "Steve Williams." The woman who brought the suit is the performer's third wife. The marriage, which has been on and off the rocks recently, is only about a year old. Austin became the "golden boy" of wrestling several years ago with his brash attitude. His comment that his concept of life was more important that an old Biblical statement was turned into a self-named proclamation he called "Austin 3:16." That catchphrase was imprinted on what became one of the nation's quickest-selling T-shirts. Millions were sold in the Heartland, even though it flies in the face of long-held religious tenets.
NBC REVIVES 'HUNTER' WEEKLY CONCEPT
The cast and production crew of the NBC TV concept "Hunter" may be "all smiles" this week. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Peacock Network has announced that it's reviving the show, ordering a fresh set of eight episodes. The cops-and-robbers drama starred former college football standout Fred Dryer and actress Stephanie Kramer during its original weekly run from 1984-91. Recently the pair was reunited in a made-for-TV movie, "Hunter: Return to Justice." That drama was well received with strong ratings; it has now sparked new interest in the franchise. According to one reviewer, Dryer (who is now in his mid 50s) still looks great and the re-pairing of him with Kramer is bringing back a lot of memories about the way TV cop dramas used to be presented.
STARS AND PROS IN CHARITY HOCKEY MATCH
There are a lot of attractions in the Los Angeles area vying for visitors ... Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, the LaBrea Tar Pits, the Museum of Tolerance and a thousand others. Amid all of this, one centrally located attraction continues to pack 'em in, adding new thrills and venues along the way ... Universal City and its CityWalk concept. Now the park tells United Press International that the CityWalk's 50-by-80-foot ice skating rink will become the scene of holiday fun featuring some well known names, all in the cause of fundraising for charity. Alan Thicke, David Boreanaz, Vincent Young, Dave Coulier and Mark De Carlo will be taking to the ice this weekend to help keep Santa from falling, as he makes circuits of the rink on skates. In addition, several people who should have no trouble on skates will be there: Los Angeles Kings alumni Ian Turnball, Russ Courtnall and former Stanley Cup MVP goalie Bill Ranford. The celebrities will face the former stars in a charity hockey game; monies will go to local kids charities. Between now and Christmas Universal hopes to have it "snow" on tourists in the CityWalk and will also stage gospel concerts and free film screenings.
BOBBY BROWN TOLD HE MUST FACE TRIAL
It's been six years since singer-songwriter Bobby Brown was arrested in Georgia on charges that he was driving under the influence. Now, after a series of legal attempts to get the charges dismissed or quietly settled, a court in Atlanta has ordered Brown to show up for a full-fledged trial on Jan. 21, with a jury present. Court records, obtained by local media, show that a judge refused to drop the misdemeanor charges, which included not only the DUI, but of changing lanes erratically, speeding and not having proper insurance on the vehicle. The traffic case came to the fore again in recent weeks when Brown was again arrested for a major series of traffic violations and for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Brown's lawyer had claimed that the original charges should not be pursued because they had gotten "stale." Brown's wife, mega-star Whitney Houston, accompanied him to this week's court session.
GOVERNOR JOINS STARS AT FOOD FEST
Like many leaders in the public eye, California Gov. Gray Davis will be spending part of Thanksgiving week serving food to the homeless. Four years ago, just after being elected to his first term in Sacramento, Davis joined then-L.A. mayor Richard Riordan, Tony Danza and Jayne Meadows at a homeless shelter in downtown Los Angeles. They dished out the turkey for what seemed like an endless line of the needy. Covering the event for the old UPI Radio Network, this reporter was also helping out. When it came time for the rest of us to eat, I found myself sitting across from Riordan and Davis in what turned out to be a non-political gabfest. (It's been fun to tell friends in the ensuing years -- without adding any details -- that I once had Thanksgiving dinner with the mayor of Los Angeles and the governor of California.) This year Davis is back in L.A., with wife Sharon, for a pre-Thanksgiving event. He is being joined by Charlton Heston (great to see him out and about), Melissa Joan Hart, Vanessa Williams, Apollonia and Kevin Eubanks. Organizers tell UPI that during the day the group will attempt to create what is being termed the "World's Largest Bowl of Skinny Mashed Potatoes." The charity event is being hosted by the Molly McButter Company. It all takes place Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, at the L.A. Mission on Fifth Street in downtown Los Angeles.
UPI DAILY SURVEY QUESTION NO. 467
Today's question is: "Have you ever helped out on Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen, church- or charity-sponsored feeding program?" Put FOOD in the subject line and send to firstname.lastname@example.org via the Internet.
RESULTS OF QUESTION NO. 462 (ADDRESS)
Last week we asked how many "permanent" addresses you've had over the years -- not counting time at college or in the military. The average, from a very random dip into the e-mail inbox was 12. Considering how mobile society is anymore, that's not surprising. But RWH says he's lived in the same southern Illinois home since birth, more than 70 years ago. On the other side of the coin, Larryphu can count more than 25 and has stopped counting. Me? Nine over the years. (Three were in sight of each other, with the same landlord, in Washington.) I hate moving. But moving across the street can be nearly as traumatic as moving across the country. TOMORROW: Have you ever left the country? GBA