Jose Antonio Garcia, physician and civil-rights leader, was born on April 14, 1912, in Soldadito, Tamaulipas, Mexico, one of seven children of schoolteachers José G. García and Faustina Pérez. He graduated as valedictorian from Mercedes High School in Mercedes, Texas, in 1928. In 1932 he completed a bachelor of science degree in medicine, and in 1934 a doctor of medicine degree at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Garcia served his medical internship from 1934 to 1936 at Robert B. Green Hospital in San Antonio. In 1936 in San Antonio he married Wyona Bowen, a registered nurse; the couple had four children.
From 1936 until his death in 1971, Garcia practiced general medicine in Corpus Christi. During his career there, he was elected treasurer of the Gulf Coast chapter of the Texas Academy of General Practice. He was also a member of the Nueces County Medical Society, the Texas Medical Association, and the American Academy of General Practice. Garcia, who became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1937, was also a leader in Mexican-American political affairs in South Texas. In 1940 he was the first Mexican American elected to the board of trustees of the Corpus Christi Independent School District, a post he held until 1951. He was elected president of the League of United Latin American Citizens Council No. 1 in 1943. Garcia helped with the establishment of Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, and was the first Mexican-American member of its nine-member board of regents. He assisted in the desegregation of black students at Del Mar on May 3, 1954 and remained a regent until 1960. He was vice president of the Texas chapter of the Civil Liberties League, chairman of the Citizens Group Committee of Nueces and Kleberg counties, and a member of the Political Association of Spanish-Speaking Organizations and of the American Red Cross. In 1964, he was honored by the G.I. Forum of Corpus Christi (see AMERICAN G.I. FORUM OF TEXAS) for his charitable contributions to the Memorial Medical Center there. In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him to the national Health Insurance Benefits Advisory Council. Garcia was also on the board of directors of Radio Station KCCT, as well as president of Channel 3, KIII Television Company. He died on April 24, 1971, in Corpus Christi.