Garcia, Matias William (1927–1983)

By: Cynthia E. Orozco

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1995

Updated: October 30, 2019

Matías (Matt) William García, civil-rights activist and legislator, was born in San Antonio in 1927 to Matías and Victoria (Taboada) García. He married Minnie Domange in 1951, and they had four children. García attended Fox Tech High School in San Antonio and excelled in football, for which he received the title "Iron Man of the Southwest" and earned a scholarship to Southwest Texas State University. After a knee injury he turned to law and received his LL.B. from St. Mary's University in 1951. He specialized in personal-injury and workmen's-compensation law. He practiced law in San Antonio for a number of years, where he filed several racial-discrimination suits against Kelly and Randolph Air Force bases. He ran twice unsuccessfully for judge, in 1964 and 1968. He then worked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund for single-member districts. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1973, to represent District 57-K, which covered part of Bexar County; the district became District 115 in 1983. He served six terms as a Democrat. He was on the Regions, Compacts, and Districts Committee in 1977–78, the Security and Sanctions Committee in 1979–80, and the Committee on Appropriations from 1980 to 1983. In 1978 he chaired the family code subcommittee. García authored a large number of bills during his legislative tenure. He was a strong advocate of higher teachers' salaries, single-member districts, and school-finance reform. In 1977 he helped formalize the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, of which he was chairman at the time of his death. He was active in the League of United Latin American Citizens and the founder and chairman of Mexican American Democrats in San Antonio and in Texas. He was one of the first lawyers to work on school-finance reform in the Edgewood Independent School District (see EDGEWOOD ISD V. STATE OF TEXAS). He also supported bilingual education.

García campaigned for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter in 1976. In 1980 he helped organize Hispanic American Democrats, a national network within the Democratic party. That year President Carter nominated him as director of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, to secede Lionel Castillo, the first Mexican American in that post. During the first hearing for the position, García's clients filed thirty-nine complaints against him with the State Bar of Texas. He was also accused of filing his federal tax returns late for eight years. Republican Ronald Reagan's victory in the 1980 election ended consideration of the appointment. Governor John Connally had considered appointing García to a judgeship around 1964, and Governor Dolph Briscoe nominated him to two judgeships, which he declined.

García was a member of the State Bar, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, the San Antonio Trial Lawyers Association, and the American Judicative Society. He was also a scoutmaster, a member of the Pan American Optimists, and a member of the men's auxiliary of the Pan American League, a Mexican-American women's organization to which Minnie García belonged. He died of a heart attack on October 1, 1983. Hundreds attended his funeral at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio. He was buried in San Fernando Cemetery. He was a member of Our Lady of Grace parish, where he served as a lector and president of a parents' and fathers' club. He practiced law for twenty-six years and had amassed a clientele of 5,000 by the time he died. In 1986 friends established a foundation in his name to award scholarships to Mexican Americans.

San Antonio Light, October 3, 1983. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

  • Education
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Lawyers, Civil Rights Activists, and Legislators
  • Politics and Government
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Civic Leaders
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Cynthia E. Orozco, “Garcia, Matias William,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

January 1, 1995
October 30, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: