Frank Lloyd Madla, Jr., state legislator and teacher, was born on January 23, 1937, to Frank Madla, Sr., and Epigmenia (Alcala) Madla, in Santa Rosa Hospital in San Antonio, but he grew up in Helotes, Texas, a community on the outskirts of San Antonio. During his childhood, Madla worked on the family farm in the area and attended rural schools where, as he recalled in a 2003 interview, “Hispanics were not looked upon very well.” Drought during the 1950s forced his father to seek work in San Antonio, where he found employment at Kelly Air Force Base. Young Frank commuted from Helotes to San Antonio to attend Central Catholic High School. He graduated in 1955. Not wanting to spend his life as a farmer, Madla attended St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and majored in political science. Part of his studies required his work in area political campaigns, and the experience inspired his interest in politics. He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1959, and in 1963 he was awarded a master’s degree in government.
Driven by a desire to give back to his community, Madla began a teaching career in San Antonio soon after graduating from St. Mary’s University. He taught at Escobar Junior High School in the Edgewood Independent School District until 1962 and then taught in the Northside Independent School District for four years. He subsequently taught at St. Philip’s College. He taught civics and Texas history. In 1971 he ran for a position on the South San Antonio Independent District School Board and won.
His political career took a major leap in 1972 when he was elected to the House of Representatives in the Texas legislature. As a Democrat, he represented Bexar County in the Sixty-third through Seventy-second legislatures. He tackled major issues concerning education, public health, and drug abuse and served on numerous related committees during his tenure. By 1993 Madla had been elected to the Texas Senate and represented not only Bexar County but a large number of counties in the southwestern and western part of the state in the Seventy-third through Seventy-ninth legislatures. He served as president pro tempore ad interim in the Seventy-ninth legislature. He was recognized as a very successful statesman who was able to pass more than 100 House bills and approximately 570 Senate bills. Madla helped establish programs for gifted and talented students in Texas public schools. He supported legislation to improve the Texas wine industry. He pushed for the regulation of emergency services and prenatal care for indigent women. He was especially productive in his work to improve San Antonio. He helped bring SeaWorld to the city and worked to bring the Toyota plant. Madla also secured millions of dollars to redevelop the former Kelly Air Force Base and was especially proud of authoring a bill that authorized the creation of the Texas A&M University-San Antonio campus for the city’s South Side.
Madla received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Texas at San Antonio Hispanic Research Center and the Advocacy Leadership Award from the Texas Hospital Association. The Association of Rural Communities in Texas named him the Legislator of the Year, the Texas Police Chiefs Association selected him as the Outstanding Legislator, and Bexar County extended to him their highest honor—the Hidalgo—for his thirty-three years of outstanding service in the Texas legislature. On April 1, 2006, he was honored as “Governor for a Day,” He resigned from the Senate in May 2006 after his loss to Carlos Uresti in the Democratic primary. During his years as a legislator, Madla had also worked as a part-time instructor at Incarnate Word University as well as a real estate broker and insurance broker. He enjoyed photography as a hobby. He was a Catholic.
During his life, Madla was twice married. He married Rosemary Segura in 1961; they had one son, Frank. They divorced in 1975, and Madla married Helen Cruz in 1977. They had a daughter, Marcie. On November 24, 2006, Frank Madla, Jr., died in a fire at his home. The blaze also took the lives of his mother-in-law Mary Cruz and granddaughter Aleena Jimenez. He was buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. In 2013 a park—the Sen. Frank L. Madla, Jr. Natural Area in Helotes—opened in his honor.