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The University of Texas at Austin

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Henry B. Gonzalez - Early Life and Entry into Politics

Henry Gonzalez was born Enrique Barbosa Gonzalez in San Antonio, Texas, on May 3, 1916. His parents, Leonides Gonzalez Cigarroa and Genoveva Barbosa Prince de Gonzalez, fled to San Antonio from the state of Durango in northern Mexico during the Mexican Revolution in 1911. Henry Gonzalez attended public schools and graduated from Jefferson High

Early photograph of Gonzalez family, circa 1922. Gonzalez (Henry B.) Papers, CAH; E-HBG-0008.

Early photograph of Gonzalez family, circa 1922. Gonzalez (Henry B.) Papers, CAH; E-HBG-0008.

School in 1935. He continued his education at San Antonio College and the University of Texas before graduating from St. Mary's Law School in 1943. During World War II he was drafted into service and worked as a civilian cable and radio censor for military and naval intelligence.

Gonzalez married Bertha Cuellar in 1940. The couple had eight children: Henry B. Gonzalez, Jr., Rose Mary Ramos, Charles A. Gonzalez, Bertha Denzer, Stephen Gonzalez, Genevieve R. Gonzalez, Frank E. Gonzalez, Anna Ihle.

Following the war, Gonzalez worked as an assistant juvenile probation officer, where he began his long career of representing the underrepresented. Gonzalez worked tirelessly with the youth and gained attention by giving long speeches on the need to reform the juvenile justice system.

In 1946 he rose to the position of Chief Juvenile Probation Officer, and continued reform efforts that ultimately led to improvements in arrest and detention procedures. Gonzalez's efforts to reform the juvenile system were part of a broader social movement against bigotry and segregation. Working with nationally recognized organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the G.I. Forum, Gonzalez sought to bring together people who could mobilize as a united front against discrimination in all areas of society. In addition to national organizations, Gonzalez took on leadership roles in local groups ranging from the Boy Scouts to the Ladies Garment Worker's Union. As a result, Gonzalez built a strong local following and was encouraged to run in the San Antonio City Council election of 1950. Although defeated, Gonzalez was heartened by the voters' response.

 

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