By Ronnie Dugger The Observer’s biographical study of Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez of San Antonio, begun in three parts this spring, is now resumed and concluded in three additional parts. In Part I, Gonzalez ranged wide in discussions of the possibility of a depression, “King Crime,” nuclear power, and President Carter. In Part II, Gonzalez’ family’s roots were traced from Spain to Northern Mexico and thence, as they fled from the Revolution, to San Antonio, and Henry’s youth in San Antonio was related. Part III told about his early career, his entry into politics, his filibusters against segregation bills, and his candidacy for governor. The stories were included in the issues of March 28, April 11 and May 9. Pull of Loyalty Unbeknownst to most, a schism opened up in the late fifties and early sixties between Henry Gonzalez, the strongest Mexican-American politician in South Texas, and other minority leaders who were forming political organizations to work for progressive causes at the precinct level. And as Gonzalez adopted a complex stance, treating with his local business establishment while voting liberal in Washington, he also consolidated his alignment with Lyndon Johnson an alignment that led him into open conflict with dissenters against the Vietnam war. Mexicano politicians bent on enlisting Gonzalez in an organization first approached him in 1957, when he was in the Texas Senate. At a famous West Side hang-out, Tony Karvazoe’s Quick Lunch, he met with Rep. G. J. Sutton, a local black leader, and County Commissioner Albert Pena and two men working for him, Albert Fuentes and Gonzalez’ long-time backer Lalo Solis. Conservative Democrats were then organized in San Antonio as the GGL, the Good Government League. “Henry,” Gonzalez says he was told at the meeting “we’re going to fight the goddam GGL. You’re either against us or for us.” Sutton, \(who Gonzalez and he owed it to them. Gonzalez recreates the confrontation: “Are you saying that I’m bound because I owe you the election?” “Well, that’s up to you.” “If you had told me that the basis for your supporting me was that after the election I would owe you any decisions on what 4 OCTOBER 17, 1980 Gonzalez of San Antonio Part IV The Establishment elections I would support you in, I woulda said, ‘Don’t help me. , II “Well,” he says Sutton replied, “We’ll remember that.” Gonzalez never opposed the liberals’ organizations, he just wasn’t interested. To Pena he said, “Have your organization, that’s your business.” When PASO, the Political Association of SpanishSpeaking Organizations, was formed in early 1961, Gonzalez says, he was asked to be chairman and an honorary member, but he responded, ” ‘Sooner or later I might have to make a decision, the organization versus my oath of office and my district. I cannot serve two masters.’ They think I’m trying to be a lone wolf or egotistical. What they’re talkin’ about is independence of thought.” After he was elected to Congress another black leader said to him, “You better be with us because now we need you. We helped you.” He replied, “Archie, don’t try to make an ingrate out of me.” He always refused. “I don’t want to be a political leader,” he would say. “I know my limitations.” Thus he stood apart from wnat the leaders of the liberal-labor coalition regarded as their main effort. The premier political leader of the West Side really was saying he would continue to follow his own career’s courseways and would accept no dependency on or accountability to an organization that might, on a given issue, try to rope and throw him. An individualist, he would follow his own conscience, not theirs. He was a lonely person, and his politics would continue to be lonely. As Senator Lyndon Johnson revved up to run for President, he, too, sidled up to Gonzalez, and with more success, but only after an uncertain start. When Gonzalez, in a 1953 speech, lightly asked, “Who’s our leader?” and answered lightheartedly, “Lyin’ Down Lyndon,” Johnson’s aide Cliff Carter went to him and said Johnson was very hurt. Would Gonzalez like to meet him? \(Not necessary, No, Two years later, after running into Gonzalez at a political affair, with many flourishes Johnson sent him a felt-point pen. \(Johnson paid more attention to some of his critics, if he thought zalez’ dramatic filibuster against the Texas race bills in 1957, Johnson sent him a telegram calling him a great spokesman for freedom and followed through with a copy of Booth Mooney’s flacky biography, The Lyndon Johnson Story, autographed by Johnson. To have the Mexican-American member of the Texas Senate present during an affair honoring the U.S. Senate Majority Leader at the Mexican Embassy on April 19,1959, Johnson flew
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