The Congressional Papers of Eligio "Kika" de la Garza consist of approximately 425 linear feet of materials dating from 1965 - 1996. The bulk of the papers date from 1965-1980 and 1989-1996. The papers were created during Kika de la Garza's time as an elected official in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1965 - 1996, representing the 15th Congressional District in South Texas.
Majority of material found in 1965-1980; 1989-1996
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Series 5, Case Files, is restricted until the year 2045.
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Eligio "Kika" de la Garza represented South Texas in both the Texas State Legislature (1952-1964) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1965-1996). His family can trace its roots in the Rio Grande Valley area to the early 1700's.
Born in Mercedes, Hidalgo County, Texas on September 22, 1927, de la Garza grew up in Mission where he attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School and Mission High School. At age 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until 1946. He continued his education at Edinburg Junior College and the U.S. Army Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. De la Garza served in the Korean conflict as a second lieutenant with the Army's Thirty-seventh Division Artillery. In 1952, he earned a law degree from St. Mary's University in San Antonio (where he was later awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree). That same year he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives.
De la Garza launched his career in public service with numerous legislative accomplishments, including the absorption of Pan American University into the University of Texas system, and the creation of the Texas Water Commission and the Reagan/de la Garza coastal wetlands. He was the driving force behind legislation creating the nation's first state-run system of English language instruction for pre-school age children. He also sponsored a bill allowing Texas' border cities and counties to build their own international bridges.
After six consecutive terms in Austin, Representative de la Garza was elected in 1964 to the U.S. House of Representatives to represent Texas' 15th District, and has been either unopposed or reelected by wide margins ever since.
Because he hails from a district with a large agricultural base, de la Garza became a member of the Committee on Agriculture. In 1967 he served as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Department Operations and Foreign Agriculture. From 1981 to 1994 de la Garza was the Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, becoming the first Hispanic since 1917 (when Ladislas Lazaro chaired the Enrolled Bills Committee) to chair a standing committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
During his tenure as Chairman, Representative de la Garza successfully led the way for the House to pass three omnibus farm bills (1981, 1985, and 1990), a major overhaul of the agricultural lending system, Federal crop insurance reform, a major reorganization of the USDA, reforms in Federal pesticide laws, and numerous other measures to assist U.S. agriculture, encourage rural economic development, and improve human nutrition. In 1976 de la Garza became one of the founding members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which he chaired from 1989 to 1991.
A strong supporter of civil rights safeguard for minorities, de la Garza has successfully fought for improved access to health care for the elderly and veterans, better living conditions for low-income individuals and the impoverished, and access to educational opportunities for all Americans. Also an influential proponent of free trade, de la Garza was instrumental in the passage of both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the expansion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). One of Congress' leading experts on U.S.-Mexican relations, de la Garza has worked to improve relations and trade between the two countries throughout his congressional career.
In 1966, he became the first congressman from the Texas-Mexico border area to serve on the Mexico-United States Interparliamentary Group, which promotes dialogue between legislators from the two countries. He has served as chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' delegation to that group since 1978. That same year, in recognition of his outstanding work, Mexico's President José López Portillo awarded him the Order of the Aztec Eagle -- the highest honor Mexico can bestow on a foreigner.
1201 West University Drive
[Title of item], [date], Box [number], Folder [number], [Collection title], Edinburg Campus, University Library Archives and Special Collections, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Edinburg, TX. http://archives.lib.utrgv.edu/repositories/2/resources/224 Accessed September 23, 2017.