Executive Director's Perspective: Where Heroes Come From - By Melissa J. Schank

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Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

That’s where I’ll get the love in my heart: from, the fact that little young guys can look at the obstacles that I had to go through to become a Hall of Famer and know it’s not so bad when it comes to them trying to accomplish the same goal.

—Allen Iverson

This month we had a delightful visit from the family of Fidencio G. Garza Sr. of Edinburg. He was a recipient in 1986 of the TCDLA Hall of Fame Award. The Hall of Fame Award is TCDLA’s most prestigious award. The requirements are:

1.   Minimum of thirty (30) years has elapsed since engaging in active practice of law or the candidate is deceased
2.   Substantial commitment to defense of persons accused of crimes on appeal or trial, not to be based solely on won-lost record or publicity, but in court excellence; and
3.   Significant contributions to the profession.

Fidencio was married to Fela Villarreal, a public school educator. He was admitted to the bar after receiving his Juris Doctor degree from South Texas College of Law. Fidencio had two children—a daughter, Ernestina, and a son, Fidencio Garza Jr. The junior Fidencio followed his father’s footsteps and became an attorney in 1961 and later became a U.S. Magistrate Judge as one of many more accomplishments. Fidencio Sr. passed in 1957.

His family came by the office to take pictures with our Hall of Fame plaque in honor of his memory and in recognition of his accomplishments. Some traveled from as far as California. In attendance was Angela Moreno, Fidencio’s niece, whom he baptized, along with Baldemar Cano Jr., who also became a lawyer and judge, and his wife, Belia Cano. Alfredo and Emma Lopez and Buddy Cano also attended.

The family shared many stories—including when Fidencio Sr. ran for district attorney in Falfurrias County, a controversial move since he was Hispanic. Fidencio was shot during the election and ended up relocating. He had been fighting de facto segregation in Raymondville in the ’40s and ultimately prevailed (State v. Garza, 269 S.W.2d 596 [1954]).

His relatives described him as an aggressive criminal defense attorney. He was a strong-minded, macho, and assertive man. He was outspoken, at times domineering, and always stood his ground. He and his brother were the first in their family to go to college. Many of the children, nephews, and nieces looked up to him growing up as kids. They were very proud of him, and in their eyes, he was the number one attorney.

The description reminds me of a lot of our criminal defense attorneys. I travel to many seminars and events where I am around our members’ family. The stories they all share are fascinating. Each one is shared with love and similarly proud feelings. Our defense attorneys are true heroes.

Our Hall of Fame plaque is proudly displayed in our home office. Annually we delicately package it to travel with us to Rusty Duncan to display in our registration area. Stop by this year to take a moment and see the names of the recipients who have been honored through the years.

A reminder: The Hall of Fame awards applications are due April 10th each year. The application can be found on our website or requested by contacting the TCDLA home office. Recipients are selected only if a nominee is submitted and approved. We have several awards presented annually at Rusty Duncan for which we accept applications. We always hear comments after the fact that someone should be inducted. But we do first need an application for recipients to be reviewed by the Awards Committee. We encourage you to submit a form next year for a deserving candidate for one of the awards listed below. Any lawyer may nominate a qualified candidate.

  • TCDLA Hall of Fame
  • TCDLA Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year
  • TCDLA Charles Butts Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year Award
  • TCDLA Senator Rodney Ellis Justice Award

If you would like to see the award criteria or video capturing the recipients’ history, visit our website at www.tcdla.com and click on the “About” tab. There you’ll find videos, honorees’ names, criteria, and applications. Join us this year as we induct Martin Underwood, Daniel Hurley, and Frank Jackson into the 2018 TCDLA Hall of Fame on June 21, 2018, at Rusty Duncan in San Antonio. For more details, contact the TCDLA office at (512)478-2514. Hope to see you in June!

Executive Director's Perspective: Where Heroes Come From - By Melissa J. Schank