Texas Attorney-General's Office:
An Inventory of the Attorney General's Office Felix Longoria Burial Scrapbook at the Texas State Archives, 1949
The Attorney General is the lawyer for the people of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to: defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas, represent the State in litigation, and approve public bond issues. To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government; issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes; sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions; and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.
The Office of the Attorney General has taken on numerous other roles through the years. Texas statutes contain nearly 2000 references to the Attorney General. In addition to its constitutionally prescribed duties, the Office of the Attorney General files civil suits upon referral by other state agencies. In some circumstances, the Attorney General has original jurisdiction to prosecute violations of the law, but in most cases, criminal prosecutions by the Attorney General are initiated only upon the request of a local prosecutor. Although the Attorney General is prohibited from offering legal advice or representing private individuals, he serves and protects the rights of all citizens of Texas through the activities of the various divisions of the agencies.
The Office of the Attorney General was created by an executive ordinance passed by the 1836 Constitutional Convention of the Republic of Texas. Successors were presidential appointees by act of the First Congress, October 6, 1836. The practice of executive appointment continued during the first years of statehood, but in 1850 the office became elective. The position now exists under authority of Article IV, Sections 1 and 22 of the Constitution of 1876 and Texas Government Code, Chapter 402. In 1972, the term of office was extended from two to four years, effective in 1975.
During the nineteenth century, the Attorney General provided legal advice to all upon request; requests are now limited to officials and agencies of state and local government. Opinions of the Attorney General are not binding upon the judiciary, although they are persuasive to the courts. Moreover, problems which are the subject of official opinions are not often litigated, and such opinions stand as the highest available interpretation of the current law.
(Sources include: Guide to Texas State Agencies, 11th ed. (2001); Texas Constitution, Article IV; and Archives survey files.)
In June 1945, Private First Class Felix Longoria of Three Rivers in South Texas was killed while on a volunteer mission on Luzon in the Philippines during World War II. His remains were not recovered until 1948 and were then shipped home for burial. In January 1949, the funeral director in Three Rivers and Longoria's widow, Beatrice Longoria, discussed the use of his chapel for her husband's services, and at that point their stories diverged. The funeral director would later claim the two agreed that discord among the Longoria family might cause a disturbance in the chapel, and so Longoria's house would be used for the service. Longoria said that the funeral director refused use of the chapel because the white population of Three Rivers would not want Mexican-Americans to hold a service there. She discussed the matter with her sister, who put her in touch with Dr. Hector P. Garcia, founder of the American G.I. Forum, a civil rights organization for Mexican-Americans. Garcia received the same rationale from the funeral director that Longoria claimed she did, and he brought the matter to the attention of U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who quickly arranged for Felix Longoria to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The burial took place on February 16, 1949.
The next day, February 17, 1949, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Simple Resolution 68, 51st Texas Legislature, Regular Session, to create an investigating committee in regard to the reburial of Felix Longoria, to establish the accuracy of reports of discrimination in the matter which had received international publicity. The five-member committee consisted of Representatives Cecil Storey, chair; Tom Cheatham; James M. Windham; Byron R. Tinsley; and Frank Oltorf. On April 7, the committee filed two reports; the majority report concluded that no discrimination had taken place, while the minority report signed only by Oltorf held that the funeral director's words and actions were discriminatory.
(Sources include: the enabling legislation, the Handbook of Texas Online article on the Felix Longoria Affair, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/vef01, accessed June 17, 2014, and the materials themselves.)
The Felix Longoria burial scrapbook, maintained by the Texas Attorney General's Office, contains news clippings relating to the controversy of the burial of Felix Longoria in 1949. The clippings in English come from a variety of Texas newspapers including the Three Rivers News, Austin-American Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, and the San Antonio Express. The news clippings in Spanish come primarily from newspapers in Mexico City, including El Universal, Novedades, and La Prensa.
The scrapbook clippings document the differing stories of the funeral director and the wife of Felix Longoria as to why the burial was denied. The media depicts the confusion of where the burial was to take place as clippings report the burial to occur in several locations, before the eventual burial at Arlington National Cemetery. The news clippings also show the town of Three Rivers' dismay over the accusations of the town's discrimination towards the Mexican-American community as reported by the media, and depicts the town's attempts to clear up the negative publicity it had received. Clippings cover the Texas Good Neighbor Commission's investigation into the discrimination allegations, and later proposals by Three Rivers' State Representative J.F. Gray that the Commission should be dissolved. The Texas House of Representatives' special committee investigation that reported that no discrimination took place is also covered.
To prepare this inventory, the described materials were cursorily reviewed to delineate series, to confirm the accuracy of contents lists, to provide an estimate of dates covered, and to determine record types.
Restrictions on Access
Materials do not circulate, but may be used in the State Archives search room. Materials will be retrieved from and returned to storage areas by staff members.
Restrictions on Use
Most records created by Texas state agencies are not copyrighted. State records also include materials received by, not created by, state agencies. Copyright remains with the creator. The researcher is responsible for complying with U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S.C.).
The scrapbook is too fragile to be photocopied. The news clippings are brittle and may be coming loose from the binding. Several news clippings are loose in the scrapbook.
(Identify the item), Attorney General's Office Felix Longoria burial scrapbook, Texas Attorney General's Office records. Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
Accession number: 1978/047
These records were transferred to the Archives and Information Services Division of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission by the Attorney General of Texas Records Division on September 29, 1977. The provenance of this scrapbook is unclear, although it was held by the Attorney General's Office for nearly thirty years.
Processed by Tony Black, November 1990
Finding aid encoded by Kendra Malinowski, June 2014
Detailed Description of the Records