Remarkable People from the McAllen Area
(Actor, Edcouch, Texas)
Valente Rodriguez attended University of Texas Pan American. He has been featured in a promotional commercial for the University that has been aired in the Rio Grande Valley. Rodriguez did not only attend University of Texas Pan American (UTPA) but is also from the area of the Rio Grande Valley. He also received a Distinguished Alumni Award from The University of Texas-Pan American in 2006 for his success in television and film. The theater department head of The University of Texas-Pan American, Marian Monta, gave him $2000 out of her own pocket after he graduated to help him get to Los Angeles. On July 30th of 2005 Rodriguez threw out the first pitch for the Astros vs. Mets game, Astros won that game 2-0. He has also participated in sitcoms like “George Lopez”, “Mad About You”, “The X Files” and films like “Erin Brockovich” among others.
Mr. Trevino lives on a ranch in Starr County, north of Rio Grande City, a part of a land grant that can be traced back in his family to Spanish times. There he manages the Rancho Lomitas Native Plant Nursery, which has provided close to 200,000 native plant seedlings for habitat restoration at the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge, various Texas Nature Conservancy sanctuaries, and on private lands throughout south Texas. In addition, Mr. Trevino is well known as an expert in the biochemical makeup of native plants, and in their traditional uses, which he has shared with high school students, gardening groups, birders, and others through lectures and in tours of his ranch.
Gloria E. Anzaldúa
Anzaldúa was born in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on September 26, 1942 to Urbano and Amalia Anzaldúa. Despite the racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression she experienced growing up as a sixth-generation Tejana, as well as the death of her father when she was fourteen, Anzaldúa succeeded in obtaining a college education. She received her B.A. from Pan American University, and her M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. As an adult, she worked for a few years as a schoolteacher before graduate school. She completed the coursework for a Master’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Texas, Austin. In 1977 she moved to California where she supported herself through her writing, lectures, and occasional teaching stints at San Francisco State University, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Florida Atlantic University, among other universities. She is perhaps most famous for coediting This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981) with Cherríe Moraga, editing Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Women of Color (1990), and coediting This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation (2002). She also wrote Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987). Her children’s books include Prietita Has a Friend (1991), Friends from the Other Side – Amigos del Otro Lado (1993), and Prietita y La Llorona (1996). She has also authored many fictional and poetic works. Her works weave English and Spanish together as one language, an idea stemming from her theory of “borderlands” identity. Her autobiographical essay, “La Prieta,” was published in (mostly) English in This Bridge Called My Back, and in (mostly) Spanish in Este puente, mi espalda: Voces de mujeres tercermundistas en los Estados Unidos. Her works have won several awards: This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color won the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award in 1986. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza was recognized as one of the 38 best books of 1987 by Library Journal and 100 Best Books of the Century by both Hungry Mind Review and Utne Reader among other awards.
(T.V. performer, Edinburg, Texas)
Cathy Baker appeared in TV shows such as Hee Haw. She was the cute, bubbly blonde who was distinctive from the other Hee Haw Honeys. In that show she always wore overalls and played with the big bloodhound. Baker also appeared in movies including Trouble on the Corner 1998, Love God 1999, Wirey Spindell 2000. Baker is a graduate of Edinburg High School.
(U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, Mission, Texas)
Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Jr. (February 11, 1921 – May 23, 2006) was a four-term United States senator (1971 until 1993) from Texas and the Democratic Party nominee for Vice President in 1988 on the Michael Dukakis ticket. He also served in the House of Representatives from 1949 to 1955. In his later political life, he was Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the U.S. Treasury Secretary during the early years of the Clinton administration. Bentsen was born in Mission in Hidalgo County in south Texas; his parents were Lloyd Millard Bentsen, Sr., a first-generation Danish American, and the former Edna Ruth Colbath. Bentsen was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from the University Of Texas School Of Law in 1942. Upon graduation, he served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945. After brief service as a private in intelligence work in Brazil, he became a pilot and in early 1944 began flying World War II combat missions in B-24s from southern Italy with the 449th Bomb Group. At the age of 23, he was promoted to the rank of major and given command of a squadron of 600 men, overseeing the operations of 15 bombers, their crews, and maintenance units.
(Iwo Jima flag raiser, died on Iwo Jima, Weslaco, Texas)
Block was born in Yorktown, Texas and was raised in Weslaco, Texas, the third eldest of the five sons and one daughter of Edward Frederick Block and Ada Belle Block, a family of Seventh day-Adventists. In hopes of improving the family farming fortunes, the Block family moved to Weslaco, a small town in the middle of the Rio Grande Valley. The family became dairy farmers and the children went to a Seventh-day Adventist School. Harlon Block was kicked out when he refused to tell the principal who had vandalized a school building. Block then transferred to Weslaco High School where he was an outgoing daredevil with many friends. A natural athlete, Block led the Weslaco Panther Football Team to the Conference Championship. He was honored as “All South Texas End.” Harlon Block was a United States Marine during World War II. Born in Texas, Block joined the Marine Corps in November 1943 and subsequently saw action during the Battle of Bougainville and the Battle of Iwo Jima where he was killed in action. He is best known as one of the six men photographed raising the flag on Iwo Jima.
Thomas Haden Church
(Actor, Harlingen, Texas)
Thomas Haden Church (born June 17, 1960) is an Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated. Church has participated in films like “3000 Miles to Graceland” (2001), Spider-Man 3 (2007) and Don McKay (2009) among other movies. Church, the third of six children, was born Thomas R. McMillen in Yolo, California, to an Army officer/health care worker father and a homemaker mother. He was raised under his stepfather’s surname, “Quesada”, and later changed his surname to “Haden Church” (both names are in his family tree). He was raised in Laredo, Texas and graduated from Harlingen High School, Harlingen, Texas in 1979, going on to attend the University of North Texas.
Kika de la Garza
(U.S. Representative, Mission, Texas)
Eligio “Kika” de la Garza, II (born September 22, 1927, in Mercedes, Texas) was the Democratic representative for the 15th congressional district of Texas from January 3, 1965, to January 3, 1997. De la Garza grew up in Mission in Hidalgo County. At the age of seventeen, he entered the United States Navy and served for two years. De la Garza chose to continue his education at Edinburg Junior College and the United States Army Artillery School at Fort Still in Oklahoma. For two years beginning in 1952, he was a lieutenant in the Army while deployed in the Korean War. After returning home, he completed his law degree at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio. After having practiced law for several years in the Rio Grande Valley, he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives. While in the state House, de la Garza was famous for sponsoring much legislation in the fields of education and the environment. He authored bills to protect wetlands, to create state-sponsored preschools, and to create more international bridges to Mexico. From 1955 to 1957, he was the only Hispanic member of the Texas House. He was joined in 1957 by a second Mexican American member, Oscar M. Laurel of Laredo, the seat of Webb County. In 1965, de la Garza, a strong supporter of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, assumed his seat in Congress. From 1981 to 1994, he was the chairman of the Agricultural Committee, leading the way in passing bills that reorganized the agricultural lending system, the farm insurance system, the United States Department of Agriculture, and pesticide laws. De la le Garza was also a civil rights supporter and called for smoother relations between the U.S. and Mexico. He worked to improve trade between the two nations and was critical in passing the legislation that enacted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). De la Garza’s nickname was made famous by Andy Rooney in the early days of his TV show as he referred to “Kika de la Garza” as one of the names that stuck with him most. He resides in McAllen, Texas with his wife Lucille.
(Musician/Actor lyricist, San Benito, Texas)
Freddy Fender (June 4, 1937 – October 14, 2006), born Baldemar Huerta in San Benito, Texas, USA, was an American, Tejano, country, and rock and roll musician, known for his work as a solo artist and in the groups Los Super Seven and the Texas Tornados. He is best known for his 1975 hit “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”. While Fender was a child, he and his parents traveled throughout the United States as a circus act. At age 5, he turned a sardine can and screen door wire into a homemade guitar, and by age 10, had his first radio appearance on Harlingen’s KGBS-AM radio station, where he sang a current hit “Paloma Querida”, on KGBT in Harlingen, Texas and reportedly won a tub of food worth $5. At the age of 16, Fender quit school and started a three-year hitch in the United States Marine Corps. He returned to Texas and played nightclubs, bars and honky-tonks throughout the south, mostly to Latino audiences. In 1957, then known as El Bebop Kid, he released two songs to moderate success in Mexico and South America: Spanish-language versions of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” (as “No Seas Cruel”) and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.” He is known for his rockabilly music and his cool persona as Eddie Con Los Shades. In 1958, the musician changed his name from Baldemar Huerta to Freddy Fender. He took Fender from the guitar and amplifier, and Freddy because the alliteration sounded good to him and it would,”…sell better with Gringos!”
(Astronaut, McAllen, Texas)
Michael Edward Fossum (born December 19, 1957 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota) is an American astronaut. He flew into space onboard the NASA Space Shuttle missions STS-121 and STS-124 as a mission specialist. Michael Fossum spent his early life in McAllen, Texas. He graduated from McAllen High School in 1976. He then attended the University of Texas–Pan American in Edinburg, Texas and later went on to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University in 1980, followed by a Master of Science degree in systems engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1981. In 1997, Fossum received a Master of Science degree in physical science from the University of Houston–Clear Lake.
(U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Brownsville, Texas)
Antonio Oscar “Tony” Garza, Jr. (born July 7, 1959, in Brownsville, Texas), an American lawyer and former county judge in Texas, was the United States Ambassador to Mexico. Garza, the grandson of Mexican immigrants to the U.S, graduated from Saint Joseph Academy in Brownsville, the seat of Cameron County on the Gulf of Mexico coast in far south Texas. Antonio O. Garza, Jr. was named U.S. Ambassador to Mexico by President George W. Bush in the summer of 2002. He presented his credentials to Mexican President Vicente Fox on November 22 of that year and took charge of one of the largest diplomatic missions in the world. At the time, he was the United States’ youngest Chief of Mission serving abroad. Announcing the appointment, President Bush said, “The United States and Mexico share not only a border, but a rich history of common economic and cultural interests. Tony Garza has an in-depth understanding of the relationship between the United States and Mexico and its impact on the people of both nations.” During his tenure, Mr. Garza has focused his attentions on American interests abroad, as well as the law enforcement and counterterrorism aspects of this most important, and indeed unique, bilateral relationship.
Alfredo C. Gonzalez
(Highly distinguished U.S. Marine Veteran, Edinburg, Texas)
Sergeant Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez (also known as Alfredo Gonzalez and Freddy Gonzalez) was born on May 23, 1946 in Edinburg, Texas and passed away on February 4, 1968 in Hue City, Vietnam. He was a United States Marine Corps Sergeant who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for service in the Vietnam War during the Battle of Hue. The United States Navy guided missile destroyer USS Gonzalez is named in his honor. There is also an elementary school in Edinburg, Texas (his hometown) named Freddy Gonzalez Elementary in his honor.
(2008 Vice Presidential candidate; former president of the San Francisco, California, Board of Supervisors; McAllen, Texas)
Matthew Edward Gonzalez (born June 4, 1965) is a U.S. politician, lawyer, and activist prominent in San Francisco politics. Gonzalez was a member and president of San Francisco County’s Board of Supervisors. He was also one of the first Green Party candidates elected to public office in the Bay Area. In 2003, Gonzalez ran for mayor of San Francisco but lost in a close race to Democrat Gavin Newsom. In the 2008 presidential election, Gonzalez ran for vice president as the running mate of candidate Ralph Nader. Matthew Edward Gonzalez was born in McAllen, Texas, to a Mexican mother, Oralia, and Mexican-American father, Mateo. Gonzalez spent his first four years in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Gonzalez family moved to New Orleans, Louisiana; Baltimore, Maryland; and Louisville, Kentucky, before the family returned to McAllen when Gonzalez was 11 years old.
(Film director, writer, producer, McAllen, TX)
Catherine Hardwicke (born Helllen Catherine Hardwicke; October 21, 1955) is an American production designer and film director. Her works include the independent film Thirteen, which she co-wrote with one of the film’s co-stars, Nikki Reed, the Biblically-themed The Nativity Story, and the vampire film Twilight. The opening weekend of Twilight was the biggest opening ever for a female director. Hardwicke was born in Cameron, Texas, the daughter of Jamee Elberta (née Bennett) and John Benjamin Hardwicke. She grew up in McAllen, Texas.
(Musician, actor, song writer, Brownsville, Texas)
Kristoffer “Kris” Kristofferson was born June 22, 1936 in Brownsville, Texas, and is an American writer, singer-songwriter, actor, and musician. He is best known for hits such as “Me and Bobby McGee”, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down”, and “Help Me Make It Through the Night”. Kristofferson is the sole writer of most of his songs, but he has collaborated with various other figures of the Nashville scene such as Shel Silverstein and Fred Rumfelt.
(American football coach, Mission, Texas)
Thomas Wade Landry (September 11, 1924 – February 12, 2000) was an American football player and coach. He is legendary for his successes as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys. He is ranked as one of the greatest and most innovative coaches in NFL history. He created many new formations and methods, for example, he invented the now popular 4-3 defense, and the “flex defense” system made famous by the “Doomsday Defense” squads he created with the Dallas Cowboys. Landry won 2 Super Bowl titles (1972, 1978), 5 NFC titles, 13 Divisional titles, and compiled a 270-178-6 record, the 3rd most wins of all time for an NFL coach. His 20 career playoff victories are the most of any coach in NFL history. He was the NFL Coach of the Year in 1966 and the NFC Coach of the Year in 1975. Yet his most impressive professional accomplishment is his record for coaching the Dallas Cowboys to 20 consecutive winning seasons (1966-1985), an NFL record that remains unbroken or unchallenged, it remains one of the longest winning streaks in all of professional sports. Born to Ray (an auto mechanic and volunteer fireman) and Ruth Landry in Mission, Texas, Landry was the second of four children (Robert, Tommy, Ruthie and Jack). After playing quarterback (primary passer and runner, and also punter) for Mission High School (including leading his team to a 12-0 record his senior season), he attended the University of Texas in Austin as an industrial engineering major, but interrupted his education after a semester to serve in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II. Landry earned his wings and a commission as a Second Lieutenant at Lubbock Army Air Field and was assigned to the 493d Bombardment Group at RAF Debach, England, as a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber co-pilot in the 860th Bomb Squadron. From November 1944 to April 1945 he completed a combat tour of 30 missions and survived a crash landing in Belgium after his bomber ran out of fuel.
(College Football Player Weslaco, TX)
Bobby Lackey is a former American football player. The 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m) Lackey played quarterback and punter for the Texas Longhorns from 1957-1959. The Weslaco, Texas native was UT’s top scorer in 1958 and 1959. He helped Texas to win the 1959 Southwest Conference championship, the first of the Darrell Royal era. In 1957, Lackey led the team in interceptions and at season’s end, kicked the winning field goal to beat Texas A&M, 9-7.
Jose M. Lopez
(Medal of Honor Recipient, Mission, TX)
Jose Mendoza Lopez (July 10, 1910 – May 16, 2005) was a United States Army soldier who was awarded the United States’ highest military decoration for valor in combat — the Medal of Honor — for his heroic actions during the Battle of the Bulge, in which he single-handedly repulsed a German infantry attack, killing at least 100 enemy troops. Lopez was raised by his mother Candida Lopez in Veracruz, Mexico. As a young boy he helped his mother sell clothes that she made as a seamstress in the city. However, his time with his mother was cut short due to tuberculosis which took her life when Lopez was only eight years old. Lopez then relocated to Brownsville, Texas to live with his uncle’s family. While living in with his uncle’s family Lopez began working various jobs to bring in income and never returned to school. As a young man, Lopez caught the attention of a boxing promoter and for seven years he traveled the country fighting a total of 55 fights in the lightweight division with the nickname of ‘Kid Mendoza’. In 1934, during a boxing match in Melbourne, Australia, he met a group of Merchant Marines and signed a contract with them. He was accepted in the union in 1936 and spent the next five years traveling the world. He was en route to California from Hawaii on December 7, 1941, when he learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When he arrived in Los Angeles, the authorities believed he was Japanese and he was forced to prove otherwise. Lopez returned to Brownsville and, in 1942, married Emilia Herrera. That same year, he received his draft card and relocated to San Antonio where he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Lopez was first sent to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and then to Camp Roberts, California, where he received his basic training.
(Ms. Olympia, actor, Harlingen, Texas)
Raquel Livia Elizondo is an American female bodybuilding champion, actress and author. McLish was born in 1955 in Harlingen, Texas. She attended Pan American University. McLish was winner of the inaugural Ms. Olympia competition in 1980, was sponsored by Dynamics Health Equipment Manufacturing Corporation and was also the Ms. Olympia winner in 1982. In January 1999, McLish was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame.
Bobby Joe Morrow
(Olympic gold medalist, San Benito, Texas)
Bobby Joe Morrow (born October 15, 1935) is a former American athlete, winner of three Olympic gold medals in 1956. Bobby Joe Morrow was born in Harlingen, Texas and raised in a farm in San Benito, Texas. Before becoming a sprinter, Morrow played American football for San Benito High School. Morrow also was a sprinter at Abilene Christian University, as well as a member of the men’s club Frater Sodalis. Morrow, who had won the 1955 AAU 100 yd title, had his most successful season in 1956, which led to his choice by Sports Illustrated as “Sportsman of the Year.” Morrow won the sprint double in the national college championships and retained his AAU title. Late in the season, Morrow went to Melbourne as a leader of the American sprint team. He came back with three gold medals. First, Morrow was victorious in the 100 m. Next, he led an American sweep of the medals in the 200 m, equaling the Olympic Record as well. As an anchorman for the 4 x 100 m relay team, he won his third gold, setting a World Record as well. After the Olympics, Morrow’s success on a national level continued, but he retired in 1958. He made a short comeback before the 1960 Olympics, but he failed to qualify for the Olympic team. After his retirement, Bobby Joe Morrow became a farmer and woodworker. In October 2006, San Benito High School named their new 11,000 seat stadium Bobby Morrow Stadium. Morrow was on hand to help dedicate the new facility.
(Actor, Harlingen, Texas)
Nicolas Kent Stahl (born December 5, 1979) is an American actor. Starting out as a child actor, he gained recognition for his performance in the 1993 film The Man Without a Face and then embarked on a successful career as a child actor. He later transitioned into his adult career with roles in Bully, Sin City, In the Bedroom, the HBO series Carnivàle, and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, in which he took over the role of John Connor, originally played by Edward Furlong. Stahl was born in Harlingen, Texas, the son of Donna Lynn, a brokerage assistant, and William Kent Stahl.
(Mayor of McAllen, Texas from 1977-1997)
Othal E. Brand Sr. (Mayor Brand) was the eldest of six children born to Homer and Ilee Brand (both deceased) on August 12, 1919 in Grayson, Georgia. Mayor Brand was raised in Atlanta where he was exposed to the fruit and vegetable industry at an early age following his father’s footsteps. Mayor Brand and his brother Bill, began peddling produce at an early age and with hard work and determination, established their produce business as Brand Brothers Produce of Atlanta, Georgia; and in 1941, Mayor Brand enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and served during World War II. Upon his return from the war in the early 1950’s, Mayor Brand rebuilt the produce business and later partnered with Jack Griffin to establish Griffin & Brand of McAllen, a major refrigeration, packing and distribution center. Mayor Brand became a leading figure in the Texas vegetable industry and one of the nation’s largest vegetable producers, processors and shippers and in 2004, he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor for his significant contributions to agriculture and ranching in Texas. In 1973, Mayor Brand was elected City Commissioner of the City of McAllen and in 1977 was elected Mayor, where he served continuously for 20 years until 1997. Through his leadership and vision, he was instrumental in establishing the McAllen Economic Development Corporation and the Boys & Girls Clubs of McAllen and planned for McAllen’s future by acquiring land for future growth. Mayor Brand served on numerous boards and committees both on the local and state levels; and citizens of McAllen give credit to some of the city’s evolution to Mayor Brand as during his tenure in office, the city flourished economically as seen in infrastructure and placed McAllen on the map as a thriving city. On January 26, 2009, McAllen proclaimed the day as “Mayor Othal Brand Day.”
(Horse Trainer, Dancing Horse Show, Weslaco, Texas)
Al’s career began showing quarter horses in halter, cutting, reining, western pleasure, and racing. He has won over 300 trophies and awards and is a champion charro (Mexican Cowboy), and a rejoneador (Bull Fighter on horseback using Portuguese style, bloodless) method of bullfighting. Al has been featured on CBS, Real TV, and RFD TV, PBS, and FOX, and has developed the style of riding and training that also has been featured in magazines and newspapers. He is an author and has trained horses in nine different disciplines including dressage and owns and trains the only true Dancing Horses in the world. Al has performed at the Rose Bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, traveled north to Rapid City, South Dakota, east to Orlando, Florida, south into Mexico and many cities in between. His show consists of him singing Country, Rock and Mexican music, sang both in English and Spanish as his horses follow the rhythm of each song right on beat. He continues to travel doing training clinics as well as the Dancing Horse Show. He now lives in Weslaco, Texas.
(Musician, McAllen, Texas)
Gloria Trevi was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico, she left Monterrey at the age of 12 to pursue a career in Mexico City, where she met her future manager Sergio Andrade. Before that she had sung and danced on the streets for spare change, teaching aerobics and serving quesadillas at a food stand. In 1985, she was a member of a short-lived girl group named Boquitas Pintadas. After the breakup of the band in 1988, Gloria Trevi approached Sergio Andrade for the production of her first solo album, “…Que Hago Aqui?”. She is now married to Armando Gómez and has two children. Trevi resides in McAllen, Texas.
William Jennings Bryan
(Lawyer, U.S. Secretary of State, Mission, Texas)
William Jennings Bryan (March 19, 1860 – July 26, 1925) was the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States in 1896, 1900 and 1908, a lawyer, and the 41st United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson. One of the most popular speakers in American history, he was noted for a deep, commanding voice. Bryan was a devout Presbyterian, a supporter of popular democracy, a critic of banks and railroads, a leader of the silverite movement in the 1890s, a leading figure in the Democratic Party, a peace advocate, a prohibitionist, an opponent of Darwinism, and one of the most prominent leaders of populism in the late 19th – and early 20th century. Because of his faith in the goodness and rightness of the common people, he was called “The Great Commoner.” Nebraska politician and three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan was one of the first to buy a plot of land from Conway and Hoit, upon which he built his winter home in Mission.
The Chisholm Trail
Experience what it was like for those rugged and independent men and women of the cattle drive era whose thirst for adventure sparked a time when cattle was king and the cowboy took its place as an American icon. The Trail enters Texas in the North in the Lakes Trail Region and continues south through the Brazos, Independence, and ends in the Tropical Trail. Brownsville or McAllen, are the two southernmost areas in Texas that cattle were brought together for drives north. At times, they were collected in Mexico and driven across the Rio Grande first.