|Julio Arnoldo Garcia, Sr.|
District Attorney of Dimmitt, Jim Hogg, Webb, and Zapata counties, Texas
January 1, 1981 – December 31, 1988
|Preceded by||Charles Borchers|
|Succeeded by||Jose M. "Joe" Rubio, Jr.|
|Born|| July 2, 1941|
Laredo, Webb County, Texas
|Died|| October 16, 2008 (aged 67)|
|Resting place||Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Laredo|
|Spouse(s)||Rosario Flores Garcia|
|Children|| Leticia L. Garcia|
Cristina Cecilia Garcia (1967-1999)
|Alma mater|| St. Joseph's Academy (Laredo, Texas)|
St. Mary's University (San Antonio)
Lieutenant in United States Army
(1) Julio Garcia was particularly known for his flamboyance and passion in the courtroom and his determination to win the case for each client. His hometown newspaper referred to him as a "legal lion."
(2) Though he held only the office of district attorney for eight years, Garcia was also involved in other county and district campaigns in his native Laredo, including the election of his father-in-law, Porfirio Flores, as the Webb County sheriff.
(3) U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen described Garcia as "a high-intensity kind of guy. . . [and] a giant of [his] profession."
Julio Arnoldo Garcia, Sr. (July 2, 1941 – October 16, 2008), was a prominent attorney in his native Laredo, Texas, defined by a headline writer as a "legal lion known for his passion, shrewdness, and theatrics in the courtoom." Garcia served from 1981 to 1988 as the Democratic district attorney of the 49th Judicial District of heavily Hispanic South Texas. The district then included Dimmitt, Jim Hogg, Webb, and Zapata counties, but it is now confined to Webb and Zapata counties.
Garcia was to Julio Garcia (1910–1974) and the former Antonia Rubio (1914–1987). His father was employed by the Texas Mexican Railway, and his mother created the first neighborhood group and the first savings and loan association in Laredo. Garcia graduated with honors in 1959 from the Roman Catholic-affiliated St. Joseph's Academy in Laredo, which closed its doors in 1973. Thereafter, he procured his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Laws degrees from the Roman Catholic St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. After St. Mary's, Garcia was a second lieutenant in the United States Army artillery. In 1964, he married the former Rosario Flores (October 8, 1941 – May 12, 2019) , an educator and philharmonic singer. The couple had three children: Leticia (born 1964), Cristina (April 22, 1967 — February 20, 1999), and Julio, Jr. (born 1970). Leticia and Julio became attorneys and practiced law, both criminal and civil, with their father at the former law office at 2602 Arkansas Street.
Mrs. Garcia was named the "Outstanding Educator" of 2007 by the Texas Homeless Network, which cited her decade of teaching homeless children at Bethany House in Laredo. Retired from the United Independent School District, she was thereafter affiliated with Texas A&M International University in Laredo. She was a pioneer in bilingual education and the open classroom concept.
Garcia began his legal career in San Antonio at the law office of Arthur A. Domangue (1917-1977) in the Tower Life Building. He specialized in worker's compensation cases and represented more than three hundred injured employees in his first year of practice. In 1967, he and Rosario returned to Laredo, where he joined the firm of Raymond Goodman (1917-1985) and William W. Allen. He then took cases as public defender for the indigent before the 49th Judicial District Court, the first state court created in Webb County by the state legislature. He also became involved in charitable, legal, and community projects. He helped to establish a program to treat heroin users through the administration of methadone. He served as chairman of the Laredo Migrant Council. Each year he donated many hours of legal services to the underprivileged. He helped to establish the Laredo legal aid program and worked against child abuse.
Garcia was known for his craftiness and originality in the courtroom. He often wore cowboy boots. He once told a justice of the peace that the judge had no authority to dismiss the case before them. The JP said, "Watch me," and dismissed the case. Garcia replied, "Thank you" and walked out of the courtroom, having tricked the JP into doing what Garcia wanted. Garcia even once pounded on the bar in front of the jury so strongly that he broke a bone in his hand. Garcia frequently took tough cases, having once defended former first assistant district attorney Ramón Villafranca on federal corruption charges.
In 2004, Garcia represented the three cousins, Larry Dovalina (Laredo city manager from 2000 to 2006), Agustin Dovalina (then Laredo police chief), and Ramón H. Dovalina (president of Laredo College from 1995 to 2007), in a $6 million libel suit against The Laredo Morning Times and then reporter Tricia Cortez after the newspaper on June 13, 2004, carried a story about a controversy over property tax appraisals. The article quotes a Laredo citizen, Patricio Canavati, who called the trio "Robalinas." The LMT itself did not question the Dovalinas' integrity but instead quoted Canavati, owner of Quality Motors, in a public meeting. The suit was ultimately dropped in 2007, after Ramón Dovalina had already withdrawn from the case. The plaintiffs could not prove both malice on the part of the LMT and a "reckless disregard for the truth," as required for public figures who seek libel judgments.
Webb County campaigns
In 1980, Garcia won a hard-fought Democratic nomination for district attorney for the right to succeed Charles Borchers, who served from 1973 to 1980 but did not seek reelection. Garcia was reelected in 1984 but did not pursue a third term in 1988, when he was succeeded by a distant relative, Joe Rubio, Jr. He resumed private practice in 1989 and was ultimately joined in his firm by his daughter and son.
Garcia began working in political campaigns with the election of his father-in-law, Porfirio Lauro Flores (1912-1993), as Webb County sheriff. Flores was unseated in the Democratic primary in 1976 by his former senior deputy, Mario Santos, Jr.
In 1978, Garcia managed the race of his former law associate, Antonio Adolfo "Tony" Zardenetta (born 1941), for the 111th District Court, the second of four state courts to have been created in Laredo. Zardenetta, a cousin of Mrs. Garcia's, had previously served for three years by appointment as judge of the county court-at law in Laredo. Later of San Antonio, Zardenetta recalled: "Julio took charge of everything. He was one heck of a campaign manager. He was like El Cid from Spain, galvanizing all the troops and marshaling all the resources," recalled Zardenetta in an interview with The Laredo Morning Times on the occasion of Garcia's death. Carlos Zaffirini, Sr., another Laredo lawyer and the husband of state Senator Judith Zaffirini, said that Garcia's greatest strength in politics was in energizing grassroots supporters of the Democratic Party.
Julio Garcia, Jr., said that his father had a "passion for the law . . . so intense and so deep that it piqued your interest. . . . He's irreplaceable. There was nobody like him. He's one of those characters that someone who's writing a best-seller would dream up. . . . "
Judge Oscar J. Hale, Jr., first elected in 2004, described his fallen friend as one who "exemplified the work ethic and perseverance in all aspects of life. Our community may be saddened that it has lost one of its best advocates for justice, but we should all rest assured knowing that in heaven, we now have our own legal guardian." Hale's father, Oscar Hale, Sr., chief investigator for the DA's office, called Garcia "a tough guy with a big heart."
Death and legacy
In addition to his wife and two surviving children and law partners, he was survived by three grandchildren, Zoraida, Julio, III, and Benjamin Garcia; a sister, Laura Leticia Garcia Magnon, and his mother-in-law, Esperanza Flores (1912-2012). In 1964, Laura Magnon (1937-2012), a biology teacher, became a member of the founding faculty of J. W. Nixon High School in Laredo; the science building there is named in her honor.
Services for Julio Garcia were held on October 21, 2008, at San Agustin Cathedral in the historic downtown plaza. A "Who's Who of Laredo" was in attendance. Banker Jorge Verduzco declared: "God gives us His love. He lends us His love. Thank you, dear Lord, for lending us Julio." Father Dominic Francis Peridans, previously with the Congregation of St. John in Laredo, presided over the mass. Father Francis described Garcia as "a rock of strength for so many."
Interment was in the family plot of Calvary Catholic Cemetery off Saunders Street. Pallbearers included then Judge Jesus "Chuy" Garza and DA Joe Rubio.
In an interview with the Laredo Morning Times upon Garcia's death, outgoing DA Joe Rubio, recalled his predecessor as being one who was available to "help out" in both the legal and political realms. "[He gave] young lawyers who came back to Webb County to practice advice, financial support. He'd help us get started, dozens of us. . . . He not only had a legal mind, but he was a great trial attorney. He had the ability to connect with the jury. He could explain complicated theories in everyday terms. And his work ethic was tremendous. Nobody was going to outwork him in preparing for a trial. That same work ethic applied to politics. When he wanted to support someone for public office, he was relentless in preparing a political campaign."
U.S. District Judge George P. Kazen, who grew up as Garcia's neighbor, recalled him as "a high-intensity kind of guy. . . . Certain people are giants of their profession, and by definition, they are just a select few. [He] was one of them."
- Jason Buch. Legal lion rests: Farewell to Garcia. The Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on October 22, 2008; no longer on-line.
- Calvary Catholic Cemetery records, Laredo, Texas.
- Obituary of Julio A. Garcia, Laredo Morning Times, October 18, 2008.
- Diana R. Fuentes, "Longtime teacher given state award," Laredo Morning Times, September 20, 2007.
- Jason Buch. Garcia played life as a giant. The Laredo Morning Times. Retrieved on October 17, 2008; no longer on-line.
- Jesse Bogan, "Quote in article sparks lawsuit," San Antonio Express-News, June 25, 2004; New York Times v. Sullivan United States Supreme Court opinion (1964).
- Elena Holloway. Independent Club. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved on January 29, 2014.
- Laura Garcia Magnon, obituary, Laredo Morning Times, November 16, 2012, p. 17A.
- J. J. Velasquez, "Magnon building dedicated," Laredo Morning Times, November 29, 2012, p. 3A.