"Three Rivers Texas, the Longorias, and Kennedys were common people caught in the crosshairs of political chicanery."
- John Valadez
In 2009 on the first day John Valadez, producer of "The Longoria Affair", brought his crew to Three Rivers Texas to film, he met with a group of participants he was asking to speak for Three Rivers. Valadez presented this thesis, "Three Rivers Texas, Longorias, and Kennedys were common people caught in the crosshairs of political chicanery". This, he said would be the thesis for a documentary including the Kennedy family and other testimonials regarding the wake and reinterment of Felix Longoria in 1949.
Valadez said he had not yet decided on a name for the upcoming documentary to be aired by the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). He said he would soon determine what that title would be. This response regarding the film's title continued for almost a year and a half. Three Rivers' participants learned the title for the film only when they attended a premiere at the University of North Texas.
Several months before the crew came to Three Rivers, Valadez visited the town looking for a person knowledgeable about Three Rivers, Kennedy and Longoria. Valadez had already lined up numerous interviewees from the American GI Forum, Moreno family, and authors who supported the 1949 Hector P. Garcia side of the story. However, he had not been able to find an author or academic who had written from the perspective of Tom Kennedy or Three Rivers.
Valadez met Patty Reagan, known well by Garcia's American GI Forum in Corpus Christi as an outspoken advocate of Three Rivers. Realizing the inadequate supply of academic and written information about Tom Kennedy and the 1949 Three Rivers incident, Reagan introduced Valadez to Richard Hudson. Though Hudson no longer lived in Three Rivers, he was actively involved in an academic study of the event. Hudson was working on a master's degree in history at the University of North Texas (UNT). His research on the story began the year before at the request of one of his UNT professors when the professor learned that Hudson was born in Three Rivers.
Hudson's first discovery was the lack of evident primary documentation for Kennedy, the Longorias, and Three Rivers. Five principle subjects were deceased: Felix Longoria, Beatrice Longoria, Kennedy, Garcia, and Lyndon Johnson. However, many witnesses collateral to the event still lived. Hudson engaged himself in obtaining all he could gather from these also primary sources. Most had been unknown or ignored in prior examination of the event.
The cause of Garcia's misunderstanding and the Legislature's 4-1 exoneration of Kennedy and Three Rivers in the incident was well known throughout Three Rivers. Hudson found the Majority and Minority Reports of the hearing in the 51st Congressional Journal. The hearing's court record was missing. Buried in the Hector P. Garcia Archives at the Mary and Jeff Bell Library at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), the Texas State Library and Archives, LBJ Presidential Library Archives at the University of Texas, and the Briscoe Center's Newspaper Collections was a wealth of primary interviews and newspaper reports. All published secondary resources through 2008 presented the story in light of the 1949 newspaper and media frenzy.
Valadez' thesis succinctly captured the history of the event in illuminating accuracy. It appeared that Three Rivers would have never been better represented.
Request for Historical Documentation
Valadez asked Hudson to share historical information he gathered and include as many photos as possible. Valadez would return and wanted Hudson to have interviewees ready for him. Valadez assured Three Rivers' participants that he understood how their side of the story had been ignored by the media. He assured them his was a documentary, and both sides of the story would be told. Then he remarked that both sides, the American GI Forum and Three Rivers, would be angry with him at film's end. As nonprofessional actors giving personal tesimony, they would sign contracts but receive no payment.
By the time Valadez returned with his crew, Hudson was well informed on files in academic resources including Garcia's collection at TAMUCC. Only one book, devoted to the subject existed, but numerous others devoted a chapter, anecdote, or reference to it. Knowing Three Rivers as he did, Hudson saw deep contrast between the story told by these sources, basically using TAMUCC files, and the Three Rivers he knew. He also saw exaggeration and withholding of testimony. Hudson apprised Valadez of these discrepancies.
Numerous interviewees for possible participation in the film committed to Hudson. Ann Fair taught Felix and Beatrice in elementary school at Three Rivers. She and her sister, Beulah, supplied the Longoria women with coats to wear while in Washington. Jesse Moreno, a younger contemporary of Felix and Beatrice, dropped out of school to help his family, but Ray Bomar gave him a job in his restaurant, three meals a day, and wages in agreement for Jesse's return to school. Joe Jones' father died of a heart attack early the morning after Garcia's first call to Kennedy. Jones and his mother were in Kennedy's office working out details for a home wake, when Groh, the Corpus reporter, called Kennedy. Carolina Longoria, sister of Felix Longoria, knew the story from the inside. Patty Reagan committed at the same time as Hudson.
Jane Kennedy and her daughter said that since 1949 they had been threatened and harrassed. Their family still suffered. Burned by prior testimony turned against them, they first refused. Valadez assured Hudson of his committment to accurately and fairly document the Longoria incident. Subsequently, Hudson encouraged Jane and her daughter to participate in the documentary based on Valadez' sincere assurances.
At Patty Reagan's shop, Hudson had just learned that Betty Reynolds Dickinson, in the funeral home at the time of the last Kennedy and Beatrice meeting, lived about twenty-five miles away. Gloria Grimes, wife of Leroy Grimes, assistant present in the funeral home office with Beatrice and Kennedy, lived in Victoria, 90 miles away. Hudson had not had time to get committments from either by the first filmed recording.
1949 Culture and Public Consciousness
Early settlers in America emigrated from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Most left their native lands because of discrimination there and opportunity in America. Yet, discrimination by them and later settlers against new incoming immigrants was practiced, sometimes by well meaning people unaware of the nature of their actions - sometimes blatantly vehement aggression and intolerance by others. Seen as minorities with lesser education and sophistication, stereotypes pervaded for both freed whites and blacks. Americans won numerous wars seeking freedom and liberty for the underprivileged. Yet in 1949, very few states had laws against discrimination. Slaves were free, women had the right to vote, but discrimination had yet to penetrate the soul of American Consciousness.
As Jane Kennedy, wife of Tom Kennedy, stated in her interview with Valadez when asked about discrimination, "We didn't even know the word, not even how to spell it."
When Hector Garcia sent 17 telegrams to heads of state and media personnel in Texas, the USA, and Mexico, he received two responses which cemented this reality. Though alleged, because of 1949's widespread cultural discrimination at the time they received Garcia's telegram, these two learned men accepted his incredibly egregious accusation at face value. President Truman’s Military Aide, Harry H. Vaughan, first wired, “Discrimination and Intolerance unfortunately not illegal. Public opinion only weapon for use against such as funeral director in Three Rivers." The next day an angry, but determined Senator Lyndon Johnson wired, "I have no authority over civilian funeral homes, nor does the federal government." Johnson then offered help for local, state, or national interment. (Telegrams soon in this appendix.)
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.
The Longoria Affair Revealed,
Richard Hudson, "About 'The Documentary'" accessed from: https://www.longoriaaffairrevealed.com/about-the-documentary/Place your date of use
Uploaded on September 30, 2018. Modified on February 26, 2019. Published by Agarita Publishing.