Capitol Words a project of the Sunlight Foundation

  • and

Hector G. Godinez Post Office Building

Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that the Committee on Government Reform be discharged from further consideration of the bill (H.R. 1366) to designate the United States Post Office building located at 3101 West Sunflower Avenue in Santa Ana, California, as the ``Hector G. Godinez Post Office Building,'' and ask for its immediate consideration in the House.

The Clerk read the title of the bill.

Rep. Mike Simpson

legislator photo

Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Virginia?

Rep. Danny K. Davis

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, reserving the right to object, but I will not object, I yield to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis) for further clarification of the measure.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 1366, introduced by the distinguished gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez), designates the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3101 West Sunflower Avenue in Santa Ana, California as the ``Hector G. Godinez Post Office Building.'' The bill is cosponsored by the entire House delegation from California.

Mr. Speaker, Hector Godinez had a distinguished 48-year career in the Postal Service. He climbed the postal ranks from mail carrier to southern California district manager. Prior to joining the Postal Service, he served with distinction as a tank commander in the U.S. Army under General George Patton.

He earned a Bronze Star for bravery under fire in World War II and a Purple Heart for wounds received in battle. He also served as the national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens from 1960 to 1961. I would urge the House to adopt H.R. 1366.

Rep. Danny K. Davis

legislator photo

Continuing to reserve my right to object, Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Committee on Government Reform, I am pleased to join my colleague in consideration of H.R. 1366, which names the postal facility after the late Hector G. Godinez.

H.R. 1366 was sponsored by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez) on April 3, 2001, and enjoys the support and cosponsorship of the entire California congressional delegation.

As chairman of the Congressional Postal Caucus, I am proud to join the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez) in tribute to Hector Godinez, a distinguished and medaled World War II veteran, letter carrier, postmaster, and community activist.

Mr. Godinez was born in San Diego, California, in 1924, attended ethnically segregated schools in Orange County, and later joined the U.S. Army, serving in General George Patton's Third Army. Wounded in action in Germany, Hector Godinez received five battle stars, one Purple Heart, and one Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge.

Shortly after his honorable discharge from the Army, he began a 48-year career with the U.S. Postal Service, starting as a letter carrier and rising to the position of postmaster of Santa Ana, appointed by President John F. Kennedy as the first Mexican American postmaster in the United States.

A recipient of the Postmaster General's Citation for Excellence Award and the U.S. Postal Service Community Service Award, Mr. Godinez was a founder of the League of Latin American citizens, LULAC, and worked tirelessly and successfully to desegregate Orange County public schools.

Local newspaper headlines said it all.

The Santa Ana Register, 1984: ``World War II nudged Hispanic off farm, into activism.'' ``Godinez has compiled a lengthy record of community volunteerism in Orange County.''

The Los Angeles Times, 1985: ``Godinez honored for groundbreaking career.''

Santa Ana Magazine, 1985: ``Hispanic leader honored for service.''

The Orange County Register, 1999: ``Santa Ana Hispanic leader dies--Hector Godinez was instrumental in getting equal treatment of Mexican American children.''

Los Angeles Times, 1999: ``Hector Godinez, first Latino postmaster.''

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague, the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez), for seeking to honor such a man of high principle, a man of the people, and such a distinguished and honorable individual as Mr. Godinez. He is truly deserving of this recognition. I join with my colleagues in urging support.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Rep. Danny K. Davis

legislator photo

I yield to the gentlewoman from California.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me.

Mr. Speaker, it is my great privilege to rise today as the House considers H.R. 1366, legislation which will name a U.S. post office in Santa Ana, California, after a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration to many of us in Orange County, Hector G. Godinez.

I would like to thank my colleague, the gentleman from California (Mr. Cox), and the majority leader, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Armey), and all my colleagues in the California delegation and the members of the Committee on Government Reform for their support and efforts in bringing this bill to the floor today.

Today we have the opportunity to provide a fitting tribute, not only to Hector but to his entire family. Hector Godinez was a public servant and an activist whose life was dedicated to the betterment of Orange County and to the advancement of the Mexican American community.

Hector Godinez was born on the grounds of San Diego Mission in 1924. He was the son of field workers, and his family moved to Santa Ana a year later, making this his permanent home.

Growing up in Orange County, Hector attended ethnically segregated local schools where Hispanics were sent to the Mexican schools and set apart from Anglos.

Immediately after high school, inspired by the news of Pearl Harbor, Hector joined the Army, serving as a sergeant in General George Patton's Third Army. He is the recipient of five battle stars, one Purple Heart, and one Bronze Star for heroic achievement.

Hector was wounded during the battle in Germany and was given an honorable discharge. Upon returning to the United States in 1945, Hector experienced firsthand the adversities that Mexican Americans were facing in the work force in California.

Through a Federal program created to help partially disabled veterans gain government jobs, he became a letter carrier in Santa Ana. In 1959, Hector was denied a promotion in Santa Ana by the postmaster. He was told that Anglos would be resentful of a Mexican American working in their community.

However, by the early sixties, Mr. Godinez had been granted an appointment as Santa Ana's postmaster, making him the country's first Mexican American postmaster. From there, Hector worked his way up to become the Southern California district manager for the United States Post Office, managing more than 44,000 employees and an operating budget of $750 million.

At the time of his death in 1999, Hector had fulfilled a 46-year career of service with the U.S. Post Office. I would be doing Hector Godinez' memory a disservice if I failed to recognize the many other contributions that he made to our community because of a lifelong commitment to volunteerism.

Hector was a founding member of the Santa Ana LULAC, a base of activists who were dedicated to addressing issues within the American system for improvement of conditions for Americans of Mexican descent. Through this organization, he and his fellow activists were responsible for Mendez versus Orange County Board of Education.

This is a landmark lawsuit, one in which these Hispanics took on the establishment in Orange County so that our schools would not be segregated. And, in fact, California desegregated its schools 6 years ahead of the rest of the Nation. It was because of this lawsuit. This lawsuit was the basis for Brown v. Board of Education at the national level.

Hector also organized and became the chairman of the board of the first State-chartered minority bank. He served as a trustee for the Rancho Community College District for 17 years, and he served on the board of KOCE/50; that is, our county's public broadcast television station.

He was the first Hispanic to be named the president of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, and a founding member of the Santa Ana Redevelopment Board. He also chaired the Orange County Boy Scouts. He received a number of degrees, including his Master's, which he received in 1980. Witty and loyal, Hector was known for his dedication to his friends, his collection of cowboy boots, and his affinity for Stetson hats.

Hector has been the recipient of the NAACP's Human Rights Award and the Western Region's Community Service Award, and he was among the first recipients of the Postmaster General's Award for Executive Achievement.

He was distinguished by the National Association of Postmasters, the National League of Postmasters, and the National Association of Postal Supervisors.

Hector was survived by a wife of 53 years, Mary; four children: Hector Ron, Robert, Linda Godinez Miller, and Gloria Mumoz; and nine grandchildren.

Hector Godinez was a man who not only persevered over economic hardship and racial prejudice, but who used these experiences to fuel his fight to improve the lives of so many Mexican Americans and all the people of Orange County.

Throughout his life he never stopped fighting, giving, or learning. Orange County is better off for Hector's life work.

I myself got to work with Hector before he died, and in fact, I must say that Hector was a Republican. But on the day that I decided to run, he came to me and he said, ``This is important for our community, and it is important for Orange County, and I will support you.''

Today I hope that the rest of my colleagues will support in passing this tribute to him by passing this legislation.

Rep. Danny K. Davis

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, continuing my reservation of objection, I yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. Cox).

Rep. Christopher Cox

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding to me, and I thank the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis) for bringing this bill to the floor from the Committee on Government Reform, and for agreeing to bring it directly to the floor, because it is a very important opportunity for our Congress to recognize that one of Orange County's finest citizens is indeed one of America's finest citizens.

This legislation is going to permit us to honor Hector Godinez in a way that will endure, even though he is no longer with us.

I would like to commend the gentlewoman who just spoke, the sponsor of this legislation. I am the lead majority sponsor of the legislation with her. I would also like to commend the senior Senator from California. The other body actually enacted this legislation in the last Congress, and we will, I am sure, see bicameral legislation on it in this Congress.

It is my privilege to rise today in strong support of this legislation because, as I say, this is such a fitting and lasting tribute to Hector Godinez, who died 3 years ago, in May of 1999. He lived an exemplary life.

We have heard from the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Tom Davis), the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Davis), and the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Sanchez) some of the highlights of this extraordinary individual's career. He was a soldier, a public servant, a civil servant, a civic leader, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. He was a hero to many, many people in Orange County, in California, and ultimately, across the country.

I think it is just spectacularly fitting that as a member of the greatest generation, we can begin a story about Hector Godinez by pointing out the very salient fact that he was a tank commander under General Patton in Germany. Yet, he was such a gentle man, genial, funny.

Those of us who represent constituents know we have to go to the postmaster from time to time to work out problems: The mail is not getting delivered; I cannot get a post box in front of my house. As the postmaster in Orange County for 30 years, no one was more friendly and more responsive in response to such constituent needs than was Hector Godinez. He was just a pleasure to deal with throughout his life and his career.

In Germany, this gentle man was shot at, wounded, and earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his valor. He continued to serve his country in everything he did for the rest of his life.

He earned national distinction relatively earlier in his career because this Republican was appointed by a Democratic President, John F. Kennedy, as the first Mexican American postmaster in American history. He was an enormously positive presence in our community of 3 million people in Orange County.

As the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Davis) pointed out, he was remembered at the time of his death by our leading newspapers, the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Times, for his fights against ethnic and racial discrimination. He attended ethnically segregated schools as a youngster, and he fought to make sure that would not happen to kids in his adult life. He fought against racial segregation and discrimination very successfully.

He was a founding member of the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, and rose to become the President of the national organization from 1960 to 1966. He was the first Latino ever elected president of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce.

Just as he devoted tireless efforts to the Mexican American community, Hector Godinez served all Orange Countians. He served on the board of directors of our public television station, KOCE TV, he chaired the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, he served on numerous civic boards and commissions, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities and student scholarships.

I would like to conclude by paying a moment of tribute to the people who in Hector's life were the most important: his wife of 53 years, Mary; his four children, Hector, Robert, Linda and Gloria; and their nine grandchildren.

To his family I would like to say that today the House of Representatives stands with you in honoring Hector's life and work. He is an example to us all.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for allowing H.R. 1366 to come to the House floor today and I thank my colleagues for joining us to pass this important legislation so that all of America may join those paying tribute to one of Orange County's and the Nation's greatest men.

Rep. Danny K. Davis

legislator photo

Mr. Speaker, based on all I have heard and all the comments and accolades, I urge swift passage of this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I withdraw my reservation of objection.

Rep. Tom Petri

legislator photo

Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Virginia?

There was no objection.

The Clerk read the bill, as follows:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

The United States Post Office building located at 3101 West Sunflower Avenue in Santa Ana, California, shall be known and designated as the ``Hector G. Godinez Post Office Building''.

Any reference in a law, regulation, map, document, paper, or other record of the United States to the United States Post Office building referred to in section 1 shall be deemed to be a reference to the ``Hector G. Godinez Post Office Building''.

The bill was ordered to be engrossed and read a third time, was read a third time, and passed, and a motion to reconsider was laid on the table.