KINGSVILLE, Texas — “He was very influential to other latino’s because there were very few that ascended in command like he did,” Stephen J. ‘Tio’ Kleberg said.
“His name had been thrown in the hat, and I don’t know who the other people were but there couldn’t have been a better example than Dick Cavazos,” Kleberg said.
On Oct. 7, The Department of Defense ordered that the largest active military institution, Fort Hood, be renamed after General Richard Cavazos, the country’s first Hispanic four star general.
“He had a great sense of humor but very soft spoken believe it or not as a commanding general,” Kleberg, the director of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, said.
“Dick was a long time family friend having grown up here during the depression,” Kleberg added.
Kleberg said he met him through his brother, Lauro Cavazos Junior.
Cavazos was born on Jan. 31, 1929.
“I knew his father very well,” Kleberg said. "Lauro Senior, he was the livestock manager here at the ranch in the 1950’s and 60’s.”
His mother, Tomassa fought against the Kingsville Independent School District school board for her children to attend Flato Elementary — a segregated school at the time.
Lauro Jr. eventually became The U.S Secretary of Education.
While serving in Korea in 1953, Cavazos was assigned to an all Hispanic unit and successfully led his company into enemy lines three times.
“He was decorated with valor because he believed you had to lead from the front,” Kleberg said.
In 1982, he was promoted to four star general and was appointed commander of the U.S. Armed Forces Command.
“That’s very special,” Rolando Chapa, a Kingsville resident and Vietnam Veteran said. “That’s our roots. We’re all Hispanic. There’s a lot of veterans here in Kingsville and South Texas. I think that we served our country just like everybody else like other groups and we’re proud of what we did.”
A major roadway in his hometown was named after him, and there’s an exhibit at the John E. Conner Museum at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Cavazos died on Oct. 29, 2017, but, his legacy lives on.
Federal officials have until Jan. 1, 2024 to make the transition of naming Fort Hood to Fort Cavazos.
“I’m a Marine and I serve time at Fort Hood for training and I also work at King Ranch,” James Clement said, “General Cavazos was an amazing soldier and I think there is not a greater honor for general Cavazos because he’s a great south Texan and a great American.”