Dionisio Campos Garcia
lived there for the rest of his life. When he and his brother Phillip enrolled in Hutchinson Grade School at the age of six, he earned his nickname “Hank” when the teacher couldn't pronounce his first name. Garcia and his brother decided on the name “Henry” which later became “Hank.” Garcia stated that due to his lack of fluency in English at the time he, “...Loved school but I hated that I couldn't understand anything.” His formal education ended nine years later when he was in seventh grade, after which he spent the next four years working various jobs including laborer in the beet fields, yard work, and shining shoes. The wages Garcia earned went home to assist his parents.
In 1941 Garcia went to California to work the lemon groves. This ended in 1942 when he was drafted by the United States armed forces. Though Garcia went through basic training his asthma prohibited him from entering service and thus he received an honorable discharge. While Garcia couldn't serve overseas, he still did his part for the war effort by working for engineers and contractors on the construction of the Garden City Army Airfield. Once the base was completed he worked in the motor pool parts and service departments and as a chauffeur. During this time he married Irene Rodriguez, a resident of Dodge City, on September 22, 1943. The couple raised ten children.
When the war ended in September, 1945, Garcia spent the next three years splitting work between the Kester Motor Company and as a clerk for the Montgomery Ward retail company. In 1949 the Garden City postmaster offered Garcia a job assisting seasonal laborers from Mexico with mail and money orders; he worked for the post office for 27 years. During this time, Garcia and his wife encouraged their children to focus on their studies, “...We didn't push but we encouraged education for our children.” His wife taught citizenship classes, and for many years she broadcast a radio program in both English and Spanish. She ran for the Board of Education of USD #457 and was the first Hispanic to be elected, serving from 1985 to 1987.
After receiving permission from the postal department, Garcia ran for city commission in 1971. Though new to politics, Garcia enjoyed success against his opponent in the April election. Elected mayor in April 1973, he served for one year. When he retired he organized the Latin American Club, which later became the G.I. Forum, and at different times held the positions of president, vice president, and treasurer. In addition, he served on both civic and school committees and particpated in family and church activities. He received the 1981 Special Recognition Plaque and the 1971 Certificate of Merit from the GI forum.
Busy to the very end, Garcia passed away October 16, 1985, from complications due to asthma and a heart condition. Two days before her husband's death, Irene commented that, “...He can't stop doing things, he always has to be doing something, going somewhere. We can't get him to slow down...there is always something he thinks he has to do.”
Hope, Delores. “Garcia leaves behind years of giving.” Garden City Telegram. Wednesday, October 16, 1985. Vol. 56 No. 289 pp. 1.
Delci, Marie ed. "El Camino Real: The King's Highway." The Kansas Advisory Committee on Hispanic Affairs. (April, 1990) p. 16.
Entry: Garcia, Dionisio Campos
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2015
Date Modified: September 2015
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