Goodbye to a Strong Warrior and Leader
As an old warrior I must admit that I am not easily impressed by some of the leaders that I see today. A person success is measured in accomplishments, tangible proof of what they did. Henry Martinez took pride in what he accomplished.
He took me to the only cemetery in North Texas for Mexicans.
“Henry passed on Jul 23, 2919. Condolences to his family.”
No many are buried there or at least it seems like that keeping in mind that in the early 1920’s more grave markers were made out of wood and did not last long. But the cemetery is still there. His brother, Eladio, is buried there. The cemetery is located behind the ATT building and you must go through the parking lot to get to it.
Henry took great pride in showing me the Ledbetter area no called Singleton Blvd. Once upon a time the area was called Cement City. Cement City extended from Singleton Blvd to Pinnacle Point following N. Cockrell Hill Road. There were two cement plants in Cement City. In the corner of Commerce and Hampton is a smokestack, the only remnant of what was once a thriving community of Mexicans. Behind Lowe’s on Chalk Hill Road is an abandoned building, Eagle Ford School 49. This school was an elementary school and was primarily for Mexicans.
Along Singleton from Loop 12 to Trinity River there were six or eight barrios. Each barrio was from a different part of Mexico. His father turned entrepreneur and when the factories shut down, he bought some of the houses that were rented to workers. Which is exactly what he did. Some of the houses are still there.
Henry was a witness to the development of West Dallas and the contribution of Mexican Americans
Sadly, I must say goodbye to a strong leader and warrior. Henry passed on Jul 23, 2919. Condolences to his family. He was proud of his roots and he passed the pride to many. I will miss him. RIP.
His life reads like the song The Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha. Henry R. Martinez Sr. has been fighting that unbeatable foe all his life. When he set a goal to accomplish something the naysayers were always there, “No se puede”. The dominant attitude was “No se puede.” He defeated that dominant attitude.
Henry R. Martinez Sr. has proud Mexican roots. He is the son of one of the original colonists of Cement City. His Father, “fue uno de los primeros que llego a Dallas.” He was helping connect the railroad from South Texas to North Texas. It was hard work, but it offered a way to feed his family. Once here he found out the cement plant was hiring laborers. He applied for employment and was hired. Once he had employment he sent for his family. Cement City had the highest concentration of Mexicans in Dallas in the 1910 time period. This was during a time that few children of Mexican immigrants went beyond the third grade. He attended Eagle Ford District 49 School more famous because one of its students was Bonnie Parker.
Henry graduated from Dallas Tech HS (Crozier Tech HS) school where most children of Mexican immigrants were sent. Children of Mexican immigrants were not permitted to attend Adamson HS or Sunset HS even though they were nearby. Leadership is a trait he learned from his father who made it a point that his three sons have a high school education. Henry Martinez began his public service in the military. He is a Korean War Veteran. He continued his service as a member and president of the Led better Neighborhood Association. Henry is a consummate community organizer and activist. His activism can be seen by a Texas historical marker at the Campo Santo de Cemento Grande; a stone monument at the Wal-Mart parking lot at Cockrell Hill Road and I30 that pays tribute to those Mexicans that arrived in 1912; and a stone monument on Singleton Blvd at the entrance to the old Eagle Ford. Cementerios Mexicanos are a testament to the disparate treatment and social isolation of the Mexicano.
At Jaycee/Zaragoza Park is a statute that honors Tejano Ignacio Zaragoza, hero of the Battle of Puebla a donation from the country of Mexico to the Ledbetter Neighborhood Association. Henry Martinez was successful in getting the DART to change the bus routes to go into the neighborhoods and pick up bus passengers. Prior to that bus passengers had to walk to the main street to be picked up. He also succeeded in having a school in West Dallas named after his brother Eladio R. Martinez. His brother was killed in action in WW II in the Philippines. Eladio R. Martinez Learning Center is named in honor of his brother. Eladio was the last person buried at the Campo Santo de Cemento Grande.
As President of Ledbetter Neighborhood Association Henry Martinez’ biggest accomplishment was being part of the vanguard that succeeded in changing Dallas city council elections to single member districts. Single member districts increased the number of minorities elected to the city council. I’d rather regret the things I have done than the things that I haven’t. Lucille Ball.
The City of Dallas recognized Henry R. Martinez’s achievements by naming a street in his honor. Henry R. Martinez Sr. has reached the unreachable star. The dream may have seemed hopeless, but the world is better because of his accomplishments. We of Mexican American heritage can be proud of this one man who dared to stand up when he was being told to stand down. It took a lot of courage to fight the unbeatable foe and reach the unreachable star. Henry R. Martinez Sr. can stand proud of his accomplishments.