Remembering The Life And Ministry Of Trinidad “Trini” Garza

Trini Garza by DMN

Trinidad "Trini" Garza, one of the pioneers of the Hispanic community in Dallas and an advocate for education, died on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. (Dallas Morning News photo)

Garza's ground-breaking work in education has blessed generations 

Rev. Dr. Owen K Ross is Director of the North Texas Conference Center for Church Development.

Hebrew scripture includes a lot about generations. In approximately 40 of those references, scripture refers to the generations to come. In those instances, scripture generally shares how God does a work in a specific generation to bless the generations to come.

 In the 1960s through the 1990s, God worked through a generation of Hispanic United Methodists that blessed the generations to come of all ethnicities and races in Dallas and beyond. United Methodists like Isabel “Chavelo” Gomez, Joel Martinez, René Martinez, Maria Moreno, Francisco “Frank” Estrada, Cynthia Salinas Dooley and Roy Barton, to name a few, were used by God to bless persons of my generation, my children and the generations to come.

This past week, heaven gained a notable soul among these leaders. Trinidad “Trini” Garza passed into glory and received his crown this past week at the age of 92. He doubtlessly heard from his Lord, “Well done good and faithful servant.” Family will receive friends 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7, at Kessler Park United Methodist Church, and a Celebration of Life will commence at noon on Friday, Dec. 8, at Kessler Park United Methodist Church.

I got to know Trini as the pastor of La Fundición de Cristo/Christ’s Foundry United Methodist Mission. As a young 20-something white kid who learned Spanish as an adult and was now planting a Spanish-language church in Dallas, I did not know how I would be received as an outsider and a newcomer among those who had labored in Hispanic ministries for decades. Trini received me and supported the ministries of Christ’s Foundry with great joy. Us both being Aggies may have had something to do with it, but I believe the open table of United Methodism shaped the life of Trini and created a spirit in him that made room for others.

Shortly after meeting Trini, I learned that he was famous. He was perhaps most famous for being the first Hispanic to serve on the Dallas Independent School District Board. He would go on to serve in many education and advocacy roles, including being appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be Regional Director of ACTION and appointed by President Bill Clinton to be Deputy Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Education.

In 2016, I was in the crowd at the dedication of José “Joe” May Elementary School located near Christ’s Foundry. When Trini arrived to attend the dedication of this school named after his friend, I gained a new appreciation of the impact of Trini’s life. Trini was received as if a rock star had entered a music festival. The love and appreciation for Trini Garza’s was evident. In 2010, DISD named the cutting-edge Trinidad “Trini” Garza Early College High School after him because of his positive, pioneering and powerful impact on education in Dallas and beyond.

That same passion and dedication for education, Trini brought in his service to, in and through The United Methodist Church in both the Rio Grande Conference and the North Texas Conference. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Trini’s son and Kessler Park UMC member Jerome Garza noted, “My father always told me, ‘Jerome, whatever you do, first say a prayer and think, would you do this in front of the church?’ ” The United Methodist Church shaped Trini Garza, and Trini Garza in turn shaped the church for the blessing of generations to come.

When I sat by Trini’s bedside last week with Rev. Dr. Paul Barton, Trini’s children (all faithful United Methodists) began to reflect about when their father moved to Dallas, speaking Spanish was prohibited in Dallas schools and doing so would result in severe punishment. They shared how their dad, when a member of the school board, brought in educators from Laredo who had data showing how beginning Spanish-speaking students in math and other subjects in a dual-language program helped keep those children on grade level as they learned English. Someone around the bed noted, “And today, DISD has a dual-lingual program where a student can go K-12 in both Spanish and English and graduate fully bilingual.”

As I sat by the bedside in the final days of such an impactful life, I thought about the evolution of the church, of education and of civil and human rights. Sitting by the bedside of this giant of a man who God used to bless so many, God reminded my spirit, “Quality education and quality churches for all of God’s children are not natural and inevitable evolutions. Justice is a hard-fought struggle that happens by God working through the lives of humble warriors like Trini Garza who bless the generations to come.”

Published: Wednesday, December 6, 2023