Former Bronx Congressman Robert “Bobby” Garcia Dead at 84

Fmr. Congressman Robert “Bobby” Garcia

by Norelie Garcia

Former Congressman Robert “Bobby” Garcia passed away the evening of January 25, 2017 at the VA Hospital in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he had moved from the mainland in 2013 due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD); he was 84.

Rep. Jose Serrano, who succeeded Garcia in Congress in 1990, called him “a pioneer and a legend.”

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of my good friend and colleague Bobby Garcia. He had a good career in Congress for more than 10 years, during which he played an instrumental role in a number of local, national, and international initiatives including among many other serving as the official representative of the US Congress to NATO; helping convince then President Carter to include the term Hispanic in the Census, which helped Hispanics achieve greater  political representation; and helped develop, along with Congressman Jack Kemp, the enterprise zone idea which led to the eventual creation of the Empowerment Zone program. He also passed legislation, with the assistance of many colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, to establish a national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Garcia was born in New York City in 1933, the son of Rosa and Rafael Garcia, both of whom were born in the south of Puerto Rico and then moved to New York City’s Bronx in the 1920s, where his father and one of his sisters became Pentecostal Ministers years later. He had a long and illustrious career of service to his country, beginning with his enlistment in the U.S. Army during the Korean conflict. Returning from Korea, he attended college under the G.I. Bill before beginning his political career by gathering nominating petitions in the Bronx for John F. Kennedy.

Following several years with IBM, he was elected to the New York State Assembly in 1966 and to the New York State Senate in 1967, rising to become Deputy Minority Leader. Due to his interest in Penal Reform, Garcia was asked by NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve on the Mediation Committee he formed and went into the 1971 riots at Attica State Prison.

In 1978, Garcia was elected to the US House of Representatives, representing his home district of the South Bronx, where he served six terms until 1990. Garcia quickly became a leader on Hispanic issues in the House, working on immigration reform, voting rights, economic opportunity and US policy toward Central America. Since the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioners in
Congress had no vote on the Floor of the House, he paid particular attention to his votes on issues affecting not only his district but the Island’s 3.7 million US citizens as well.

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