AUSTIN (KXAN) — Even if you didn’t know Gus Garcia, you’ve heard of him. The education and city leader lent his name to schools and a park and left a legacy of hard work to help Austinites.
Garcia died this week at age 84. He leaves behind his wife, Marina Gonzalez, three sons and five grandchildren.
“We feel a community-wide heavy heart as one of our greatest Austin giants moves on,” wrote Mayor Steve Adler on Twitter, praising the city’s first Hispanic mayor. “Mayor Garcia focused our city as no one had setting us on a course to seek equity and justice for all of Austin. I will miss my friend and teacher.”
Garcia graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and used his accounting degree for many years before he set his sights on improving education in the city. He was the first Hispanic to serve on the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees
“As a board member, Garcia encouraged the district to hire more Hispanic and African-American teachers and administrators, and to award more school construction projects to minority contractors,” AISD wrote in a release. “He also worked on multiple initiatives to increase family involvement and community development within the city of Austin.”
Then, Garcia worked with the city council and was elected mayor in 2001, serving until 2003. He was recognized with numerous awards for his service.
The Gus Garcia District Park and Rec Center in northeast Austin, as well as Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy and Garcia Middle School all bear his name.
Former Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said Garcia had “been challenged health issues for a long time but he never lost his famous charm during the fight.”
“Gus was a good friend and mentor,” Leffingwell continued. “He offered advice when I asked for it and was always quick to lend his support. He was a remarkable citizen of Austin and a true leader. I counted him as a friend, and, our community is lucky to have benefited from his work.”
“Mayor Gus Garcia was an extraordinary public servant,” wrote City Manager Spencer Cronk. “All of us should strive to emulate Mayor Garcia’s dedication to Austin.”
Details of Garcia’s funeral were not immediately available.