TSTA Public Affairs Director Ed Martin fought the good fight with the late State Senator Mario Gallegos for many years. Here are Ed’s reflections on the senator and his passing:
“Every Texan who values public education lost a true champion this week. Every Texan who values voting rights lost a true champion, too. And every one of us who believes in loyalty, community, and public service lost a kindred spirit, State Senator Mario Gallegos, who passed away Tuesday afternoon.
“For those of us who knew Mario, there is a profound sense of loss. Mario had a genuine presence and a certainty that would never go unnoticed. Whether one knew Mario as a family member, a firefighter, a political compatriot, a friend or a neighbor, you knew what Mario believed, what he felt, and what he was all about. When Mario was on your side, he was all the way in with you. There wasn’t an ounce of blow dried politician in him.
“Mario was the first Hispanic State Senator to represent Houston and Harris County, which is now home to over 1.7 million Hispanics, and Mario’s pulse beat to the rhythm of his community. He understood the essential value of education from that perspective – and he did not need a calculator to compute the value of education and the educators who worked in the classrooms in his community.
“Mario understood that an educated child can realize the opportunity to be free and succeed, and for over 21 years in the legislature, he was always “all in” for the children and the educators he represented. Mario the firefighter was determined to make sure no one and nothing burned down the dream and the opportunity provided by education, the right to vote and the right to be treated with respect, without prejudice. And, every time the bell rang, he stood and fought the fight – even when he had to get up from a liver transplant to do it.
“Mario Gallegos was a human being – full of perfection and imperfection, good and not so good – just like every one of us. When he came back to the Senate to fight the Voter ID bill in 2007, I worked with Mario on a column he submitted to the Houston Chronicle to explain the importance of the fight that brought him and his hospital bed to the Senate. After we’d gone over some edits over the phone, Mario said, “Ed, do you think Billie Carr and Mickey Leland are looking down on us now and smiling?”
“Mario, please say hi to Billie and Mickey and all the rest. And know this: when you look down and see us fighting the good fight and laughing and crying as a family of good human beings, you are right here with us – we did not lose you.”