National Hispanic Heritage Month - Larry Perez
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Larry Perez, 72, was born in Waco, Texas.
He grew up in what is now called the Northeast Riverside Neighborhood. He went to the old Nalley Elementary School, which educated students from Waco, Bellmead, and La Vega back in the day.
Furthermore, he said the school was mostly made up of Hispanic and Caucasian children.
When asked what it was like growing up in Waco during the 1950s, Perez said it was hard. His first encounter with racism, he said, was in grade school at a water fountain.
“We (the students) lined up and we all drank our water. And I was the last one (to get a drink). Then I turned around and saw the teacher run the water and then clean up over the faucet. And I ask her ‘Why are you doing that?’ She said, ‘Oh I don’t wanna get y’alls germs.”
Perez said he asked his papi about it and was told to forget about it. But this incident weighed on young Larry, who later worked out the real reason for the clean-up job.
That only pushed Perez to be the best he could be for himself and his community.
Also fueling his passion for uplifting his community, he joined the Junior LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, as a student at Waco High School.
There he said he would read a lot of books and newspapers and would keep up with the new laws being passed in Texas, laws that impacted his everyday life.
He graduated from high school in 1969, unable to enroll in college because of the cost of higher education, he joined the United States Army. He was a radio operator during the Vietnam War.
As an eager soldier who wanted some “trigger time,” he volunteered with the 25th Infantry. Perez soon found out the mission was scarring.
This second-generation Mexican American will proudly tell anyone, he fought for America. He is an American, a Mexican American.
Among the many honors, Perez earned the Gallantry Cross, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Army Good Conduct Medal, among others.
From the military to music, believe it or not, Perez worked as a Disc Jockey for a Spanish radio station.
He played Tejano music on KRZI and KWTX 1230 AM radio stations in the 1980′s and 90′s.
So, he knows the classics, like local legend Little Joe, Augustin Ramirez, and Alfonso Ramos. Later in life, Perez continued to use his voice in the boardroom as a Waco Independent School District trustee.
For 17 years he was an advocate and supported the 2008 bond election, which built a new start-of-the art University High School, a campus that has historically maintained a Hispanic majority, and one that was arguably in the worst shape at the time.
It is one of many accomplishments he is most proud of.
He said he learned from an older lady in the community that the old University High school was for students who were not “smart” enough.
What wasn’t said, was for students with English as their second language or low-income kids.
He said that made him mad. So, he is glad he stepped up to help students in the South Waco community.
That new school has meant the world to its students and staff.
“It’s helped a lot more people are coming in from Mexico and they are getting educated. And those are the ones that are really going to college now,” he said.
Perez said, there is value in a good education.
He eventually went to college and studied accounting.
He ended up working for the United States Postal Service for 31 years, has been a member of the Centex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and continues, even in retirement, to keep up with the progress of his community.
Perez has worn many hats.
He is a husband, father of four children, and still an advocate.
Larry Perez is one of the many reasons KWTX Salutes Hispanic Heritage Month.
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