Marine, Public Servant, Kansan

The Life of Ernest Garcia

Dennis Raphael Garcia

For Ernest “Ernie” Garcia, the American dream began in Mexico more than a hundred years ago. Ernie, raised in Kansas, became the US Senate sergeant at arms and escorted President Ronald Reagan to the podium to deliver the State of the Union address. After the president’s speech, Ernie reflected on his family’s long and arduous journey from Zacatecas to El Paso to Kansas as well as on his presence in the Capitol alongside the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court. He was certain his ancestors never imagined that their dreams would lead him to the White House.

Ernie’s experience as sergeant at arms is just one chapter in the inspiring life story told in this book. Drawing upon oral histories recounted by family members, friends, and Ernie himself, Dennis Raphael Garcia reaches back to the travails and grit of great-grandfather Pedro as he made his way to the American heartland with his son Jose. Like so many immigrants with courage and determination, they found great hardship but also great opportunity. A decade of field labor, the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and two world wars laid the groundwork for Ernie’s story. Marine, Public Servant, Kansan describes how this Mexican American boy, fatherless at a young age and facing discrimination, found his way to a place alongside a senator and a president through hard work and education—and some basketball. Along the way he realized his own ambition to become an officer in the Marine Corps. The book follows Ernie through both Iraq wars to his service, even in retirement, as superintendent of the Kansas State Highway Patrol.

“Ernest Garcia is one of the finest public servants I have known in my forty-year career in local, state, and federal government work.”

—Jackie Williams, former US attorney, district of Kansas

Marine, Public Servant, Kansan: The Life of Ernest Garcia contributes to Kansas history and culture by fleshing out the diversity of the Kansas experience in a way few other books have done. This engaging biography details Garcia’s humble beginnings in western Kansas to his rise as sergeant at arms for the US Senate, hobnobbing with the Washington elite. Rarely do we get a positive glimpse into the lives of Mexican Americans who are Republican, yet Dennis Raphael Garcia has shown us that Ernest Garcia remains true to his Kansas roots.”

—Valerie Mendoza, lecturer in American Studies, University of Kansas

In Marine, Public Servant, Kansan, the remarkable character of not just one Kansan son of Mexican immigrants, but also the immigrant experience itself is eloquently and poignantly weaved into the story of Ernie and his family’s American dream.

About the Author

Dennis Raphael Garcia, cousin of Ernest, is a retired attorney and teacher. Formerly a Kansan, he now lives in Arlington, Virginia.