Approximately 200 people attended Saturday afternoon’s unveiling of the marker. Family, friends and those who wanted to learn more about Carbajal’s struggles to break the color barrier at GHS were on hand for the ceremony.
Guest speakers were local historian and author, Raymond Starr, and Goliad ISD Superintendent Emilio Vargas III. Hernan Jaso served as the master of ceremonies and Rev. Richard Bermudes, cousin of Carbajal, delivered the invocation.
Carbajal attended a separate school for Mexican-American children in Goliad until his father, Anastacio, insisted he be allowed to attend Goliad High School.
At the time, the “Mexican school” in Goliad only went to the seventh grade. Mexican-Americans were then expected to join the labor force with no chance to attend or graduate from high school.
Carbajal excelled in academics and Frank Wallace, his teacher at the “Mexican school,” supported Carbajal’s efforts to continue his education at GHS.
After failing to get the Goliad school board to allow his son to attend GHS, Anastacio Carbajal went to the San Antonio chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens to plead his son’s case. He also went to Austin to protest in front of the Texas Board of Education.
The Texas School Board finally granted William Carbajal the right to attend GHS, but had to sit on the front steps of the school for three days before he was finally allowed entry.
“Think of how much courage it took for this young man to go to a school that clearly did not want him,” said Starr, who wrote the book “Images of America: Goliad.”
“Here this kid is all by himself going into this hostile environment and succeeding opening the door for others. He had to have had a very extraordinary family to support him to do that.”
William Carbajal was a ninth-generation Texan. His family members served in the American Revolution, Civil War, Indian Wars and World War I.
“What a daunting task to be the first to stand out on your own,” Vargas said. “No one stood with William on the steps of his high school.”
William Carbajal went on to become a standout academically and athletically at GHS. He died in 1968 at the age of 53 and is buried alongside his parents, Anastacio and Pomposa, at the La Bahia Cemetery.
Goliad resident Estella Zermeno began working two years to get the historical marker approved by the Texas Historical Commission.
“I’ve been dreaming of this for many years,” Zermeno said. “I really got to work on this in August of 2011.”
Ben Carbajal became emotional after he unveiled his father’s historical marker.
“I was overwhelmed with joy,” Ben Carbajal said. “I don’t think I could have done what my dad did.”