Situated through the halls of Frank Madla Elementary are pennants from local and national institutions of higher education. The pennants serve as a reminder to students that the world is attainable through education.
Front and center in the school’s main lobby stands a memorial of the late Senator Frank Madla Jr. showcasing the passion Senator Madla had for education in his community.
JoAnn Buchanan, principal of Frank Madla Elementary, reflected on her teaching philosophy and how the elementary school contributes to the South Side and her community.
“I think it just gives us the purpose that there is something out there for the community, to push [Senator Madla’s] dream of education that it’s possible for everyone,” Buchanan said. “It’s an honor to be in the school that Sen. Madla is named after.”
Sen. Madla worked hard in the Texas Legislature, advocating for better education for the residents of the South Side. As an educator for over 40 years, Sen. Madla understood the importance of a quality education.
“There is no bigger honor as a teacher then to be recognized by fellow teachers,” wrote Sen. Madla in a entry from one of many journals he left for his children.
Sen. Madla now has three educational institutions on the South Side of San Antonio that his vision is responsible for: an elementary school, an early college high school, as well as a college building and statue in remembrance of him on the campus of Texas A&M University-San Antonio.
“The senator had great vision in terms of what I think he was trying to create. That physical awareness, visible proximity; it’s in your backyard, it’s your university.” said A&M-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson.
Power of Influence
Political affiliations aside, Sen. Madla’s tenacity for fairness and equality made him a fixture in the Texas Senate and the House of Representatives for 33 years.
“Dad was a humble, caring person. Soft spoken. Fair,” said Dr. Frank Madla III, son of the late senator. “Never sought out the limelight in his political career. Simply worked behind the scenes to get things done.”
Sen. Madla built a network of influential people that helped secure his position in San Antonio politics. Figures such as Ralph “Bull” Rich, former congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, Tino Duran, Lalo Solis, Mike Nguyen and especially Greg Garcia, a man the senator considered his best friend.
In an excerpt from one of his journals Madla wrote, “In my lifetime I was blessed with great friends, none greater than Greg. Thanks Greg.” These men, and many other people campaigned alongside Sen. Madla for his election and reelection.
In 1972 Sen. Madla took on the responsibility of representing the people of the South Side and did not back down from the challenges that came with the position. Instead, he reassured his voters of his dedication to their needs.
“Your problems are now my problems,” wrote Sen. Madla after winning the election.
Not only was his first election win a prominent stepping stone into the next 33 years of his political career, but he would go on to “become the first person to serve this south side district that actually lived in the district,” Madla III said.
“Our neighborhood was surrounded by unlicensed junkyards, dumps and raw sewage being dumped into Mitchell Lake,” Madla III said. “These issues, and the students he was teaching government to at St. Philip’s, motivated him to run.”
Sen. Madla’s political prowess was influential in not only bringing Toyota’s newest manufacturing facility to San Antonio, but securing its location on the South Side, assuring continuous employment for the residents of the area.
Improvement through Scholarship
“Bringing higher education to the community he represented for 33 years as a state representative and senator was a career long endeavor,” Madla III said.
Sen. Madla authored multiple bills that focused on sustainable growth and positive change for the people of the South Side. It was SB 800 that accredited A&M-San Antonio, allowing the university to issue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the name of the Texas A&M University education system.
“Frank had a vision and enough clout, in terms of seniority, to do something like this,” said Harold Oliver, a former staff member for Sen. Madla. “At that time in history the state of Texas was truly bipartisan and the state had money.”
“He had just finished doing a lot of big ticket economic development items that earned him the trust of not only the San Antonio business community, but the San Antonio citizens and the state legislature.”
“Frank was such a nice guy. You were not a senate staffer when you worked for Frank. He was so flexible with us. He treated us like family,” Oliver said. “When he asked for help, we dropped what we were doing to help Frank.”
According to Oliver, Sen. Madla kept positive relationships with colleagues that aided him during rough times. Once when facing funding issues, Madla called on fellow Aggie and former Texas Governor Rick Perry and asked, “As a friend, I need this done.”
As a public servant, Sen. Madla set out to transition the South Side of San Antonio from hardships to prosperity.
“I ran for public office to serve. The best monument is how we touch people and how we help,”wrote Sen. Madla. “The purpose of government should always be to do for people what they cannot do for themselves.”