Benny C. Martinez was born on January 4, 1934 in Goliad, Texas and was one of eleven children born to Placido Lozano Martinez and Paula Cabrera Cortinas. Benny served in the U.S. Army, in Korea from 1957 – 1958 and from 1958 – 1962. He also served in the Reserves as a Medic at Fort Hood, Texas. All seven brothers would serve in the US Army with four brothers serving in WWII.
Benny was a descendant of the early Tejano ranching families, the De La Garza, Cabrera and Becerras, who established and settled Refugio and Goliad Counties. His ancestors explored and settled in the Texas wilderness over 300 years ago. Manuel Becerra, his paternal 3rd great grandfather, served as the first Ayuntamiento, (city Secretary) of Goliad in 1820 and held various public offices until 1835. He was also a guide to Stephen F. Austin. An Official Texas State Historical Marker documents his ancestor’s contributions and is located in front of the Presidio La Bahia in Goliad, Texas. On his maternal line, Benny was a direct descendant of Juan Pedro Cabrera and Maria Rodriguez de Bega, from the Canary Islands, Spain, one of 15 families who helped establish a civil government in San Antonio de Bexar and who arrived, March 9, 1731. Benny was a member of the Canary Islands Descendants Association in San Antonio, Texas. Benny was also a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas, San Jacinto Chapter and joined under his 2nd maternal great grandfather, Mariano Cabrera, who supplied beeves in 1835, per a Republic of Texas Pay Voucher to Captain Phillip Dimmitt issued to his ancestor on August 31, 1853. Benny was very proud of his Tejano history and was proud to be a 9th generation Texan.
Benny was a life member of the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) Post 8930 in Houston, TX. A member of the American GI Forum Lucian Adams Chapter, a member of the American Legion in Goliad, Texas and a member of the Knights of Columbus, Goliad, Texas. He was also an honorary member of the Goliad Rotary Club.
In 1967, Benny graduated from Houston Community College as a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN). In 1985, he obtained a Bachelor of General Studies Degree from the University of Houston Downtown College.
Benny worked for Harris County for a total of 35 years – thirty years as a nurse of which he worked twenty years in the psychiatric hospital, fifteen years in the Forensic Unit of Psychiatry. The last five years he worked as a Deputy Sheriff. When Benny retired from the County in 1997, he was honored with proclamations by both the county and city designating his retirement day as “Benny C. Martinez Day.”
Benny was an Election Judge for thirty years in Voting Precinct 79 in the area of Denver Harbor, Houston, Texas. He is a lifetime member of LULAC Council 60. His grandmother was the President of the Woman’s LULAC Council #2 and later his father, Placido also joined LULAC. Placido advocated for the Goliad schools be to integrated which was achieved in 1950. In the late 1950’s, under the direction of Felix Tijerina, Judge Alfred Hernandez, Benny Martinez and LULAC Council 60 members started the Little School of the 400, which was designed to teach Non-English speaking Hispanic Children 400 English words. The first program was implemented at a school in Ganado, Texas and the second one was in Sugarland, Texas. By the late summer of 1958, there were nine schools throughout Texas. When Lyndon Baines Johnson became President he implemented the school as the model for the Federal program “Head Start.” In 1965, LULAC Council 60 members created SER Jobs for Progress. Benny’s brother Raul was President of Council 60 at the time and Benny was Vice President. SER Jobs for Progress became so successful it was taken over by the Federal Government and was renamed SER which is a training center and a job placement center.
Benny worked in historical preservation and as a Past President of the Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, Benny assisted in obtaining a historical marker for Felix Tijerina. This official Texas State Historical marker was dedicated at Felix Tijerina’s flagship restaurant location at 904 Bagby, Houston, TX 77006, and dedicated on May 25, 2010.
Benny was also instrumental in obtaining an official Texas State Historical Marker for LULAC Council 60 as historian for Council 60, he wrote and was their guardian of their history. This history was reviewed and edited by Dr. Thomas Kreneck and submitted with the application. The marker is located at 3004 Bagby, Houston, TX, 77006 and it was dedicated on Feb. 18, 2006. Council 60 is now designated as a Historical Landmark in Houston, TX.
Through the efforts of Council 60 LULAC members, Benny’s older brother Raul Martinez was admitted and became the first Hispanic in the Houston Police Department. After retiring from H.P.D. Raul Martinez became the first elected Hispanic Constable for the newly formed Constable Precinct 6. Through the efforts of Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, who was then the County Commissioner, the Raul C. Martinez Court House, a County Court House Annex was named after his brother. Benny would successfully advocate through committee meetings for an HISD elementary school to be named after Raul in Denver Harbor. Benny’s brother Elias Martinez was the first Hispanic admitted into the Houston Fire Department. . Elias served about forty years with H.F.D. and there is a Fire Pumper Truck named after Elias at the Denver Harbor Fire Station #27.
As a LULAC Council 60 member, Benny served as Chairman of the renaming of 69th St. to Staff Sgt. Macario Garcia, who was a WWII Medal of Honor recipient. As President of the Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, he worked to change 67th St. to Cesar Chavez Blvd., which was celebrated on April 1, 2000, with four Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients serving as Grand Marshals in a parade held in Houston’s East End. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Andres Tijerina. Benny also petitioned the City of Houston, City of Pasadena and City of La Porte to change Hwy 225 to Juan N. Seguin. Honorable Mayor Lee Brown agreed as well as the council members and the 610 Loop before entering Hwy 225 was changed by the City of Houston to the Juan N. Seguin Interchange. State Rep Rick Noriega, and Senator Mario Gallegos assisted in his efforts in having the Park Road 1836 that leads up to the San Jacinto Monument renamed to Juan N. Seguin Blvd. Benny also successfully advocated that HISD name an elementary school after the Tejano leader Juan N. Seguin.
Benny served on the advisory committee and fundraising committee for ten years to erect a Tejano Monument recognizing the contributions of the Tejanos, Spanish and Mexican to Texas. On Dec. 12, 2003, Benny as President of the Tejano Association for Historical Preservation, requested the support of Houston Independent School District to collect pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters in support of the Tejano Monument. The HISD School Board gave their approval and on April 20, 2004, 14,053.20 was donated by HISD school children and was donated for the Tejano Monument Project. In 2004, Benny wanted to create public awareness and fund raising for the Tejano Monument on a statewide level, so he rode his beautiful horse, Brooke Shields, from Goliad, Texas to Austin, Texas stopping at schools along the way collecting donations and giving talks about the Monument. After five days, of riding he arrived in Austin and was greeted by the legislatures who presented him with proclamations. On May 29, 2009, at 10:45 a.m. Honorable Governor Rick Perry in a historic signing ceremony in the presence of the Tejano Monument Committee and elected officials, signed HB 4114 agreeing to place the Tejano Monument on the historic south lawn of the Capitol. The Monument was emplaced on the grounds at the State Capitol in Austin, TX on March 29, 2012 and Benny sat in the front row center in a dedication ceremony that was witnessed by more than 2,000 attendees.
Benny has received numerous awards, the LULAC National Man of the Year, which he was awarded in 1996 in Boston, Massachusetts and in 2017, in San Antonio, TX, he was awarded the LULAC Elderly Person of the Year. In 2007, he was recognized by Texas Education Agency State Board of Education in Austin, Texas and was awarded a Child Hero award for District 2. His last award was presented by the General Zaragoza Society of Goliad Texas on Nov. 23, 2019. Benny was presented the General Zaragoza Medallion to Benny Martinez and the inscription read, “To a Leader of the Highest Integrity and one to Emulate in Service and Citizenship.”
Benny served as a past president and member of LULAC Council 21 in Goliad. He raised money for scholarships by organizing hamburger sales and awarded the scholarships to school children. Benny C. Martinez believed that his greatest accomplishment was being part of LULAC, participating in the education committee and awarding scholarships to Students. Mr. Martinez stated that education opens the door to opportunities.
Benny passed away on Dec. 29, 2019, in Olmito, Texas, at Sunshine Haven Special Care Facility with his ever-devoted daughter, Melinda Ortega by his side. His daughter, Loretta Williams, had said her final goodbyes earlier with her husband David Williams and brother in law Gary Ortega.
The family is indebted to the excellent care provided by at Sunshine Haven Special Care Facility,
under the Executive Director, Veronica I. Lucio. The family ask that in lieu of flowers
donations can be mailed to Sunshine Haven, 7105 W. Lakeside Olmito, TX 78575, so that
others in need can continue to benefit from the excellent care of Sunshine Haven.
Benny is preceded in death by Helen O. Martinez who passed away on July 1, 1976. Surviving him is his oldest daughter, Loretta Williams, husband David Williams, granddaughters, Helen Williams, Catarina Clarkson and husband, Kyle Clarkson. His youngest daughter, Melinda Ann Ortega, husband, Gary Ortega, Benjamin Kitchens, his spouse, Denise Pena Kitchens, great granddaughters, Kennedy Kitchens, Phoebe Kitchens; grandson, James Ortega, and granddaughter, Hilary Ortega. Benny is survived by his wife, Rosemary Martinez, stepdaughter, Elizabeth Figueroa, her children, April Pina Figueroa, Frankie Figueroa, and grandchildren, Hilary and Jose Figueroa; stepdaughter Debbie and husband, Mark Rodriguez, their daughter Melissa Byers, grandchildren, Jordan, Jacob and Aubree; stepdaughter, Estella Becerra, her children, Lucas Flores, Roy Flores and Joel Becerra; and stepdaughter, Angela Perez.
This past Sunday, Jan. 5, 2019, at the Goliad Funeral Home, Goliad, Texas, a rosary was led by Ramiro Rubio, Benny’s cousin and also a member of the Knights of Columbus, with over 100 in attendance. A eulogy was delivered by Hernan Jaso, also a cousin of Benny and the ex-mayor of Goliad. The family is appreciative of the efforts of the Goliad Funeral Home, and its Director, Adrian Fulton.
Visitation for Benny will be at Forest Park Lawndale in Houston, TX. beginning Friday, January
10, 2020 at 5:00 P.M. At 7 P.M. a military salute will be led by John Aleman, Captain, US Air
Force American GI Forum, Lucian Adams Chapter. Following the salute, a rosary will be recited[WL(1] .
Mass will be celebrated by Rev. Henry B. Walker, O.M.I., Pastor at 10:00 A.M. at Immaculate
Conception Catholic Church. Interment will follow at 12:00 pm at Forest Park Lawndale
Cemetery with full Military Services to be held under the Auspices of the Veterans of Foreign
War, Post 8930.
Pall bearers will be Emmanuel Manzano, Benjamin Kitchens, James Ortega, Joey Cardenas III,
Alfonso Maldonado III, Kyle Clarkson, with honorary pall bearers, Jim Patrick Albert Harris and
"The Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need, HE lets me rest in fields of green. HE leads
me to quiet pools of fresh water. HE gives me new strength. HE guides me in the right paths as
HE promised. Even if I go through the deepest darkness, I will not be afraid, LORD, for you are
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