Sen. Gregory Luna
Texas Senator Gregory Luna, who represented Bexar County in the Texas Legislature from 1985 -1998, was a one time chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus and served as a champion of the people who strove to dissolve barriers for Texas’ less fortunate citizens. It is in honor of his legacy of leadership that our organization undertakes the Senator Gregory Luna Legislative Scholars and Fellows program.
Senator Luna was born in New Braunfels, Texas and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Senator Luna attended J.T. Brackenridge Elementary School, Lanier Junior High School and graduated from Lanier High School. He married Helen Garcia on August 21st, 1955 and together they had four children.
Senator Luna began his career with his enlistment in the U.S. Army in 1953 after attending San Antonio College. He then joined the San Antonio Police Department and while employed as a police officer completed his education at Trinity University obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Math and St. Mary’s University of Law by attending night school. During his employment as a police officer Senator Luna was chosen for a federal job to train police officers in Venezuela. Senator Luna began his law career as a San Antonio City Prosecutor and then started private practice in 1968, officing at the International Building in downtown San Antonio.
In 1958 he bought his first poll tax to vote. He began his involvement in politics campaigning for Pete Torres in his run for City Councilman in 1967. He ran for a Justice of the Peace office in 1969 and for State Representative in the Texas House in 1982 and lost both times. He ran for the same State Representative seat two years later and won.
During his four terms in the Texas House of Representatives, Senator Luna focused on education and school finance. He served on the Public Education Committee as vice-chair and held appointments to the Select Joint Committee on Education, the Joint Committee on High School Dropouts, and the conference committee on SB 351, the 1991 public school finance bill. He also served on the House committees on Judicial Affairs, Human Services and on the General Investigating Committee. He remained in the House of Representatives until 1992 when he became State Senator.
Senator Gregory Luna was elected to his first term in the Texas Senate in 1992. He served on the Senate standing committees on Education, State Affairs and Jurisprudence. Senator Luna served on the Conference Committee on SB 7 dealing with education finance and the Select Committee on Judicial Reform. In that session, the border initiative, created in response to a MALDEF courtroom victory, created the long-sought downtown campus for the University of Texas at San Antonio. He considered the campus the culmination of his vision for UTSA.
In his last session, Senator Luna served as the vice-chair of Education and vice-chairman of Veterans Affairs and Military Installations Committees. In 1995, Senator Luna served on the conference committee on SB1 where he influenced the new education code. During the 75th Legislature in 1997, Senator Luna chaired the Senate Hispanic Caucus, led the opposition to private school vouchers paid for with public tax money, and served on the conference committee on HB 4 dealing with school property taxation.
Senator Luna was a leader in many activities in San Antonio. He was one of the founders of Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and served four terms as board chair. In recognition of his work on school finance legislation, MALDEF honored him with its national premier Valerie Kantor award for extraordinary service and the regional Community Services Award both in 1991. In September 1999 MALDEF honored him with its Matt Garcia Public Service Award for his “outstanding leadership and service to the community.” The recipient of this award reflects an extraordinary dedication to the civil and human rights of all people.” He served as chair of the Inman Christian Center Board of Directors, on the project SER National Board of Directors, the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Board of Directors, United Way Board of Directors, as a member of the Westside Lions Club and the State and Bexar County Democratic Executive Committee.
The Senator received numerous accolades for his public service. In 1987 he received the Mexican-American Bar Association (MABA) award for outstanding legal contributions. In 1991 he also received the (MABA) Outstanding Legislator Award, the TSTA Alamo District Award, and the Association of Texas Professional Educators Recognition Award. In 1992 he was honored with The Texas State Teachers Association Friend of Education Award, as well as an award from AVANCE for his commitment to families. Senator Luna later received recognition from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities for outstanding leadership and support for Hispanic serving institutions through legislative initiatives, the Lifetime Achievement Award from UTSA Hispanic Research Center, and the 1998 ERNIE Award from the Avenida Guadalupe Association. In July 1999, the Texas Federation of Teachers honored him with its rarely bestowed Child Advocate Award. In 2004 he received the Henry B. Gonzalez award from the St. Mary’s Hispanic Alumni Association and the Champion of Civil Rights award from AARP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.