J.T. Canales (1877–1976)

J.T. Canales

José Tomás "J.T." Canales (1877–1976) was an attorney and judge, civil rights advocate and state legislator, who moved to Brownsville in 1903. 

J.T. Canales was elected to the Texas House of Representatives, representing the 95th District of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, and Zapata counties (1905–1911) and later the 77th District of Cameron and Willacy Counties (1917–1921). As a legislator, Canales worked for public irrigation and education, prohibition, women's suffrage, and judicial and tax reform. He fought ethnic and racial discrimination and advocated for the rights of Mexican-Americans.

Between legislative terms, J.T. Canales served as Cameron County Judge and Cameron County Superintendent for public schools and continued to practice law in Brownsville. He also served as City Attorney for Brownsville (1930 to 1940).

Yet, Canales is best known for standing up to the Texas Rangers in 1919, when he filed nineteen charges against the Rangers and demanded an investigation into state sponsored violence against the citizens of Porvenir. Canales' ultimately brought about reformation and reorganization within the Texas Rangers. He did so at the expense of his personal safety and political career, enduring threats from Ranger Frank Hamer and the Ku Klux Klan.

As a founding member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and author of its first constitution, J.T. Canales also served on its first board of trustees and national president (1932–1933).

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