Eighty-eight years of civic duty could not slow Col. H. William Card Jr., the longest tenured Harlingen mayor and long time friend of Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District, who passed away earlier this month.
“We were talking about the announcement we were going to put into the Valley Morning Star that week concerning the school bond,” said George McShan of the Harlingen CISD Board of Trustees. “The message needed to be clear and concise. Mayor Card stood up and asked all the right questions. He began guiding the process, just like he always had.”
Education brought Card to Harlingen in 1968 when he came from Washington D.C. to serve as the Commandant of Cadets and Senior Marine Instructor at Marine Military Academy. He served on several community boards and worked at First National Bank after retiring from MMA in 1975. Harlingen’s citizens elected him mayor in 1987, a role he held until 1998.
After 42-years serving Harlingen, Card was not going to sit on the sideline for a $98.6 million issue that would shape the community’s future, McShan said. During the 2010 bond initiative, the former mayor was still active in education, serving as one of the 85-member future facilities task force.
“He would challenge your thoughts and ideas,” McShan said. “His analysis would validate the opinions of others. He embodied the concept that government should be by the people, for the people.”
Voters passed the school bond in May 2010. The school district is waiting to see if the Texas Education Agency will approve its application for a Instructional Facilities Allotment. The school district will not sell bonds unless it obtains the TEA funds that will cover about $49 million of the bond initiative. School official expect TEA to decide in the next few weeks.
Card told KHGN in September that Harlingen CISD schools did not have air conditioning when he first arrived, a problem he wanted to take head-on as a community leader.
“The school district tried to pass a bond a few years after my family arrived, but it failed,” Card told KHGN. “So a group of local leaders came together to figure out a way to convince the community that we needed that bond for our children.”
Card said the group eventually got the money through private donations to pay for the air conditioning. As a fundraiser, Card would play a crucial role in the three bond elections during the next 30 year period in 1989, 1999 and 2010.
“He agreed enthusiastically that the district and town would benefit from the passage of the bond election this past spring,” said Gerry Fleuriet, Board of Trustees Vice President. “He faithfully attended a lengthy series of meetings to study the needs of the district, always asking pertinent questions throughout the process. He followed up with his own personal research so he could return to the group with specific ideas and suggestions.”
Card had a larger vision of Harlingen setting the standard for education in the Rio Grande Valley, board members said. He saw Harlingen as the leader of education across the region, which is why he remained active in the city’s pursuit of a medical school. He was one of the key local leaders in bringing the Regional Academic Health Center to Harlingen, starting in the early 1980s whena group of local leaders came together to set a list of goals for the year 2000.
In his first year as mayor, Card was part of the planning process for education reform in the city, according to documents found at the Harlingen Public Library.
“It was a privilege and an honor to know and serve with Col. Card,” Fleuriet said. “He was an honorable man who served us all with complete devotion and good will.”
Three of the current board members served during Card’s tenure as Mayor – McShan, Fleuriet and board secretary Omar Cano. As mayor, Card made sure that schools were a top priority as he made regular visits to each campus.
“I thought very highly of Mayor Card,” Cano said. “He would come up to me in grocery store to thank me for my public service. He was a great man who will be sorely missed by this city.”
Board of Trustees President Verna Young worked with Card’s daughter, Cheryl Gray, during her teaching career. Cheryl was the principal at Stuart Elementary until she passed away a few years ago. Bill Card III was also instrumental in past school bond elections, board members said.
“Col. Card was always around when I worked with his daughter at Bohnam Elementary,” Young said. “He was always very visible around the school district. When the time came to be active in school and community issues, he always worked well with everyone involved.”
Card was survived by his devoted wife of 63 years, Garrison Good Card. The couple had four children, Bill Card III, Patti Card Smith, Gerri Maxfield and Cheryl Gray. He was the grandfather to six children and great grandfather to seven.
Card received several medals and decorations for his 29 years in the Marine Corps, including the Legion of Merit Medal, two Bronze Star medals, Navy Commendation Medal, four Presidential Unit Citations, American Defense Medal with one star, National Defense Medal, Korean Campaign Medal with six stars and the United Nations Medal. He is credited with establishing the Los Indios Free Trade Bridge, designating Harlingen as an “All American City” in 1992, renovating the Harlingen International Airport and building a new public library.
Visit HCISD’s Centennial Celebration page to view KHGN’s interview with Card.