EAST LOS ANGELES – Steve Gonzales is eager is share his father’s untold story. He can tell you about every picture and every letter filling numerous binders.
“By all the stuff I have you would think there were five of him because he was everywhere doing everything,” said Steve.
There are pictures of his father Julio Gonzalez with then Governor Ronald Regan in East L.A. He also has pictures with his former partner Tom Bradley, L.A.’s first black mayor.
“Chief Parker decided to start public relations for LAPD and he appointed my dad to handle the Hispanic community and then my dad’s partner was Tom Bradley to handle the black community. So can you imagine in 1955 a Mexican and a black man in a suit and tie going up Parker center and all the other officers going what is this? So they were the first,” said Steve.
Julio Gonzales was sworn in as a Los Angeles police officer in 1947, but quickly learned his badge did not always earn him respect.
“He had to go to a certain barber shop because they wouldn’t let him in the other barber shops and in the movie theaters he had to sit in the back,” Steve said.
Steve says his dad was the first officer ever asked to specifically reach out to the Latino community, especially Latino kids in Chavez Ravine where the Police Academy is located and long before Dodger’s Stadium was built.
Starting in n 1953, Steve’s dad set up youth sports leagues and toy give-aways. He was also the first to take at-risk Latino youth out of East L.A. to the R.M. Pyles Boys Camp in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a camp which still operates today.
“More Hispanics should learn that there was someone who was caring about them back then,” said Steve.
When Regan became president, his first Latino presidential appointee was Julio. He named him U.S. Federal Marshal for the Central District of California.
“The amazing thing about it is my dad only had a high school education but he worked hard,” said Steve.
Three years before death in 2003, then Mayor Richard Riordan appointed Julio as the department’s “Latino Ambassador of Goodwill.”
Julio made a life out of serving others. His legacy lives on through his son and the lasting impact of his work with the Latino Community of East L.A.