From Janitor to Justice

This book should be required reading for anyone interested in achieving the American Dream, in understanding psychological resilence, in understanding how to overcome fantastic odds against your success in life, and anyone interested in the Mexican-American experience. We know from the field of positive psychology that a "few and the proud" are truly resilient in the face of overwhelming odds against them. But who thinks of an entire poor Mexicano farmworker family beating the odds. While Judge Felipe Reyna's story is nothing short of awe-inspiring, so too is the story of each of his other siblings who are also discussed in this book. You get five for one fantastic stories in this book by hearing of Felipe as well as "Bert", "Hope"/Esperanza, "Phil", and "Henri". We know from the scientific study of psychology that strong families are a key to resilence. This is no less true for Justice Reyna and his fabulously successful siblings. Herman and Maria Reyna insisted on nothing short of excellence and tireless effort from their children whether picking cotton or going to school where they were expected to make A's even though English was a second language for them. This story transcends Mexicano culture in that it is found in all of the immigrant groups in America such as my Irish forebearers who were told "No Irish Need Apply" when they went looking for work in Milwaukee or Chicago. This book is a great read and a great story that will leave you satisfied and inspired. It is well worth the effort to seek out and enjoy this rags to riches saga.
Michael B. Frisch
Waco, Texas

I have known this family since the late 1960's. The father German Reyna planted many of the foundation plants in the lawn of our first home. When we bought the home we live in now, he did all of the landscaping. We bought a house with about 4000 trees and a tiny patch of grass. He went around spraying "the NO GOOD trees" with yellow spray paint and we were to slowly remove those from the property. During all of this time, I met his boys, when I would stop by the nursery where Mr. Reyna worked to buy plants for my yard. He was so PROUD of his children. Years passed, my lawn flourished; Mr. Reyna died and time moved on. I kept up with Mr. Reyna's family through the media, as they were all successful citizens of the United State of America.
In the fall of 2003, I received a call from Mr. Reyna's son Felipe. Having known Felipe through the Republican Party and work in our community, the caller ID did not surprise me. What Felipe Reyna asked of me was the surprise! He had been asked to have letters of recommendation written about him and sent to the Appointment's Secretary for the Governor of Texas. My answer, "I would be happy to do so, but I could not write about his career. I could only write about his family and how Mr. and Mrs. Reyna had reared their five children. To say the least the letter was several pages long, but it must have helped get Felipe Reyna appointed to the 10th Court of Appeals for the State of Texas.
Within a few months, I found the new Justice was traveling about the 16 county district of the Appeals Court and he asked me to accompany him on several trips where he would be speaking to a group, in another county. I quickly realized, Felipe needed a driver and I began to drive him, anytime he left Waco to go to other counties. Sometimes, we would have others in the car, but most of the time, it would be the two of us. Since I had known his father, the talks always went back to "the old days" and I listened to his story, over and over again with new ones being remembered as we drove through the roads of Texas. We became like a brother and sister, sharing tales of our different childhood experiences. His story always warmed my heart to see a very poor Mexican family attain the level of respect and devotion the Reyna family earned and enjoyed.
I have now listened to this story, several hundred times, but reading the book made me realize how important this story could be if every child in the United States of America was to read this family story. It might prevent a few children from dropping out of school and show them how valuable each child is. To this fact, we are in the process of getting "non profit status" for funding the Maria Saenz & German Reyna Memorial Book Fund. The goal of the fund is to place FROM JANITOR TO JUSTICE in the libraries of each school in McLennan County Texas,to start and eventually a final goal of having this biography placed in the library of every school in the United States of America!
I recommend this book to anyone who likes to read how a true American dream can come true. It is about a little Mexican boy, who could not speak or understand English when he entered 1st grade and his parents were asked to keep him out of school, until he could speak and understand English. Twelve years after he went back to 1st grade, he graduated as #1 in his high school class and a week ago, he retired as a Justice on the 10th Court of Appeals in the State of Texas, at the age of 65!
Carolyn Payne Lomax

In the pages of From Janitor to Justice: The Life of Felipe Reyna, Bart Cannon synthesizes a Horatio Alger story of this honorable Justice. With the style of a seasoned biographer, Cannon skillfully weaves the interesting details of this legendary legal mind into a highly motivational message. To borrow a line from his former law partner, Stan Schwieger, "I don't always agree with Justice Reyna on everything, but. . ." I deeply appreciate his strong stand for justice specifically related to moral issues about life and death. After reading these pages you will be inspired to pursue "a dream as big as Texas". Cannon presents compelling evidence attesting to the intellect and integrity of this remarkable man, who made his way from janitor to Justice. Cannon also provides a candid look into the often intriguing culture of Mexico. I would recommend this book for that reason alone.
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice

"Based on a true story" ... The life of Felipe Reyna is more than just a story. It is a historical compilation of trials and triumphs of a man, his heritage and his legacy. "From Janitor to Justice" is a true depiction of how a child of an illegal immigrant persevered. Rather than surviving by way of the government's assistance, Felipe and his siblings prospered in the shadows of their parents' determination to have a better life beyond the boundaries of the Rio Grande. As an educator of twenty years, I believe this is one of the most inspiring accounts of a family's true will to dream. "From Janitor to Justice" is a 'must read' and should be placed, not only in the hands of our youth, but anyone with the desire to overcome barriers, regardless of social status, political beliefs or educational background.
Janna White