A local man who helped to blaze trails and shatter glass ceilings for minorities will be returning to his old stomping grounds next week, hoping to inspire younger generations to invest in their education.
Frank Gamboa, a Cartago native, overcame numerous personal, social and political obstacles to become the first Mexican American Naval Captain in U.S. history – a story he chronicles in the recently released memoir, “¡El Capitán!”
The book begins with his childhood in Olancha and Lone Pine, detailing his struggle to even leave Inyo County for the Naval Academy, where his eventual roommate turned out to be John McCain. Quite a few local residents are mentioned in the book, including those who helped Gamboa to realize his dream.
As part of his effort to return the favor, Gamboa will launch a series of local talks Monday, Oct. 3 at his alma mater, Lone Pine High School, from 7-9 p.m.
“He is a very decorated veteran and will be talking about the importance of education,” said Inyo County Office of Education Latino Outreach Coordinator Raquel Dietrich.
According to Dietrich, Lone Pine resident Kerry Powell recently read Gamboa’s biography and learned that he wanted to attend this year’s Lone Pine Film Festival to introduce his memoirs to residents of his home town.
Seeing a golden opportunity, Powell contacted the Inyo Office of Education to see if local schools would be interested in hosting Gamboa as a guest speaker.
“Frank wanted to use this opportunity to speak to the importance of education and the impact his education had on his life,” Dietrich said. “He’ll start with growing up in the valley and talk about how he used education as a tool to navigate through his life.”
Following his presentation in Lone Pine, Gamboa will meet with students at Home Street Middle School Tuesday morning then have lunch with the Bishop Union High School Latino Club. After lunch, he will address the high school student body at 2 p.m.
At 7 p.m. Tuesday evening, Gamboa will meet with Latino parents and have a book signing.
On Wednesday, Oct. 5, Gamboa will hold a book signing at the Lone Pine Film Festival box office until 2:30 p.m., then drive back up to Bishop for a book signing at Spellbinder Books from 6-9 p.m.
On Thursday, Oct. 6 and Friday, Oct. 7 he will be signing copies of his book at the Film Festival ticket office and on Saturday, Oct. 8 he will be at the Lone Pine Film History Museum
His final appearance will be Saturday, Oct. 8, at the Eastern California Museum.
About the Author
Captain Gamboa was born Aug. 12, 1933 in Cartago, the third of seven first-generation American siblings whose parents were born in Mexico. He grew up in Cartago and Bartlett and the town of Lone Pine.
In March 1954, he received a principal appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. In April 1954, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and completed basic infantry training in June 1954. He entered the Academy on July 12, 1954, graduated on June 4, 1958, and was commissioned an Ensign in the Line. He is among the first 20 Mexican Americans to graduate from the Naval Academy.
Captain Gamboa is the first Mexican American Naval Surface Warfare Officer in the history of the United States Navy to command a major warship in the rank of Commander, the first to command a major warship in the rank of Captain, and the first to command a squadron of warships. He is also the first to command a U.S. Naval Communications Station.
In August 1984, he reported to the Pentagon for duty in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as director of military equal opportunity and then as deputy assistant secretary of defense for equal opportunity from April 1985 until July 1987. He then reported to Commander, Naval Telecommunications Command in Washington, D.C., for duty as assistant chief of staff for plans. He retired as a captain on April, 30, 1988 in Washington, D.C., having served as a Surface Warfare Officer for 30 years.
Captain Gamboa was certified as expert in two surface warfare sub-specialties: Politico-Military Affairs and Command and Control and Communications.
His awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Navy Meritorious Service Medal (three awards), and the Joint Service Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Navy Commendation Medal, and several campaign, service, and unit award ribbons.
Frank was president and majority owner of Gamboa International Corporation, a management consulting company, from 1994 until 2006. He was elected vice president of the USNA Class of 1958 in 1989 and continues to serve in that capacity.
Frank and his wife, the former Linda Marie Lehtio, reside in Fairfax, Va. Their son, John Frank “Jack” Gamboa, Jr., and his daughter, Emma, live in Portland, Ore. Their daughter Judith Ann Callsen and her husband Gary and her daughter Loren reside in Middleburg, Va.