Frank Davila’s life was not rags to riches. But he did grow up working in the cotton fields in a migrant family and became an Army officer and a career educator with a doctorate.

Davila was founding president of the Denton League of United Latin American Citizens. He led in promoting bilingual education in the Denton schools in the 1970s, and he was the first bilingual program director in Denton ISD. He taught Spanish at Denton High School and was assistant principal at Robert E. Lee Elementary School (now Alice Alexander Elementary).

His new book, An Outburst of Dreams: A Memoir, is the story of his journey from the cotton fields of West Texas, where he began at the age of 6 as a water boy, to a doctoral degree and a career in education.

It paints a revealing picture of life as a migrant family in Texas and the close-knit families who helped one another in times of need. Several chapters are devoted to individual family members and their stories.

The Davila family lived in Marlin {span class=”TextRun SCXW54168793 BCX0” lang=”EN-US” xml:lang=”EN-US” data-contrast=”auto”}{span class=”NormalTextRun SCXW54168793 BCX0”}— a small town outside of Waco {span class=”TextRun SCXW54168793 BCX0” lang=”EN-US” xml:lang=”EN-US” data-contrast=”auto”}{span class=”NormalTextRun SCXW54168793 BCX0”}—{/span}{/span}{/span}{/span} but three months of every year they followed the cotton harvest.

Young Frank walked for 15 minutes to get to school at 7:30. He walked back home for a lunch of beans and tortillas.

“We walked home again trying to convince ourselves we didn’t like the cafeteria food although the main reason was because we didn’t have the money to eat at school,” Davila writes.

“We cruised the streets after the football games and tattooed ourselves with heated straight pins.”

The truck that had 15 people packed in the trunk bed took them to the fields. There was one mattress per family.

“Don Francisco and his wife had eight children,” Davila said, sketching a picture of life with a single bed. “At the restaurant, we had to take food to eat in the truck because we were not allowed inside.”

They swam in the Brazos River because they weren’t allowed in the swimming pools. There was a Mexican bloc in the cemetery. Davila went to school and then picked cotton after school when they were in Marlin. He went to a dozen schools in different towns.

There were seven children in a three-bedroom house in Marlin. Frank and his brother rotated sleeping on the floor.

After a week in the hot fields, on Saturday and Sunday they picked cotton free for the needy.

“My life as a migrant worker gave me many quiet and solitary opportunities to dream and envision my future,” he writes.

Davila was born in Marlin in 1945. He has twice survived cancer. After high school, he went to Dallas to live with cousins, aunts and two friends in a three-bedroom house. He got a job with a company that made lenses for eyeglasses.

His dad borrowed $400 so Davila could enroll in North Texas State University. He was the first in his family to go to college. At North Texas, he got involved in La Raza, and he and some friends formed Familias United.

“We later converted to the Council 4366 of LULAC. We registered voters and worked with the League of Women Voters,” he writes.

He married Pamela Morris in Midland in 1967.

Back to Denton for his senior year, he graduated from North Texas in 1968 and taught in secondary schools in McKinney.

In 1969, he went into the Army. He went to Officer Candidate School and became a lieutenant. He was honorably discharged in 1972.

Back in Denton, he received his master’s degree and taught in McKinney, then in Denton.

He was divorced and remarried and moved to Colorado. He received his doctoral degree from the University of Colorado in 1997. He now lives in Aurora, Colorado.

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