HARLINGEN, Texas – Retired Maj. Gen. Federico Lopez III, the first Hispanic commander-general of the 49th Armored Division, passed away Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Texas Guardsmen came together to honor their brother in arms with full military honors. Lopez was laid to rest at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Lopez served with the Texas National Guard for more than 38 years, beginning as a platoon leader with the 4-144th Infantry Regiment starting in February 1963 and retiring in 1998.
Lopez is survived by his wife, Enriqueta "Keta" Lopez, and two daughters, Laura and Melissa.
"My uncle was extremely influential on our family," a member of the Lopez family said. "He taught us to work hard and value service to the nation."
Lopez assumed command of the 2nd Brigade of the 49th Armored Division in 1990 and led the division in 1995. Lopez focused his efforts on increasing the quality of training in the force. In a 1997 report with Armor Magazine on the state of the 49th Armored Division, Lopez explained his philosophy:
"Do less better." said Lopez. "Stop trying to do more with less."
This philosophy led to relocating weekend drills away from Texas armories to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where infantry units and armor units would participate in combined drills to take advantage of top-of-the-line simulation technology.
Lopez helped modernize the division by upgrading the division with M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks. In addition, thousands of Texas Soldiers deployed under Lopez's command supported peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and supported efforts in Germany and Australia.
Lopez also mentored partner military leaders through the State Partnership Program. The program was established to developed relationships between state national Guards and allied nations. Texas leaders like Lopez worked together helping prepare the nation to enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which occurred in 1999, shortly after Lopez retired.
"Major General Lopez had a monumental impact on the Texas National Guard, said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas. "His leadership and innovation helped shape our force for the future. We are where we are today because of people like him."