Temple ISD awards its first ever honorary diploma to Tejano music icon Little Joe

Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 8:34 PM CDT
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TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) - Little Joe Hernandez, the Tejano music icon hailing from Temple, is now a high school graduate!

The five-time Grammy award winner and Tejano Texas Hall of Famer has had quite the life journey, but there was always one thing he didn’t have: a diploma.

Little Joe had to leave school after 7th grade for migrant work, and all of his education after that was gained through experience.

“He wasn’t able to finish school because he had to go pick cotton, and literally, drive his family around at 12-13 years old,” said his son, Isaac Hernandez, who is also the assistant principal at Temple High School.

Isaac said that because his father never got his diploma, he wanted so greatly for his children to have that sense of accomplishment.

The son says his father always told them an education is the one thing no one can ever take away from you. Because of that mindset, Little Joe poured his resources into improving education for the next generation.

“The money he would make, a lot of it would go back to education for supplies and showing up for school visits, whatever they needed,” says Hernandez.

This past week, Temple ISD paid it forward to Little Joe by awarding him with the school district’s first ever honorary high school diploma. When considering who to select, the Temple Education Foundation said choosing Little Joe was a no brainer.

“He’s kept his family in the Temple community, and continues to give back. And to pioneer Latino music, and really just do some extraordinary things,” said Brittany Norman, the Temple Education Foundation board chair.

What made the moment even more special was that it was signed and delivered by his son, Isaac Hernandez. Isaac says his father is very honored because this has always been a big thing for him, adding that it was only made better by getting to do the honors himself.

“I’m speechless, I was just so honored with everything that he does and has done for me. I’m in my position, a lot of that has to do with him,” Hernandez explains.

In his acceptance speech Little Joe said:

“It is with profound humility, appreciation and deep gratitude that I accept this marvelous award! I sometimes wonder, are you a better person for the books you’ve read or for the things you’ve done.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that the more books you read, the more and better things you do. That is why I want to thank Temple High School and all the hard working wonderful and dedicate educators.

“Muchisimas Gracias on behalf of my wife, my kids, my grandkids and my great granddaughter who are all graduates of Temple High. It is a blessing for me to have been born to my dad and mom’s family and to have been born in Temple. In 1974, I had an office in Los Angeles, California for my recording company where I found opportunities and possibilities that I would never find in Temple.

“So, like the Beverly Hillbillies, I packed up and moved to Los Angeles, only to find out that I am a country boy and needed my space and laid back pace and friendliness of this community. So I moved my family back to Temple.

“While music has taken me to different parts of the world and I have learned to appreciate other cultures and lifestyles, I know that I belong to Temple! I know that because no matter how far and wide I travel, I always get the great feeling of joy when I come home, to Temple. Arriba Temple!”