Texas Black History Calendar

A listing of dates for significant events, prominent people, issues, places, and more. We will gladly consider your suggested entries for additions to the calendar.

January

Jan 1

On this day in 1929 the first black college football bowl game was played. The Prairie View Bowl was played at Houston’s West End Park, located in the Freedman’s Town area of Fourth Ward. With the exception of four games, the bowl game was played annually until 1963 on Jan. 1.


Jan 1

The 1948 Cotton Bowl football game in Dallas featured the first African Americans to participate in the game when Southern Methodist and Penn State played to a 13-13 tie. Penn State’s roster included running back Wally Triplett and wide receiver Dennie Hoggard. It was the first interracial game played at the stadium.


Jan 1

Adam (“Adan”) Paine, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, died on this day in 1877. Paine was a scout at Fort Duncan, Texas and received the MOH for his actions during a battle at Quitaque Peak where he defended himself and four other scouts against several bands of Comanche Indians on September 26, 1874. Thanks to his efforts during the engagement, all of the scouts survived. Paine’s commanding officer, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, said that Paine “has more cool (and) daring than any scout I have ever known.”


Jan 3

On this day in 1912, the founder of the Fatburger restaurant chain, Lovie Louise Yancey, was born in Bastrop. She moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1940s and at age 35 partnered with Charles Simpson to open their first restaurant, a three-stool hamburger stand in South Central Los Angeles in 1947. They called the business Mr. Fatburger, dropping the “Mr.” in 1952. By the end of 1985, the chain had over fifteen franchise sites throughout southern California. Noted as “The Last Great Hamburger Stand,” Fatburger now has restaurants in 29 countries, including China, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates. Yancey established a $1.7-million endowment at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California in 1986 for research into sickle-cell anemia as a dedication to her grandson who died of the disease. Yancey died of pneumonia on January 26, 2008, at the age of 96.


Jan 5

Alvin Ailey, dancer, choreographer and founder of the world famous Alvin Ailey Dance Theater was born on this day in 1931 in Rogers (Bell County). He made his Broadway debut in 1954 and in 1958 gained his first critical success for his choreography for Blues Suite, which also marked the beginning of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. His troupe, in 1970, became the first American dance company to tour the USSR in 50 years and received a 20-minute ovation for their performance in Leningrad.


Jan 5

The University of Texas at Austin made a historic hire on this day in 2014 when it announced that Charlie Strong would become the school’s new head football coach, making him the program’s 29th head coach and the first African American to hold the position since UT began playing football in 1893. In fact, he also became the first black coach for any of the school’s major men’s programs. Strong, 59, signed a five-year deal paying him $5 million annually making the Batesville, Ark. native one of the highest paid coaches in the country.


Jan 8

Theodore Roosevelt Youngblood, Sr. was born on this day in 1903 in Limestone County (east of Waco). Youngblood was a civic leader and headwaiter at the Driskill Hotel and Stephen F. Austin hotels in Austin. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1927 from Samuel Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University), however, his employment opportunities were limited to jobs such as porter at the Capitol and waiter at Austin hotels. He served as headwaiter at the Driskill and the Stephen F. Austin Hotel from the 1930s until his retirement in 1968. At those hotels, he put together and served receptions, dinner parties, and meetings for prominent white politicians, businessmen, educators, and cattlemen for the Austin area and the state of Texas including President Lyndon B. Johnson and governors Dolph Briscoe, John Connally, and Allan Shivers. Youngblood was chairman of the Negro Chamber of Commerce and president of the Huston College alumni association. He also entertained at his home many well-known black leaders such as NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall. Youngblood died on February 9, 1993, at age 90.


Jan 9

On this date in 1950 Dallas Cowboys running back Robert Newhouse was born in Longview. He starred at Galilee High School in Hallsville, situated between Longview and Marshall. The University of Houston was the only major school recruiting offer he received and with the Cougars, from 1969-1971, Newhouse set several rushing records and left the school as its all-time single-season rushing leader with 1,757 yards as a senior. That total, at the time, was the second most rushing yards in a season in NCAA history and earned Newhouse second team All-American honors. He was a second round draft pick by the Cowboys in 1972 and played all of his 12 NFL seasons with Dallas. Newhouse led the team in rushing with 930 yards in 1975.


Jan 10

On this day in 1949, heavyweight boxing champion and successful entrepreneur George Foreman was born in Marshall. Foreman, who would also become an ordained minister, went from being a street brawler in Houston’s Fifth Ward to the Job Corps program where he became a boxer and won a gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. He won his first heavyweight crown when he defeated Joe Frazier in 1973, then at age 44, became the oldest fighter to win the crown when he defeated Michael Moorer in 1994. Following his boxing career, Foreman became a pitchman for the “George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine,” which surpased sales of 100 million. In 1999, Foreman Grill manufacturer Salton, Inc. paid Foreman $137.5 million in cash and stock for rights to his name and image in what some have called one of the greatest sports marketing deals in history. Foreman was inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on June 8, 2003.


Jan 10

Teresa Graves, a singer and actress, was born on this day in Houston, in 1949. Graves was a regular on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” comedy show in 1969 and 1970. She also starred in the television police drama “Get Christie Love” in 1974-75, making her the first African American woman to star in her own hour-long drama television series.


Jan 10

Thelma Joyce White was born on this day in 1936 in Marlin. In March 1955, lawyers including the NAACP’s Thurgood Marshall, acting in her behalf filed suit in federal court seeking her admission to Texas Western College, part of the University of Texas System. Before White’s case, the law and medical schools and several graduate programs had been opened to blacks, but all undergraduate schools in Texas remained closed. White won the suit and blacks were admitted to TWC and other public universities in Texas. Ironically, White never attended the school, choosing instead to remain at nearby New Mexico A&M in Las Cruces where she had already begun studies.


Jan 11

On this day in 1945, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr., honored Houston’s Hugh McElroy for participating in bond drives as a speaker and poster model. McElroy was reportedly the first African American whose picture appeared as an advertisement for U.S. war bonds. At age 14, McElroy, a Kentucky native, lied about his his age and enlisted in the Tenth Cavalry. He served in Cuba in the Spanish-American War, in the Philippine Insurrection, and on Gen. John Pershing’s expedition into Mexico. Highly-decorated, McElroy retired in 1927 and settled in Houston.


Jan 12

Civil Rights activist James Farmer, Jr. was born on this day in 1920 in Marshall. A graduate of Wiley College, in 1942, Farmer co-founded and was national director of the Congress of Racial Equality which originated integrated bus trips through the South, called “Freedom Rides” to challenge local efforts to block the desegregation of interstate busing, and to support passage of Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts in the 1960s. As a result of CORE’s efforts, more than 100 Southern bus terminals were desegregated. In 1998, Farmer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Jan 12

Charlie “Choo Choo” Brackins was born this day in 1932 in Dallas. Brackins starred as a quarterback at Prairie View A&M, leading the Panthers to 33 wins in the 37 games he played from 1951 to 1955. In his brief (seven games) National Football League career, Brackins was a 16th round pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 1955 draft. On October 23,1955, Brackins played the final minutes of a game against the Cleveland Browns, making him the fourth black quarterback to play in an NFL game and the first player from an HBCU to play quarterback in the NFL. Brackins was voted to the Black College Football Hall of Fame with the 2013 class. He was a two-time Pittsburgh Courier All-American (1953 and 1954) and led PV to three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships (1952, 1953, 1954) and two Black College National Championships (1953 and 1954).


Jan 16

Debbie Allen, actress, director, producer and choreographer, was born on this date in 1950 in Houston. Allen graduated from Jack Yates High School in Houston. In 1989, she became the first African American woman hired by a television network as a director in prime time for the show, “Fame, ” for which she also won an Emmy in 1982 for Best Choreography. She also produced and directed the TV show “A Different World,” and was producer for the 1997 film “Amistad.” She has twice been nominated for Tony Awards — 1980, as Best Actress, “West Side Story”; 1986, as Best Actress (Musical), “Sweet Charity.”


Jan 16

On this day in 1943, Major General Marcelite Harris was born in Houston. She became the U. S. Air Force’s first African-American female general on May 1, 1991. Among her many other “firsts,” she was also the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She attained the rank of major general and was the highest ranking woman in the U.S. Air Force and the highest ranking black woman in the Department of Defense when she retired in 1997. She is the great granddaughter of I.M. Terrell, founder of the first school for blacks in Fort Worth.


Jan 16

Paul Gipson, University of Houston running back great, died at age 38 of a heart attack on this day in 1985 in Houston. Gipson had been the school’s all-time rushing leader (2,769 yards) and was a two-time All-America selection. He helped the Cougars to a 13-5-2 record and a pair of Top-20 national rankings during his final two seasons. He helped lead Houston to a No. 2 national ranking in 1967, the highest ranking in school history.


Jan 17

Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute began education classes on this date in 1881 in Austin. The school was chartered by the American Missionary Society of Congregational Churches and its namesake, George Jeffrey Tillotson, a Yale graduate and congregational minister from Connecticut. The school merged with Samuel Huston College in 1952 to form Huston-Tillotson College.


Jan 17

On this day in 1996, U.S. Congressman and educator Barbara Jordan died in Austin at age 59 from pneumonia and leukemia. A Houston native and graduate of Phillis Wheatley High School, Jordan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Eighteenth Texas District in 1973, becoming the first Black woman from a Southern state to serve in Congress. Jordan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and held the Lyndon Baines Johnson Public Service Professorship at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin. (See TIPHC Bookshelf for “Barbara Jordan, American Hero.”)


Jan 18

Major League Baseball player Curt Flood was born on this day in Houston in 1938. Flood’s antitrust litigation in 1970-71 challenging the major leagues’ reserve clause was unsuccessful, however, it led ultimately to the clause’s demise and ushered in the era of free agency for pro athletes. Flood grew up in California and signed his first professional contract while still a senior at Oakland Technical High School. He played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1958 to 1969 season as one of the league’s best center fielders. He batted over .300 in six seasons and had a career average (1956–71) of .293. At one time, he played in 226 consecutive games without committing an error and in 1966 was errorless for the entire season. He won seven consecutive Gold Gloves for defensive excellence. He received the NAACP Jackie Robinson Award for contributions to black athletes in 1992. His autobiography, The Way It Is, outlined his moral and legal objections to baseball’s reserve system. The book is considered required reading in the history of baseball’s labor movement.


Jan 18

On this date in 1898, George Dawson was born in Marshall. The grandson of a slave, Dawson was one of the oldest men in America to learn to read and write a book, after he entered a literacy program in Dallas at age 98. Dawson published his autobiography, “Life is So Good,” in 2000 at age 102.


Jan 20

On this day in 1889 musician Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter was born in Mooringsport, Louisiana (near Shreveport). Known as the “King of the 12-String Guitar,” he wrote children’s songs, field songs, ballads, square dance songs, prison songs, folk songs, and blues. He was five when his family settled in Bowie County. He picked up the nickname either as a play on his last name or as the result of being shot in the stomach with buckshot. Lead Belly’s song catalog consisted of well over 500 songs, including “Midnight Special,” “Kisses Sweeter than Wine,” and “Rock Island Line.” In 1950, The Weavers, a folk quartet, recorded a version of Lead Belly’s “Good Night, Irene” that spent 25 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 1.


Jan 20

Rod Paige was confirmed as the U.S. Secretary of Education on this date 2001, making Paige the first African-American secretary of education. Though from Monticello, Mississippi, Paige served for a decade as Dean of the College of Education at Houston’s Texas Southern University, after serving as the school’s athletic director. He also had a stint as the Tigers head football coach. From 1994-2001, he served as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.


Jan 21

On this day in 1922, George McJunkin died in Folsom, New Mexico. Born a slave in Midway, Texas, McJunkin is credited with one of the most significant finds in archeological history, “Folsom Man.” A cowboy and amateur archeologist, McJunkin was inspecting damage on the Crowfoot Ranch, where he was foreman, after a 1908 flood when he discovered bison bones. He realized the find was significant but no experts would look at his discovery until after his death in 1922. The remains were part of a Paleo-Indian site dating back as far as 9000 BCE, where ancient bison had been killed by early Indians using special tools, now referred to as Folsom points. With this find, scientists were able to establish a human presence in North America about 7,000 years earlier than had previously been thought. The site eventually yielded human remains that became known as “Folsom Man.”


Jan 21

On this date in 2007, Lovie Smith of Big Sandy, Texas became the first African-American professional head football coach to qualify a team for the NFL’s Super Bowl. Smith’s Chicago Bears beat the New Orleans Saints, 39-14, in the NFC championship game. Smith led the Big Sandy Wildcats to three consecutive state championships in high school and was all-state three times as an end and linebacker.


Jan 22

On this day in 1926, Dr. Herman A. Barnett, III was born in Austin. In 1950, he became the first black student at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. In the previous year, Barnett had been accepted to the school but as a student in Houston at Texas State University for Negroes (Texas Southern Univesity) attending UTMB under a contract program between the schools. The program was stopped after the Veterans Administration(Barnett’s tuition was covered by the GI Bill) refused to recognize the contract system and Barnett’s attorney threatened legal action. Barnett became a prominent surgeon and anesthesiologist and was a graduate of Huston College in Austin. During WWII, he was a Tuskegee Airman (332nd Fighter Group) and in 1968 became the first African-American to serve on the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. In 1973, Barnett was the first black elected president of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Independent School District.


Jan 22

Blues and gospel singer Blind Willie Johnson was born on this day in 1897 in Independence, Texas. While Jan. 22 is the date noted on his death certificate, other accounts list his birth on December 6, 1902 near Temple, Texas. Johnson recorded 30 songs, including his most popular, “Dark Was the Night – Cold Was the Ground,” a song about the crucifixion of Jesus.


Jan 23

John Saunders Chase, Jr. was born on this day in 1925 in Annapolis, Md. On June 7, 1950, when Chase enrolled at the University of Texas, the school became the first major university in the South to enroll an African-American. Chase earned a Master of Architecture degree in 1952 and became the first African-American graduate of the university. That same year, Chase became the first licensed African-American architect in Texas and was the only black architect licensed in the state for almost a decade.


Jan 24

On this date in 1975, J. Mason Brewer died. Brewer, considered the premier African-American folklorist of the twentieth century, was born in Goliad in 1896 and became the first author and speaker to use black American dialect extensively in front of and to all audiences, particularly when dealing with folklore. He was the first black member of both the Texas Folklore Society and the Texas Institute of Letters. His most noted works include “Aunt Dicy Tales,” and an anthology, “American Negro Folklore,” for which he won the Chicago Book Fair Award in 1968.


Jan 25

On this day in 1915, Independence Heights became the first incorporated black city in Texas. Located northeast of Houston, it had a population of 600 and G.O. Burgess was its mayor. The area was annexed to Houston on December 26, 1929.


Jan 26

Bessie Coleman was born on this date in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas. Thwarted by racism in her quest to become a pilot, Coleman eventually went to France to train and in 1921 became the first licensed black pilot in the world. As a stunt pilot, she became known as “Queen Bess” and “Brave Bessie” in 1995 the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Bessie’s honor and in 2000 was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. The main road to Atlanta’s airport is named Bessie Coleman Drive.


Jan 26

On this date in 1980, former L.C. Anderson High School band leader B.L. Joyce died in San Jose, California. Joyce was born in the late 1800s in Plaquemine, La. He attended Samuel Huston College in Austin before becoming band director at Anderson High School, from 1934 to 1955. Under his leadership, the band won the state championship seven times between 1940 and 1953 at the Prairie View Interscholastic League competitions. Among his many star pupils was noted jazz trumpeter Kenny Dorham.


Jan 26

On this date in 1970, contemporary gospel musician and producer Kirk Franklin was born in Fort Worth. A multi – Grammy Award winner, Franklin learned to play piano as an infant and by age 11 was leading the Mt. Rose Baptist Church adult choir in Dallas. His first album, 1993’s “Kirk Franklin & the Family,” spent 100 weeks on the gospel charts (several times as No. 1), crossed over to the R&B charts, and became the first gospel debut album to go platinum.


Jan 31

On this date in 1931, Ernie Banks was born in Dallas. Banks attended Washington High School where he was a multi-sport star. He played with the Negro Leagues’ Kansas City Monarchs before becoming the first black player for the Major League Baseball Chicago Cubs. Known as “Mr. Cub,” Banks hit more home runs than anyone else in the majors from 1955 to 1960. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977.


Jan 31

On this date in 1934, Broadway and movie star Etta Moten (born in Weimar) sang for President and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt at a White House dinner, marking the first time for an African-American woman to sing at the White House.


Jan 31

Roosevelt Leaks, the first African-American Texas Longhorns player to earn All-America honors, was born on this day in Brenham, TX, in 1953. Leaks rushed for 2,923 yards and 26 touchdowns in his three seasons at Texas. “Rosey” was a consensus All-America selection in 1973 and finished third that year in Heisman Trophy voting. He played nine seasons in the National Football League with the Baltimore Colts (1975-79) and Buffalo Bills (1980-83).

February

Feb 1

Jazz pianist great Joe Sample was born on this day in Houston in 1939. Sample, a graduate of Phillis Wheatley High School in 1956, teamed with Wheatley classmates Wayne Henderson (trombone), Wilton Felder (saxophone), and drummer Nesbert “Stix” Hooper to form the Jazz Crusaders in the 1960s and the group became wildly successful and critically acclaimed. Sample began playing piano at age 5, and at age 16 entered Texas Southern University and studied there for three years before the Jazz Crusaders left Houston for Los Angeles to begin the group’s phenomenal career. Sample was a leader or sideman on multiple gold and platinum albums and was popular as a studio musician, including for Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”


Feb 1

On this date in 1936, Azie Taylor was born in St. John Colony in Dale, Texas, near Austin. Taylor married James Homer Morton on May 29, 1965, and in 1977, President Jimmy Carter named her the 36th Treasurer of the United States for which she is still the only African-American to have held the position. She was a graduate of Huston-Tillotson University.


Feb 2

In 1995, on this date, Dr. Bernard Harris, Jr. became the first African-American to walk in space. A native of Temple, Texas, Harris was payload commander aboard Space Shuttle Discovery Mission STS-63, the first flight of the joint Russian-American Space Program. The main objective of the mission was to test systems and techniques to be used on later missions to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir.


Feb 2

On this date in 1927, musician Ernie Mae Miller was born in Austin. Miller was a graduate of L.C. Anderson High School, which was named for her grandfather. Miller played jazz, blues, gospel, and swing music and performed with the Prairie View Co-eds, a black, all-girl swing band from Texas that toured nationally during World War II. (See “Prairie View A&M University Coeds All Girl Band,” and “What if Jazz History Included the Prairie View Co-eds?” and the TIPHC Bookshelf for “Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II.”)


Feb 3

On this day in 1870 the 15th amendment was ratified ensuring the right to vote to all male citizens of the United States, regardless of color or previous condition of servitude. The 15th Amendment opened the door for the elections of African-Americans to the U.S. Congress and to Southern local and state offices. Republicans wanted the 15th Amendment passed to obtain the vote of the freed slaves. However, many women suffragists had worked alongside Black suffragists like Frederick Douglass to gain the right to vote for both groups. However, when the 15th Amendment passed, it angered many women suffragists and some of them spoke out against Black suffrage. Women would not gain the right to vote until 1920.


Feb 3

On this day in 1956, Irma Jean Sephas became first African American undergraduate student at North Texas State University. Sephas, 41, was from Fort Worth and majored in business with a music minor. She had previously attended Huston-Tillotson College in Austin.


Feb 5

On this day in 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas passed the Law of February 5. Though there were relatively few free blacks in the republic, legislators concerned over the status of slavery attempted to restrict further the number of free blacks. The law declared that all free blacks who had entered Texas after the Texas Declaration of Independence must leave the republic within two years or be declared slaves for the rest of their lives. Those free blacks who were already in the republic before Texas independence would continue to have all the rights of their white neighbors. Provisions were made for free blacks who entered later to petition the Congress for exception.


Feb 5

Alfred Masters, the first African American sworn into the U. S. Marine Corps, was born on this day 1916 in Palestine, Texas. Masters was sworn into the marines June 1, 1942. After his swearing in, he trained at Montford Point, North Carolina where other African Americans were later trained (now known as the Montford Point Marines). Masters eventually rose to the rank of technical sergeant.


Feb 6

Melvin Tolson, writer, educator, and poet, was born on this day in 1898 in Moberly, Missouri. A graduate of Lincoln (Mo.) University, Tolson began teaching speech and English at Wiley College in 1924. His award-winning debate team, which in 1935 beat the reigning national champion from the University of Southern California, had a 10-year winning steak between 1929 and 1939. Tolson also mentored students such as James L. Farmer, Jr. and Heman Sweatt. In 2007, his story and his team were portrayed in the film, “The Great Debaters.”


Feb 7

On this date in 1926, historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the son of illiterate slaves, initiated the first National Negro Week. In 1972, it was renamed Black History Week and in 1976, it became Black History Month. Said Woodson: “Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”


Feb 9

On this date in 1902, civil rights activist Juanita Craft was born in Round Rock. She worked as a maid in Dallas at the Adolphus Hotel from 1925-1934 before joining the Dallas branch of the NAACP in 1935 and beginning several decades of service. She helped organize 182 branches of the NAACP in Texas and in 1944 was the first black woman in Dallas County to vote. In 1946 she was the first black woman deputized in the state to collect the poll tax. Craft also served two terms on the Dallas City Council (1975-1979).


Feb 9

Dr. Lawrence Nixon was born on this day in 1883 in Marshall. Nixon had a successful practice in El Paso where he was a charter member of the city’s branch of the NAACP. In 1923, Nixon challenged a state law that barred African Americans from participating in the Texas Democratic Party’s white’s only electoral primaries. Nixon won two U.S. Supreme Court rulings making the primaries unconstitutional. However, it would be another 20 years before the white primary would finally be abolished.


Feb 13

On this day in 1873, Emmett J. Scott was born in Houston. Scott was a journalist and administrator who worked for the Houston Post, but in 1894 he founded Houston’s first black newspaper, the Houston Freeman, a weekly newspaper. For many years, Scott was the personal secretary for Booker T. Washington, and during World War I was in charge of Negro affairs as a special assistant to the U.S. Secretary of War. That position made Scott the highest ranking black person in President Woodrow Wilson’s administration and led to many changes for black soldiers with many of the issues they faced and the participation of black units in World War I outlined in Scott’s Official History of the American Negro in the World War (1919). Among the changes Scott helped to bring about were:

  • The continuance of training camps for black officers and the increase in their number and an enlargement of their scope of training.
  • Betterment of the general conditions in the camps where blacks are stationed in large numbers, and positive steps taken to reduce race friction to a minimum wherever soldiers of opposite races are brought into contact.
  • An increase from four to 60 in the number of black Army chaplains.
  • The opening of every branch of the military service to black men, on equal terms with all others, and the commissioning of many black men as officers in the Medical Corps.
  • Large increase in the number of black line officers with the total increasing from less than a dozen at the beginning of the war to more than 1,200.

Feb 13

In 1920, on this date, Rube Foster – a native of Calvert, Texas – led the founding of baseball’s first successful all-black league, the Negro National League, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. Foster was league president, as well as manager and player (pitcher) for the Chicago American Giants. He is known as “the father of black baseball.”


Feb 15

Dallas journalist and publicist Fay Jackson was born on this day in 1902. Jackson founded Flash in the late 1920s, the first black news magazine on the West Coast and during the 1930s she became the first black Hollywood correspondent with the Associated Negro Press (ANP). Jackson was also the ANP’s first black foreign correspondent.


Feb 17

On this date, Maud Cuney-Hare, daughter of prominent Texas Republican Norris Wright Cuney, was born on this day in Galveston. Cuney-Hare became a musician, author/folklorist, and music historian after studying piano at the New England Conservatory of Music. She taught music at the Texas Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youths in 1897 and 1898; at the settlement program of the Institutional Church of Chicago during 1900 and 1901; and at Prairie View State College (now Prairie View A&M University), in 1903 and 1904. Her best known work is the groundbreaking book Negro Musicians and Their Music.


Feb 18

On this day in 1941 sprinter and football player Homer Jones was born in Pittsburg, Tx. Jones attended Texas Southern University and participated in both track and football. He was a member of the 1962 U.S. Track team and clocked 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash, .02 behind the great Bob Hayes. Jones was drafted by the Houston Oilers in 1963 but was cut during training camp because of a knee injury, however, he was picked up by the New York Giants. He had a brief, seven-year career, but in 1967 caught 49 passes for 1,209 yards, averaging 24.7 yards per catch, and 13 touchdowns, leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns. For his career, Jones averaged 22.3 yards per catch, leading all receivers with more than 200 receptions.


Feb 19

Most Reverend Curtis J. Guillory became the first black Catholic bishop in Texas on this day in 1988. Guillory, a native of Mallet, Louisiana, was installed as auxiliary bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Galveston-Houston. He became the fifth bishop of the 34-year-old Beaumont Diocese on July 28, 2000 and the first African-American to be bishop of Beaumont – or ordinary of any diocese in Texas, for that matter. His father’s side of the family has been traced back to France. His mother’s side of the family has been traced to the Isle Dominica in the West Indies. He is the oldest of 16 children (six sons, ten daughters).


Feb 21

On this day in 1936, Congressman Barbara Jordan was born in Houston. A graduate of Phillis Wheatley High School, Jordan was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Eighteenth Texas District in 1973, becoming the first Black woman from a Southern state to serve in Congress. Jordan received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and held the Lyndon Baines Johnson Public Service Professorship at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.


Feb 21

Dolores Burton Linton, educator, was born on this day in 1910 in Seguin. In 1931, Linton converted a former dance hall to hold classes for black children living near San Antonio, but lacking transportation to regularly get to the city to attend school. Linton taught all six grades herself. In 1980, the Northside Independent School District named a new elementary school in her honor.


Feb 24

On this day in 1933, jazz saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman was born in Corsicana. Newman grew up in Dallas, graduating from Lincoln High School, then studying theology and music at Jarvis Christian College. For 12 years, beginning in 1954, he was a member of the Ray Charles Band and became the group’s lead tenor soloist. He also played with Herbie Mann, Aretha Franklin, Hank Crawford, Aaron Neville, and Austin’s Kenny Dorham. In 2005, Newman’s album, “I Remember Brother Ray,” was the most played jazz album in the nation.


Feb 26

Heman Sweatt, accompanied by a delegation from the NAACP, met with University of Texas president Theophilus S. Painter and other university officials on this day in 1946 to present a formal request for Sweatt’s admission to the UT law school. The legal case resulting from this request, Sweatt v. Painter, became a landmark civil rights decision, one of several that struck down the doctrine of “separate but equal” educational facilities. Sweatt finally registered at the school on September 19, 1950.


Feb 27

Negro Leagues pitcher Hilton Smith was born on this day in 1907 in Giddings. He played baseball at Prairie View A&M College and then, in 1931 with the Austin Black Senators and in 1932 the Monroe (La.) Monarchs. In 1937, he joined the Kansas City Monarchs, of the newly formed Negro American League and played there until 1948. With Kansas City, he frequently came on in relief of the great Satchel Paige. Smith was named to six consecutive East-West All-star Games (’37-42) and won 20 or more games in each of his 12 seasons with Kansas City, including a 93-11 record over a four-year span (’39-42). He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. Buck O’Neil, his teammate and close friend said of him, “From 1940 to 1946, Hilton Smith might have been the greatest pitcher in the world.”


Feb 28

On this date in 1945, All-Pro defensive end Charles “Bubba” Smith was born in Orange. Smith played for his father, Willie Ray Smith, at Beaumont Charlton-Pollard HS and attended Michigan State University where he was a two-time All-American defensive end. Smith was the first pick of the 1967 NFL draft by the Baltimore Colts, and was a member of their Super Bowl V winning team. During his nine-year career, he also played with the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers. After football, Smith became an actor, most noted for his roles in six “Police Academy” films. In 1988, he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame.

March

Mar 3

On this date in 1865, the Freedmen’s Bureau Bill was passed by the U.S. Congress. The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, better known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, was a branch of the U.S. Army created to provide practical aid to 4,000,000 newly freed Black Americans in their transition from slavery to freedom. The agency also helped whites left homeless by the Civil War. The Freedmen’s Bureau operated in Texas from late September 1865 until July 1870.


Mar 4

In 1960, on this day, students from Texas Southern University, led by Eldrewey Stearns, held Houston’s first sit-in protest at a Weingarten grocery store lunch counter. This protest introduced a new aspect in the struggle for equal rights in Houston and helped dismantle segregation in the city. By Aug. 25, 1960, supermarkets, drugstores and hotels had desegregated.


Mar 6

On this day in 1972, basketball star Shaquille O’Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey. His father was a U.S. Army sergeant and O’Neal spent part of his childhood in Germany, but began standing out on the basketball court at Cole Junior-Senior High School in San Antonio. In 1989, O’Neal led Cole to the 3A state championship and was named national high school Player of the Year. He played professionally for 19 seasons and won world championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.


Mar 6

Civil Rights activist Dr. Lonnie Smith died on this day in 1971. A native of Yoakum, Smith started a dental practice in Galveston in 1925 after graduating from Meharry Medical College in Nashville. He attempted to vote in the 1940 Democratic Primary but was denied a ballot at his Houston precinct because voting in was open only to whites. With help from the NAACP, Smith filed a suit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled in his favor. The ruling opened primary voting to all eligible Texans.


Mar 7

On this day in 1942, the first cadets graduated from flying school at Tuskegee, Alabama. In June 1943, the first squadron of black aviators, the 99th Pursuit Squadron, flew its first combat mission, strafing enemy positions on the Italian Island of Pantelleria. Overall, there were 32 Texans who graduated from the school between 1942 and 1946 and flew as Tuskegee pilots, and many others from Texas who served in support groups – mechanics, administration, etc.


Mar 9

Legendary Motown producer, composer, and musical director Gil Askey was born in Austin on this day in 1925. Askey attended the original Anderson High School and played trumpet in the marching band. At Motown, Askey was musical director for Diana Ross and worked with other artists, including Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, Marvin Gaye, and the Four Tops. Askey was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the 1972 film “Lady Sings The Blues” based on the life of Billie Holliday.


Mar 9

On this day in 1930, innovative jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman was born in Fort Worth. His album “Sound Grammar” received the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for music. By age 14, Coleman had taught himself to play the instrument and read music. In 2007, he also received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement. In 2009, Coleman received the Miles Davis Award from the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal for his contributions to the evolution jazz.


Mar 11

Prairie View A&M University opened its doors on this date in 1878 with an enrollment of eight students, all men, for the first state supported college in Texas for African Americans. The school, located 50 miles northwest of Houston, had its beginnings in the Texas Constitution of 1876, which, in separate articles, established an “Agricultural and Mechanical College” and pledged that “Separate schools shall be provided for the white and colored children, and impartial provisions shall be made for both.” Thus, Alta Vista Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth was established on August 14, 1876. Prairie View, a land-grant university authorized under the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890, is part of the Texas A&M System.


Mar 13

Rev. Claude W. Black passed away on this day in 2009 after serving for 50 years as the pastor of Mt. Zion First Baptist Church in San Antonio, and as a civil rights leader. Black was also a four-term city councilman (1973-1978) and the city’s first black Mayor Pro Tem.


Mar 15

Bluesman Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins was born on this day in 1912 in Centerville. At age eight he made his first instrument, a cigar-box guitar with chicken-wire strings. By ten he was playing music with his cousin, Texas Alexander, and Blind Lemon Jefferson, who encouraged him to continue. His 60-year career began in the 1920s and he recorded for almost 20 different record companies, played at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seger and Joan Baez and toured with the American Folk Blues Festival. Hopkins also played before Queen Elizabeth in a command performance. Some of his biggest hits included “Short Haired Women / Big Mama Jump!” (1947); “Shotgun Blues,” which went to Number 5 on the Billboard charts in 1950; and “Penitentiary Blues” (1959). Hopkins recorded a total of more than eighty-five albums.


Mar 15

Richard Henry Boyd was born on this date in 1843. Boyd was a preacher, missionary, entrepreneur, publisher, banker, educator, writer, and Black Nationalist who was born a slave in Noxubee County, Mississippi. Though his slave master christened him Dick Gray, he changed his name to Richard Henry Boyd after the Civil War. He served as a Texas Confederate body servant near the Battle of Chattanooga during the war. In 1869, Richard Boyd became a Baptist minister and in 1872 helped organize the Negro Baptist Convention of Texas. During the 1880s, he attended Bishop College strongly believing in the ideals of Black initiative and self-help for the former slaves.


Mar 16

Lucy Parsons, socialist and anarchist, was born this day in 1853 in Texas, though accounts differ as to her exact birthplace. Parsons had African American, Native American, and Mexican ancestry. She was a prominent feminist and early civil rights pioneer whose commitment to class struggle brought her to the front lines of the 1886 movement for the eight-hour workday. Parsons led mass hunger demonstrations of homeless and unemployed people in San Francisco and Chicago and was a powerful orator and activist. Considered a dangerous, explosive and robust threat to authorities, the Chicago police labeled Parsons “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.”


Mar 19

On this date, in 1966, the Texas Western University (now Univ. of Texas at El Paso) basketball team upset heavily-favored Kentucky, coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp, to win the NCAA national championship. Texas Western coach Don Haskins started five black players against the all-white Wildcats. Rupp had vowed that his team would never lose to black players. It marked the first time an all-black five competed against an all-white five in the NCAA title game. David Lattin – who starred at Houston’s Worthing High School – was the starting center for the Miners. The team’s story was highlighted in the movie, “Glory Road.”


Mar 20

Politician Willie Brown was born on this day in 1934 in Mineola. Brown became the first African American speaker of the California State Assembly in 1980 and served until 1995, the longest tenure for any of the Assembly’s speakers. From 1996-2004, Brown was mayor of San Francisco.


Mar 21

Actor Al Freeman, Jr. was born on this day in 1934 in San Antonio. Freeman starred on Broadway in the 1960s in productions such as “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” and in plays by James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones such as “Blues for Mister Charlie.” In 1979, he became the first African American to receive a Daytime Emmy for a soap opera for his role as a police captain on “One Life to Live.” He also drew critical acclaim for his portrayal of Malcolm X in the mini-series “Roots: The Next Generations,” and in 1991 played Elijah Muhammad in the Spike Lee movie “Malcolm X.”


Mar 21

On this date in 1967, Barbara Jordan became the first black elected official to preside over the Texas State Senate. She was Texas’ first black state senator since 1883.


Mar 22

The first black state convention met in Austin on this day in 1866. The event, organized by the Texas State Central Committee of Colored Men, focused on the concerns – economic, political, civil rights – of black Texans. Rev. Jacob Fontaine presided over the meeting. Several similar conventions were held in the following years, the last in Houston in 1895, and some delegates were sent to national conventions to express those concerns.


Mar 23

Former Atlanta (Ga.) mayor Maynard Jackson was born on this date in 1938 in Dallas. Jackson was Atlanta’s first black mayor, serving from 1973-1981 and 1989-1993 and was the first African American to serve as chief executive of any major Southern city. Jackson and his family moved to Atlanta when he was seven years old. He earned a political science degree from Morehouse College in 1956, then a law degree from North Carolina Central in 1964.


Mar 24

On this date in 1896, folklorist J. Mason Brewer was born in Goliad. Brewer, considered the premier African-American folklorist of the twentieth century became the first author and speaker to use black American dialect extensively in front of and to all audiences, particularly when dealing with folklore. Brewer attended black public schools in Austin and in 1917 received a B.A. from Wiley College in Marshall. In 1926, he was a professor at Samuel Huston (now Huston-Tillotson) College in Austin when he met University of Texas professor J. Frank Dobie who influenced Brewer to turn from publishing his own poetry to collecting and publishing black folklore. He was the first black member of both the Texas Folklore Society and the Texas Institute of Letters. Brewer’s most noted works include “Aunt Dicy Tales,” and an anthology, “American Negro Folklore,” for which he won the Chicago Book Fair Award in 1968.


Mar 28

This day marks the death of Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Pompey Factor in 1928 near Brackettville. Factor was a black Seminole and a former slave who served as a U.S. Army scout working with the 24th Infantry, a Buffalo Soldier regiment. He received the MOH for his actions on April 25, 1875 at Eagle’s Nest Crossing near present-day Langtry, Texas when he helped rescue unit commander Lieutenant John L. Bullis, who was under heavy fire and nearly surrounded in a skirmish with Comanche Indians.


Mar 29

Running back Earl Campbell, the first Heisman Trophy winner for the University of Texas football program, was born this day in Tyler in 1955. He attended John Tyler High School then starred for the Longhorns, becoming the first player to earn All-Southwest Conference honors four years (1974-1977). As a senior in 1977, he led the nation in rushing with 1,744 yards and was awarded the Heisman. Campbell was the first overall pick of the 1978 National Football League draft by the Houston Oilers with who he was a 1978 Rookie of the Year, three-time league Most Valuable Player, and league-leading rusher three times. In 1990, he was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame and the following year to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1981, the Texas Legislature enshrined Campbell as an Official State Hero Of Texas, an honor that had been bestowed on only three others – Davy Crockett, Stephen F. Austin, and Sam Houston.


Mar 30

On this date in 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant signed an act to readmit Texas to Congressional representation after Texas voters approved a revised state constitution, as required under the Radical Reconstruction, and elected a state government in November 1869. The new Legislature convened and ratified the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the final requirements for readmission to the Union. The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery, the 14th granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves, and the 15th guaranteed black men, including freed slaves, the right to vote.


Mar 31

On this date in 1878, boxer John Arthur “Jack” Johnson was born in Galveston. Johnson would become the first African American to win the world heavyweight title in 1908 when he defeated Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia via decision in a 14-round bout. In 113 fights, Johnson lost only eight and is considered one of boxing’s all-time greats. Former champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement to challenge the black champion and was billed as “The Great White Hope” when they met on July 4, 1910, in Reno, Nevada. In what was called, “The Fight of the Century,” Johnson soundly beat Jeffries. In 1990, Johnson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

April

Apr 2

On this date in 1932, Bill Pickett, the cowboy who invented the technique of “bulldogging” steers, passed away after being kicked in the head by a horse. On his radio show, Pickett’s friend Will Rogers announced the funeral at the 101 Ranch, near Ponca City, Okla., commenting: “Bill Pickett never had an enemy, even the steers wouldn’t hurt old Bill.” Known as the “Dusky Demon,” Pickett was a native of Taylor, northeast of Austin. In 1971, he became the first black man elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma. In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service honored him as part of its Legends of the West series of stamps.


Apr 3

In 1886, musician Arthur “Dooley” Wilson was born on this day in Tyler. Wilson is most notably known for his role as “Sam,” the piano player in the Humphrey Bogart film, “Cassablanca,” and the target of the famous line, “Play it again, Sam,” in reference to the song, “As Time Goes By.” Ironically, Wilson was actually a drummer and couldn’t play piano. In the film, he mimicked the hand movements of an off-screen pianist. Wilson also appeared on Broadway, including the play, “Cabin in the Sky.”


Apr 3

In 1944, on this day, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Smith v. Allwright that Texas’ “White primaries” could not exclude black voters. Civil Rights activist Dr. Lonnie Smith, a dentist, had attempted to vote in the 1940 Democratic Primary but was denied a ballot at his Houston precinct because voting was open only to whites. With help from the NAACP, Smith filed a suit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled in his favor, opening primary voting to all eligible Texans.


Apr 4

On this day in 1974, Oscar DuConge (pronounced “dew-con-jay”) was elected Waco’s first African American mayor. Born in Pass Christian, Miss., the ninth of 14 children, DuConge grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Xavier University in 1931 with a degree in sociology. He moved to Waco in September 1948 following World War II and serving in the Army. He rose to political prominence when he was elected to the Waco City Council in 1972.


Apr 4

Paul Quinn College was founded by a small group of African Methodist Episcopal preachers in Austin on this day in 1872. The school was relocated to Waco in 1877 and then to Dallas in 1990. The school is the oldest liberal arts college for African Americans in Texas and was named after William Paul Quinn who was A.M.E. Bishop of the Western States.


Apr 5

Six weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Archbishop Robert Lucey announced on this day in 1954 that all of San Antonio’s parochial schools and the city’s two Catholic colleges would be integrated.


Apr 6

Jazz pianist and black activist Horace Tapscott was born this day in Houston in 1934. By age six he had become a competent pianist. His family moved to Los Angeles in 1943 and Tapscott began his career and would play with Lionel Hampton though primarily as a trombonist, and would be a member of Motown Records’ West Coast band, backing such groups as the Supremes. Tapscott founded the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, also known as the Ark, a collective group dedicated to preserving and developing African-American musical traditions and promoting cultural and musical education. It also distributed free food to families in Watts and made available meeting space for black radicals such as Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown. Tapscott released fourteen albums.


Apr 7

On this day in 1954, All-Pro running back Tony Dorsett was born in Rochester, Pa. At the University of Pittsburgh, Dorsett won the 1976 Heisman Trophy and was a first round pick (No. 2 overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 1977 NFL Draft. He was Offensive Rookie of the Year and in 1994 was inducted to both the Pro Football and College Football halls of fame. That same year, he was also enshrined in the Texas Stadium Ring of Honor. Dorsett rushed for 12,739 yards (8th all-time) and 77 touchdowns in his 12-year career. His 99-yard touchdown run on January 3, 1983 against the Minnesota Vikings is the longest run from scrimmage in NFL history. See the run here.


Apr 9

On this day, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 became effective, granting citizenship and the same rights enjoyed by white citizens to all male persons in the United States “without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.” President Andrew Johnson‘s veto of the bill was overturned by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, and the bill became law.


Apr 9

On this day in 1895, blues singer and guitarist Bowdie Glenn Lipscomb was born in Navasota. As a youngster, Lipscomb would take the name “Mance,” short for “Emancipation,” the name of an elder family friend. Lipscomb, who preferred to be known as a “songster” because of the variety of songs he sang, was discovered and first recorded in 1960 during the country blues revival. The annual Navasota Blues Festival is held in his honor. A bronze sculpture of him was unveiled in Mance Lipscomb Park in Navasota on 2011.


Apr 10

Golfer Lee Elder, a Dallas native, became the first African-American to play in the Masters Tournament on this day in 1975. Leading to the tournament, Elder endured hate mail that said he would never make it to Augusta and that he should “watch your step when you get to Augusta,” and that “there will be blood.” Undaunted, Elder competed in the tournament, but missed the cut after shooting 152 (8-over par) for the first two rounds.


Apr 12

Richard Harvey Cain was born on this day in 1825 in Virginia to free parents. Cain was a political and civic leader of the Charleston, South Carolina reconstruction era. In 1848, he joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was a minister in Muscatine, Iowa. He became a bishop of the church in 1880 and was assigned to the Louisiana and Texas district. That same year, he helped found Paul Quinn College in Austin, serving as the school’s president until 1884.


Apr 13

On this date in 1924, internationally acclaimed artist, sculptor, teacher and philosopher John Biggers was born in Gastonia, North Carolina. After studying at Hampston Institute and Penn State University, Biggers moved to Houston in 1949 and became founding chairman of the art department at Texas Southern University, then called Texas State University for Negroes. He held the position for 34 years during which he initiated a mural program for art majors in which every senior student was expected to complete a mural on campus: there are now 114 such murals on the Texas Southern campus. In 1957, with the help of a grant from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Biggers was one of the first American black artists to visit Africa to study African traditions and culture.


Apr 13

On this day in 1952 David Hoskins started for the Dallas Eagles making him the first black player in the Class AA Texas League. The Eagles were affiliated with the Cleveland Indians. Hoskins was born in Greenwood, Mississippi, on August 3, 1925 but moved to Flint, Mich. with his family in 1936. He played for the Homestead Grays in the Negro American League and in 1948 broke a color barrier as an outfielder with Grand Rapids of the Central League. With the Eagles, Hoskins was an immediate draw and by the season’s end had pitched before sellout crowds at every stadium in the league and led the league in wins (22), complete games (26), innings pitched (280), and had an ERA of 2.12. He also hit .328 and was an all-star selection. He was inducted into the Texas League Hall of Fame in 2004. In 1953, Hoskins was signed by the Indians and played for two seasons, 1953-54. For his Major League career, Hoskins was 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA and .227 batting average.


Apr 14

On this day in 1935, Julius “Jay” Parker, Jr. was born in New Braunfels. Parker attended Prairie View A&M University where he completed the Reserve Officers Training Corps curriculum in 1955. Parker rose to the rank of major general and became the highest ranking African-American Military Intelligence Officer in the history of the U.S. Army. He is also a direct descendant of Quanah Parker, the last chief of the Comanche nation.


Apr 14

Born in Houston on this day in 1938, Gloria Dean Randle Scott became the first African-American president of the Girl Scouts of America. A civic and educational leader, she took the post in 1975. Scott graduated from Jack Yates High School and received post graduate degrees, including education, from Indiana University. She had been a Junior Girl Scout at and later served as President of the Negro Girl Scout Senior Planning Board. In 1987, she was selected as president of Bennett College, in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 2001, she returned to Texas and was very active in the Corpus Christi community, including the Black Chamber of Commerce.


Apr 16

National Football League defensive back Dick “Night Train” Lane was born in Austin on this day in 1928. After serving in the Army during World War II and the Korean War, Lane was signed as a free agent in 1952 with the Los Angeles Rams, though he’d only played at Austin Anderson High School and Scottsbluff (Neb.) Junior College. During his 13-year career, Lane was known as ferocious, intimidating hitter and was responsible for the banishment of the clothesline tackle. Lane’s 14 interceptions in 1952 still stands as an NFL record for rookies. In 1969, just four years after his retirement, he was voted the best cornerback in the first 50 years of the NFL, and in 1974 was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2001, he was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame.


Apr 17

Two-time All-Pro running back Delvin Williams was born on this day in 1951 in Houston. Williams graduated from Kashmere Gardens High School in 1970 and was a Parade Magazine All-American and one of the most sought after prep running backs in the country, recruited by every major college football program. Williams chose the University of Kansas and four years later became a second round pick of the San Francisco Forty-Niners. He thrived in the National Football League for eight seasons, becoming the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season for two different teams (Niners and Miami Dolphins). Williams was also the first player in NFL history to set rushing records for two different teams, and to be named to the Pro Bowl for both an AFC & NFC team.


Apr 18

On this day in 1924, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown was born in Vinton, Louisiana. Brown was raised in Orange, Texas where he learned to play several instruments beginning with fiddle at age 5, followed by guitar, mandolin, viola, harmonica, and drums. Brown got his nickname from a high school teacher who said he had a voice “like a gate.” He made dozens of recordings in the 1940s and ’50s, including many regional hits – “Okie Dokie Stomp,” “Boogie Rambler,” and “Dirty Work at the Crossroads.” He was nominated six times for Grammy Awards and was awarded one in 1983 in the “Traditional Blues” category for his album, “Alright Again.”


Apr 21

This date marks the commemoration of the song The Yellow Rose of Texas. The song grew out of the Battle of San Jacinto when Texas forces led by Sam Houston defeated the Mexican troops of Gen. Santa Anna in 1836 and won Texas’ independence from Mexico. The song is a tribute to a woman (Emily West) who supposedly “entertained” the Mexican general, delaying his preparations for the battle, while the Texians successfully attacked and defeated his army in an 18-minute skirmish.  However, the woman’s true identity and actual role, if any, in the battle is the subject of great debate. Generally, she is thought to have been a light-skinned mulatto, but other theories say she was Hispanic. The songs’ composer is also a mystery, though its original lyrics seem to suggest a black man:
There’s a yellow rose in Texas
That I am going to see
No other darky (sic) knows her
No one only me
She cryed (sic) so when I left her
It like to broke my heart
And if I ever find her
We nevermore will part.


Apr 23

On this date in 2004, Earl Pearson, then a 28-year veteran of the Texas Department of Public Safety, was named chief of the Texas Ranger Division. With his promotion, Pearson became the first black Senior Ranger Captain and the first black DPS division chief. Pearson grew up in Rotan.


Apr 23

On this day in 1928, black college football great Odie Posey was born in Austin. Posey, a running back, graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in San Antonio and then attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, La. on a tennis scholarship. Posey teamed with Harold Jones in 1947 to capture the Prairie View Interscholastic League 2A Boys’ Double state championship title. At Southern, Posey became the best running back in school history. His 1,399-yards rushing total in 1949 led the nation (NCAA Division II) and still stands as the highest single-season mark in school history. During his four years at Southern, the Jaguars were 46-2-2 (undefeated, 12-0, in 1948), won three Black College National Championships, four Southwestern Athletic Conference titles and two bowl games, including the 1948 Fruit Bowl Championship against San Francisco State University. Posey was a four-time Pittsburgh Courier All-American and a four-year All-SWAC selection.


Apr 24

On this date in 1944, The United Negro College Fund was incorporated with 27 member schools (now 38). Mary Branch, president of Tillotson College in Austin, helps to establish the organization. The UNCF’s mission is to enhance the quality of education by raising operating funds for their member colleges and universities, providing financial support to deserving students, and increasing access to technology for students and faculty at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Both The Non-Profit Times and The Chronicle of Philanthropy have ranked UNCF among the top 10 charitable educational organizations in the country.


Apr 25

Robert Leon Wormley, who opened the first black-owned insurance agency (Wormley-Mitchell & Associates) in Austin in 1954, died on this day at age 82 in 2010. A Minneapolis, Minn. native, Wormley was a Civil Rights activist who helped picket businesses that practiced segregation and worked to improve life for Austin’s black community. He worked on poverty issues for Govs. Preston Smith and John Connelly. Wormley was the first black member of the Independent Insurance Agents of Austin.


Apr 29

This date marks the birth of physician J. Edward Perry in 1870 in Clarksville, Texas. Born to former slaves, Perry graduated from Bishop College in Marshall in 1891 then from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. in 1895. On November 1, 1910 he founded the Perry Sanitarium and Training School for Nurses (and doctors) to tend black patients in Kansas City. The sanitarium was renamed Wheatley-Provident Hospital in 1915 and Dr. Perry served as its superintendent from 1910 until 1930. At age 76, Perry came out of retirement to serve as executive director of the Houston Negro Hospital in March 1947. Through his dedicated efforts, the hospital became accredited and affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine.


Apr 29

In 1892, Carter W. Wesley, newspaperman and political activist, was born on this day in Houston. Wesley received a B.A. degree from Fisk University in Nashville in 1917, entered the Army and became one of the first black officers in the U.S. military. After serving in World War I, he earned a law degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and in 1927 returned to Houston where he bought into a newly formed publishing company which owned the Houston Informer newspaper. In 1934, he became publisher and used the paper as a platform to battle racism and to speak on behalf African Americans. Wesley was also a founder of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a federation of more than 200 black community newspapers across the United States.


Apr 29

Carl Edward Gardner, an original member of the 1950’s R&B/Rock and Roll group The Coasters, was born on this day in 1928 in Tyler. Gardner moved to Los Angeles in 1952 and sang with The Robins, a group that included Bobby Nunn, from 1954-1955. Gardner and Nunn left the Robins to help form the Coasters in the fall of 1955. Gardner led on such Coasters’ hits as ‘Poison Ivy,’ ‘Yakety Yak‘ and ‘Charlie Brown.’ The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987 as the first vocal group receiving that honor. The Coasters had six gold records (million sellers).

May

May 1

On this day in 1991, Marcelite Harris became the U.S. Air Force’s first African-American female general. Harris is a Houston native who graduated from Kashmere Gardens High School in 1960. Among her many other “firsts,” she was also the first woman aircraft maintenance officer, one of the first two women air officers commanding at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the first woman deputy commander for maintenance. She was the highest ranking woman in the U.S. Air Force and the highest ranking black woman in the entire Department of Defense when she retired in 1997.


May 1

Olympic sprinter and National Football League running back Ollie Matson was born on this day in 1930 in Trinity, Texas. At age 14, he moved with his family to San Francisco, and in 1952 earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of San Francisco. In 1951, he led the nation with 1,566 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns and was named an All-American as a defensive back. The next year, he won a bronze medal in the 400-meter dash and a silver medal as part of the 4×400-meter relay team at the Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland and was the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Chicago Cardinals. In his 14-year career, Matson set a league record with nine career touchdown returns and retired with 12,884 combined net yards (rushing, receiving, and returns), an NFL record at the time. He also played with the Los Angeles Rams, the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams traded eight players and a draft choice to the Cardinals to get Matson in 1959, in one of the biggest deals in league history. Matson was a six-time All-Pro and shared Rookie of the Year honors in 1952 with San Francisco 49ers running back Hugh McIlhenny. In 1972, the first year he was eligible, Matson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and in 1976 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.


May 2

On this day in 2009, the Texas Medical Association (TMA) elected Houston neurologist William H. Fleming III as its 144th president and the first African American to lead the group. A native of Memphis, Fleming was named a Texas Super Doctor by Texas Monthly magazine In 2005 and 2006, and Top Doctor by Houston magazine in 2007.


May 8

On this day in 1958, Lovie Lee Smith was born in Big Sandy, Texas. In high school, he led the Big Sandy Wildcats to three consecutive state championships and was all-state three years as an end and linebacker. Smith was a two-time All-America and three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference defensive back at the University of Tulsa. As head coach of the Chicago Bears, in 2007, he became the first African-American professional head coach to qualify a team for the Super Bowl when the Bears beat the New Orleans Saints, 39-14, in the NFC championship game. However, the Bears lost in Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts, 29-17.


May 9

In 1974, U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan was among the members of the House Judiciary Committee which opened hearings on whether to recommend the impeachment of President Richard Nixon in the Watergate controversy. On July 25th, Jordan delivered a powerful message to the committee reminding her colleagues of the Constitutional basis for impeachment. Jordan asserted, “My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction of the Constitution.”


May 11

In 1994, Dr. Carol Surles becomes first African-American president of Texas Women’s University in Denton. A native of Florida, Surles earned her undergraduate degree in psychology at Fisk University in Nashville, her master’s degree in counseling from Chapman College in California, and her doctoral degree in education from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


May 12

On this day in 1846, Norris Wright Cuney was born on a plantation near Hempstead. Cuney was the child of a white planter, Philip Minor Cuney and his slave, Adeline Stuart. Norris was educated at the Wylie Street School for blacks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He returned to Texas following the Civil War and settled in Galveston, where he became active in the Union League, the political arm of Radical Republican Reconstruction in Texas. Cuney became a powerful figure in Texas’ Republican circles, especially in Galveston and was appointed secretary of the Republican State Executive Committee in 1873, the highest party rank achieved by a Southern African American in the remaining decades of the century. In 1886, he was named the Republican Party’s national committeeman from Texas.


May 15

Robert Hughes, the most successful high school basketball coach in Texas history, was born this day in 1928 in Bristow, Oklahoma. After a tour in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict, Hughes played college basketball at Texas Southern University, gaining acclaim as a prolific scorer. In 1958, he became head coach at Fort Worth’s segregated high school I.M. Terrell. During his 16 years there (1958-1973), Hughes’ teams compiled a 373-84 record and won three Prairie View Interscholastic League (PVIL) state championships (1963, 1965 & 1967). The PVIL was the governing body for academic and athletic competitions for Texas’ African American high schools. With integration of public schools during 1973, Hughes became coach at Fort Worth Dunbar High School, where he remained until he retired in 2005. During his tenure at Dunbar, the “Flying Wildcats” won two state championships (1993 & 2003), and on three occasions finished second in the state. His teams made thirty consecutive trips to the state championship, and only had one losing season.


May 15

On this day in 1969, Dallas Cowboys’ great Emmitt Smith was born in Pensacola, Fla. Smith played collegiately at Florida, where he set 58 school records, then was the Cowboys first round pick (number 17 overall) in the National Football League‘s 1990 draft. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, a four-time first-team All-Pro and led the league in rushing four times (1991, 1992, 1993, 1995). In 2002, Smith passed Chicago Bears great Walter Payton and became the league’s all-time rushing leader on an 11-yard gain in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 17-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Smith retired two years later with 18,355 yards to Payton’s 16,726. He was inducted to the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor in 2005 and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.


May 17

The U.S. Supreme Court, on this day in 1954, handed down its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education declaring segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. The court had consolidated five cases dealing with racial segregation in public schools (in Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia) under one name, Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka. Oliver Brown brought the case against the Topeka, Kan. Board of Education because his daughter, Linda, in third grade, had to cross railroad tracks and ride a school bus 21 blocks to a black school, even though there was a white school only five blocks away from her home. The court ruled unanimously that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The 1946 Heman Sweatt case against the University of Texas School of Law was a precedent for the ruling.


May 20

On this day in 1881, Mary Elizabeth Branch was born to a family of former slaves near Farmville, Virginia. Branch received a bachelor’s degree in 1922 and a master’s degree in English in 1925, both from the University of Chicago. In 1930, the American Missionary Association appointed her president of Tillotson College in Austin, making her the first woman to head an accredited college in Texas. Under her direction the college’s facilities were improved, the library’s holdings were expanded, and the faculty size doubled. She also permitted the organization of fraternities and sororities, and encouraged the formation of academic and athletic clubs. In 1944, Branch helped to establish the United Negro College Fund.


May 21

On this day in 2005 Dallas civic leader Samuel William Hudson, Jr. passed away. Hudson was the city’s first African American to serve on a grand jury. As a civil rights activist, his efforts lead to the desegregation of Southern Methodist University’s School of Theology and the admittance of black patients to Methodist Hospital. Hudson graduated from Bishop College and was the father of former State Representative Sam Hudson, III.


May 22

Marguerite Ross Barnett was born on this date in 1942. In 1990, she became the first woman and the first African-American to hold the office of president of the University of Houston. From Charlottesville, Virginia she grew up in Buffalo, New York and earned a political science degree from Antioch College and master’s and doctorate degrees in political science from the University of Chicago. A recognized scholar in political science, she taught at Princeton, Howard, and Columbia. At UH, she succeeded in raising more than $150 million for the institution, establishing the Texas Center for Environmental Studies, and instituting the nationally renowned Bridge Program, which aided and motivated disadvantaged students to make a successful transition from high school to college.


May 23

On this day in 1973, Houstonian Don Robey sold Duke-Peacock Records, one of the first nationally-successful black-owned labels, to ABC-Dunhill, bringing an end to an important era in the Texas recording industry. Robey founded Peacock Records in 1949 to promote his featured artist,  Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. In 1952, Peacock merged with Duke Records which added to Robey’s roster R&B musicians such as Junior Parker, Bobby Blue Bland, Big Mama Thornton, and Johnny Ace. Robey’s Duke-Peacock Records helped shaped the sound of early rock ‘n’ roll and left a lasting imprint on American popular music.


May 24

Former Negro Leagues star and Tuskegee Airman John “Mule” Miles died on the day in 2013 at age 91 in his home town, San Antonio. During World War II, he served as a mechanic for the 99th Pursuit Squadron. After that, he played for the Chicago American Giants from 1946 to 1949 and in 1947 hit 11 home runs in 11 straight games, a feat that has never been equaled. Giants’ manager Candy Jim Taylor, gave Miles his nickname saying that he “hit like a mule kicks.” Miles played alongside such greats as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Satchel Paige.


May 25

Pioneering journalist George McElroy, “Mr. Mac,” was born on this day in 1922 in Houston. McElroy was the first black columnist for the Houston Post, and was also the first African-American to earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, which he attended on a scholarship from the Wall Street Journal. McElroy began his career at age 16 earning $2 a week writing a youth column for the Houston Informer, the city’s oldest black newspaper. Years later, he became the paper’s executive editor. McElroy, the recipient of numerous honors, taught journalism at Houston’s black high schools, as well as Texas Southern University (his alma mater) and the University of Houston.


May 25

Professional basketball great K.C. Jones was born on this day in 1932 in Taylor. At age nine, he moved with his mother to San Francisco where he starred in football and basketball at Commerce High School. At the University of San Francisco, Jones teamed with Bill Russell in leading the Dons to 56 consecutive wins and back-to-back NCAA championships in 1955 and 1956. Jones also played professionally with Russell on the powerful Boston Celtics teams as a defensive standout in late 1950s and 1960s. He was also a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic Basketball Team that won a gold medal at Melbourne, Australia. Jones won eight championship rings as a player, one as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Lakers, one as an assistant coach with the Celtics, and two as head coach of the Celtics. He was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1989.


May 28

On this day in 1910, guitarist Aaron Thibeaux Walker, “T-Bone,” was born in Linden. Walker became one of the most influential musicians on the blues scene and his 1947 hit, “Call It Stormy Monday,” is a blues standard. Walker grew up in Dallas and as a teenager led bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson around the city collected tips for Jefferson’s street performances. Walker revolutionized the blues as one of the first (possibly THE first) to perform with an electric guitar. A great showman, Walker would play the guitar behind his head while doing the splits or play the guitar with his teeth. His performance style influenced artists like Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix. Walker was awarded a Grammy in 1970 for his album “Good Feelin’“. He was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He was ranked 47th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.


May 29

On this day in 1973, Calvert, Texas native Tom Bradley was elected as the first African American Mayor of Los Angeles. Bradley served for twenty years which is longer than any other mayor of the city. Born the son of sharecroppers and the grandson of a slave in Calvert, Bradley was instrumental in much of Los Angeles’s growth and it’s hosting of the 1984 Summer Olympics. Los Angeles became the nation’s second most populated city under his administration. Upon retiring from Mayor in 1993, Bradley ran unsuccessful campaigns for Governor of California in 1982 and 1986.

June

Jun 4

In 1991, on this day, Baltimore Orioles manager Frank Robinson is named assistant general manager of the club, only the third African American to become an assistant GM. As a player with the Orioles, Robinson, a Beaumont native, won the triple crown (leading the league in home runs (49), runs batted in (122), and batting average (.316) in 1966. Robinson began managing the Cleveland Indians in 1975 as the first African American to manage a major league team. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.


Jun 5

On this day in 1950, The U.S. Supreme Court ordered Heman Sweatt admitted to the University of Texas Law School. In handing down its decision in Sweatt v. Painter, the Court concluded that black law students were not offered substantial quality in educational opportunities and that Sweatt could therefore not receive an equal education in a separate law school. Sweatt had teamed with the NAACP to challenge the admissions policy at the UT Law School. The NAACP was looking to test separate but equal education statutes in Texas and the result of Sweatt’s legal battle struck down segregationist policies at the school (for graduate and professional programs only), gained him admission, and  paved the way for the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which opened integration for undergraduates.


Jun 6

On this day in 1944, Olympic sprint champion Tommie Smith was born in Clarksville. The seventh of 12 children, he survived a life-threatening bout of pneumonia as an infant. Smith is the only man in the history of track and field to hold 11 world records simultaneously. At San Jose State University, he tied or broke 13 world records. However, he is most remembered as one half of the duo of black U.S. Olympians – along with John Carlos – who, during the 1968 Summer Games in Mexico City, stood on the victory stand with heads bowed and raised clinched fists in a demonstration for human rights, liberation and solidarity. The protest overshadowed Smith’s performance on the track where he broke the world and Olympic records, winning a gold medal in the 200-meter sprint with a time of 19.83 seconds. The story of the “silent gesture” is captured in the 1999 HBO-TV documentary, “Fists of Freedom.” In 1978, Smith was inducted into the National Track & Field Hall of Fame, and has accumulated many other honors.


Jun 7

On this day in 1950, John Chase enrolled in the University of Texas School of Architecture graduate program, becoming the first African-American to enroll at a major university in the South. Chase, a native of Annapolis, Md., earned a Master of Architecture degree in 1952 and became the first black graduate of the University. That same year, he also became the first licensed African-American architect in Texas and was the only black architect licensed in the state for almost a decade. In 1980, he became the first African-American appointed to the U.S Commission of Fine Arts. His firm’s designs include: the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, the Harris County Astrodome Renovation, and the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.


Jun 9

On this date in 1965 the University Interscholastic League State Executive Committee validated the Legislative Council’s decision to open league membership to all public schools. The UIL was formed in 1913 with the stipulation that its membership was open only to white schools. In 1920, the Prairie View Interscholastic League was formed as the UIL’s counterpart to govern academic and athletic competitions for the state’s high schools for black students. Black schools began UIL competition in the 1967-68 school year. After the 1969-70 school year, the UIL fully absorbed all PVIL member schools. The PVIL played a leading role in developing African-American students in the arts, literature, athletics and music from the 1920’s through 1970. Among its football stars, alone, were: Bubba Smith (Beaumont Charlton-Pollard), “Mean” Joe Greene (Temple Dunbar), Otis Taylor (Houston Worthing), Ernie Ladd (Orange Wallace), and Jerry Levias (Beaumont Hebert).


Jun 11

On this day in 1991, Connie Yerwood died in Austin. In 1937, she became the first African American doctor to work for Texas Public Health Services. The Victoria native would also become the first black director of Maternal and Child Services in Texas and the first black chief of the Bureau of Personal Health Services. Yerwood was a long-time trustee of Samuel Huston College and the national president of its National Alumni Association.


Jun 12

James Leonard Farmer, Sr., who normally wrote his name “J. Leonard Farmer” on all of his publications, was born on this date in Kingstree, South Carolina in 1886. Farmer became Texas’ first black professor with an earned Ph.D (Boston University 1918), pastored churches in Texarkana, Marshall and Galveston and taught at Wiley College in Marshall (1919-20 and 1934-39) and Samuel Huston (later Huston-Tillotson) (1925-30 and 1946-56), in Austin. His son, James Farmer, Jr., was a noted Civil Rights activist and founder of CORE and was one of Wiley’s “Great Debators.”


Jun 14

In 1854, on this date, famous cowboy Nat Love, “Deadwood Dick,” was born as a slave on Robert Love’s plantation in Davidson County Tennessee. (Nat is pronounced “Nate.”) Love became proficient at breaking horses, and at age 15, headed west with $50 in his pocket to seek work as a cowboy. In Dodge City, Kansas, he met the crew of the Duval Ranch at the conclusion of their cattle drive and returned with them to Texas to work at the ranch. The teenager quickly adapted to cowboy life and excelled as a ranch hand and a marksman with his .45 revolver. He earned the name, “Deadwood Dick,” after winning an all-around cowboy contest in Deadwood, S.D. The contestants competed in roping, bridling, saddling, and shooting and Love finished first in each category, walking away with the $200 prize and a new nickname.


Jun 15-16

On these days in 1943, the Beaumont Riots occurred. Conditions in the city were already tense because blacks and whites were competing for jobs in the shipyards because of World War II and because of a lack of enough resources, traditionally segregated facilities were forced to integrate. The situation escalated when a white woman reported being raped by a black man, though she was unable to identify the suspect being held at the city jail. However, on the evening of June 15 more than 2,000 workers, plus perhaps another 1,000 interested bystanders, marched toward City Hall, then dispersed into small bands and began breaking into stores in the black section of downtown Beaumont. With guns, axes, and hammers, they proceeded to terrorize black neighborhoods in central and north Beaumont. Many blacks were assaulted, several restaurants and stores were pillaged, a number of buildings were burned, and more than 100 homes were ransacked. More than 200 people were arrested, fifty were injured, and two – one black and one white – were killed. Another black man died several months later of injuries received during the riot. Beaumont was among several U.S. cities that experienced violent race riots that summer, including Detroit, Harlem, and Mobile, Ala.


Jun 15

On this date in 1921, Bessie Coleman, from Atlanta, Texas, became the first licensed black pilot in the world when she earned an international aviation license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. As a barnstorming stunt pilot, she became known as “Queen Bess” and “Brave Bessie.” In 1995, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in Bessie’s honor and in 2000 she was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame. The main road to Atlanta’s airport is named Bessie Coleman Drive.


Jun 18

On this day in 2005, renowned surgeon and educator Claude H. Organ, Jr. died in Berkeley, Ca. of heart-related problems at age 78. A Marshall native, Organ was accepted to the University of Texas medical school, but when the school discovered he was black, it offered to pay the difference in tuition for him to attend another school. He graduated from Xavier University a black college in New Orleans and later received a degree from Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha. Organ developed two successful surgical residency programs, first at Creighton and later at the University of California/Davis-University of California, San Francisco East Bay Surgery Department. During his tenure at San Francisco he served as the first African American editor of the Archives of Surgery, the largest surgical journal in the English-speaking world.


Jun 19

On this day in 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston and delivered the news about the Emancipation Proclamation, which had originally been issued by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. Granger, supposedly from a balcony at Ashton Villa, one of the state’s first brick structures, read General Order No. 3, which officially freed 250,000 slaves in Texas. The order read: “The people are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them, become that between employer and hired labor. The freed are advised to remain at their present homes, and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts; and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” In 1979 Governor William P. Clements signed an act making the day a state holiday. The first state-sponsored Juneteenth celebration took place the next year.


Jun 20

On this day in 1967, a jury in federal court in Houston found heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali guilty of draft evasion. Ali, who had a residence in Houston at the time, was known to the government as Cassius Clay and was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Ali’s contention was that the draft boards in Louisville, Ky., his hometown, and in Houston had acted improperly by not granting him a deferment as a minister in the Nation of Islam, however, he was convicted of violating the U.S. Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted. He had been ordered to report to a Houston induction station on April 28, 1967 and did, but refused to step forward when his named was called, afterwards saying, ”Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” He was immediately stripped of his boxing license and his title and was banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, and on June 28, 1971 (Clay, aka Ali, v. United States) the Court ruled 8-0, with Justice Thurgood Marshall abstaining, that Ali met the three standards for conscientious objector status: that he opposed war in any form, that his beliefs were based on religious teaching and that his objection was sincere. However, Ali had already resumed boxing on October 26, 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round.


Jun 21

Dallas Cowboys’ running back Duane Thomas was born on this day in 1947 in Dallas. Thomas had an exceptional career at Lincoln High School, then at West Texas State, where he teamed with another future pro running back, Mercury Morris. Thomas was the Cowboys’ first round pick (23rd overall) in the 1970 draft and was the NFC Rookie of the Year after leading Dallas in rushing (803 yards). He led the league in rushing in 1971 and led the Cowboys with 95 rushing yards and a touchdown in Dallas’ first Super Bowl victory, a 24-3 win over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI.


Jun 21

On this date in 1955, the El Paso School Board voted to abolish segregation in the city’s public schools becoming the first district in Texas to unconditionally favor desegregation. The move came one year after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregation in public schools in the Brown v. Board of Education decision. El Paso board member Ted Andress made the motion: “The School Board members have taken notice of the recent Supreme Court decision on compulsory segregation (which was enforced in Texas). I think it is time that this board makes the prompt and reasonable start toward integration that should be made. I move that we comply with all rulings of the Supreme Court and that segregation on a compulsory or involuntary basis shall not be enforced in the El Paso Public Schools.” The motion took effect with the opening of schools for the 1955 fall semester.


Jun 22

On this date in 1962, basketball great Clyde “The Glide” Drexler was born in New Orleans. Drexler graduated from Sterling High School in Houston then attended the University of Houston where he starred as a member of the teams known as Phi Slama Jama for their fast pace, dunking, high flying style. Drexler was the 14th overall pick of the 1983 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and twice led the team to the NBA Finals (1990, 1992).  However, he played alongside center and former UH teammate Hakeem Olajuwon on the Houston Rockets 1995 NBA title team. Drexler was a 10-time All-Star, a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic dream team, and named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. He was elected to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004.


Jun 27

Ronald “Ron” Kirk, the first black mayor of Dallas, was born on this day in 1954 in Austin. Kirk is the son of Willie Mae Kirk, a school teacher and civil rights activist, and Lee Andrew Kirk Sr., the first black postal clerk in Austin. Ron Kirk served two terms as Dallas mayor, 1995-2001. Prior to becoming mayor, he served as Texas Secretary of State (1994) under Gov. Ann Richards. Kirk graduated from Austin College in Sherman, and earned his law degree from the University of Texas. He served as U.S. Trade Representative from March 2009 until February 2013, and was the first African American to hold that Cabinet position as the president’s principal trade advisor, negotiator, and spokesperson on trade issues.


Jun 30

Lt. Henry O. Flipper, first black graduate of West Point, was court martialed and dismissed from the Army on this day in 1882 for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” Flipper was an officer in the Tenth Cavalry serving at Fort Davis (Texas) when he was accused of embezzlement as commissary officer. Flipper maintained his innocence until his death (May 3, 1940) and waged a lifelong battle for reinstatement in the Army. In December 1976, when a bust of him was unveiled at West Point, the Department of the Army granted Flipper an honorable discharge, dated June 30, 1882. An annual West Point award in honor of Flipper is presented to the graduate who best exemplifies “the highest qualities of leadership, self-discipline, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties while a cadet.”

July

Jul 1

University of Houston and Olympic sprint and long jump star Carl Lewis was born on this date in 1961 in Birmingham, Alabama. Lewis graduated from Willingboro (N.J.) High School in 1979 and entered UH as the top-ranked high school track athlete in the country. He kept his top national ranking in the long jump and the 100-meter dash at the 1981 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) indoor championships and was the first athlete to win two events at an NCAA championship. As an Olympian, Lewis became the first African-American athlete since Jesse Owens in 1936 to win four gold medals in Olympic competition. Lewis won nine gold medals combined in the 100 and 200 meter sprints, the 4×100 meter relay, and the long jump, in four consecutive Olympics – 1984 Los Angeles, 1988 Seoul, 1992 Barcelona, and 1996 Atlanta. He won gold eight times in World Championships competitions. In December 2001, Lewis was elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, was voted “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee, and “Olympian of the Century” by Sports Illustrated magazine.


Jul 1

The Acres Homes Transit Company became the first African-American-owned bus franchise in the South on this day in 1959 when it received state certification. The predominantly black Acres Homes residents lived outside Houston’s city limits and nine miles northwest of downtown and had petitioned city hall for a permit to operate the franchise. The Yale Street Bus Line had ceased commuter service to the area the previous year. Four AHTC buses made 43 round trips a day between downtown Houston and Acres Homes, which was annexed to Houston in 1967.


Jul 3

Ruth J. Simmons was born on this day in 1945 in Grapeland and 56 years to the day was sworn in as the 18th president of Brown University in 2001, becoming the first black president of an Ivy League school and the first female president at Brown (founded in 1764). Simmons was the youngest of 12 children born to a sharecropper father and a mother who worked as a maid. In 1995, Simmons became the first African-American woman to head a major college or university when she was selected as president of Smith College, which she led until 2001. She also served as Vice Provost at Princeton University, and a Provost at Spelman College. Simmons graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston and Dillard University, a historically black college in New Orleans. She earned her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures from Harvard. In June 2017, she was named interim president of Prairie View A&M University.


Jul 4

On this date in 1867, the Texas Republican Party was formed at a convention in Houston with African-American delegates outnumbering whites by a total of about 150 to 20. Blacks, comprising about 90 percent of the party throughout Reconstruction, would set the foundation for the party. Forty-four black Republicans would serve in the state legislature. The second State GOP Chairman, Norris Wright Cuney, an African-American from Galveston led the Party from 1883 to 1897 and is said by historians to have held “the most important political position given to a black man of the South in the nineteenth century.”


Jul 4

On this date in 2003, R&B singer and composer Barry White, a Galveston native, died at age 58 of renal failure in Los Angeles. A five-time Grammy Award winner, White’s gravelly, seductive, bass voice earned him 106 gold and 41 platinum albums, 20 gold and 10 platinum singles, with worldwide sales in excess of $100 million. White had suffered with high blood pressure for many years and then diabetes.


Jul 4

In what was billed as “The Fight of the Century,” Galveston’s Jack Johnson soundly defeated Jim Jeffries, “The Great White Hope,” on this day in 1910 before a mostly white crowd of 22,000 fans in Reno, Nevada to remain as world heavyweight champion. Jeffries came out of a five-year retirement from his undefeated career to fight the racially reviled Johnson. Jeffries said, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of proving that a white man is better than a Negro.” Promoters incited the  crowd to chant “kill the nigger.” However, the bout was scheduled for 45 rounds, but was stopped in the 15th after Johnson twice knocked Jeffries down. The outcome produced race riots in dozens of cities with some of the incidents the result of whites interrupting celebrations of jubilant blacks. Police also interrupted several attempted lynchings.


Jul 6

In 1944, at Fort Hood Army Post in Killeen, Lt. Jackie Robinson refused to move to the back of a post bus and was taken into custody by military police, an incident that would lead to his court-martial. Three years before he would break the color line in Major League Baseball, Robinson was charged with insubordination, disturbing the peace, drunkenness (he did not drink), conduct unbecoming an officer, and refusing to obey the lawful orders of a superior officer. Robinson, serving in a support role for the all-black 761st Tank Battalion (the Army’s first such unit), would be acquitted a month later by an all-white panel of nine officers. (See, National Archives: “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson, A 1944 Court-Martial“, and The History Reader, “The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson.”)


Jul 11

On this day in 1828, Rev. John Henry “Jack” Yates was born into slavery in Gloucester County, Virginia. He moved with his wife (Harriet) and 11 children in 1863 when Harriet’s master relocated with his slaves to Matagorda County. Following emancipation in 1865, Yates moved his family to Houston where he began working with the Home Missionary Society and was ordained a Baptist minister. In 1866, after being ordained, Yates became the first pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, the first black Baptist church in Houston. Yates was also active in education, volunteering Antioch as the site for a Freedmen’s Bureau school and he also helped bring the first Baptist college to Texas, Bishop Academy, an institution that prepared students for employment in trades, business and ministry. Houston’s Jack Yates High School, built in 1926, is named in his honor.


Jul 11-12

On these days in 1919 the Longview Race Riot occurred, precipitated by an article in the July 10 issue of the Chicago Defender describing the death of a young black man, Lemuel Walters, in Longview. The article, written by Longview teacher Samuel L. Jones, reported that Walters and an unnamed white woman from Kilgore were in love and quoted her as saying they would have married if they had lived in the North. Walters, according to the article, was safely locked in the Gregg County Jail until the sheriff willingly handed him over to a white mob that murdered him on June 17. Jones was held responsible for the article, and on July 10 was accosted and beaten, supposedly by two brothers of the Kilgore woman. News of the article and of the attack on Jones inflamed tempers of both races, and on July 11, a group of twelve to fifteen angry white men drove to Jones’s house where they engaged in a gunfight with residents of the house. Some of the white men went to the fire station and rang the alarm to attract more recruits; others broke into a hardware store to get guns and ammunition. A white mob burned several black homes and a dance hall. Governor William P. Hobby sent Texas Rangers and National Guardsmen to Longview and placed the city and county under martial law. The rangers arrested seventeen white men on charges of attempted murder. Twenty-one black men were arrested, charged, and sent to Austin temporarily for their own safety. Nine white men were also charged with arson. None of the whites or blacks was ever tried.


Jul 12

Texas Congresswoman, Barbara Jordan, became the first African-American to give the keynote address at a major national political convention by giving a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on this date in 1976 in New York City. In opening her remarks, Jordan noted the significance of her appearance: “…my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American dream need not ever be deferred.” Jordan was a Houston native and graduate of Phillis Wheatley High School and Texas Southern University.


Jul 15

Forest Whitaker, actor, producer, and director, was born on this day in 1961 in Longview. At age four, he moved with his family to Los Angeles. Whitaker was a star tackle at Palisades High School and received college football scholarship offers, however, after suffering a back injury he began to study opera and acting.  In 1982, he made his film debut in the comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but his breakout role came in 1988 portraying jazz legend Charlie Parker, in the Clint Eastwood film, Bird, for which Whitaker earned the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actor and a Golden Globe nomination. His first directing effort was the film Waiting to Exhale in 1995, and in 2006 was widely lauded for his role as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the movie The Last King of Scotland. For that, Whitaker earned the 2007 Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, making him the fourth African-American actor to do so, joining Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, and Jamie Foxx. That same year, Whitaker played Dr. James Farmer Sr. in The Great Debaters, the movie about the acclaimed Wiley College debate team of the 1930s and its coach, Melvin Tolson.


Jul 16

On this date in 1929, Wilhelmina Delco was born in Chicago. Delco received a degree in sociology from Fisk University in Nashville in 1950 and seven years later relocated with her husband to Austin. Delco was elected to the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees in 1968, making her the first African American elected to public office in Austin. In 1974, she won a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, making her the first African American official elected at-large in Travis County. Delco served 10 terms in the Legislature. In 1991, she was appointed Speaker Pro Tempore, becoming the first woman and the second African American to hold the second highest position in the Texas Houseof Representatives. She retired from the Legislature in 1995.


Jul 20

On this day in 1910, Galveston native Jack Johnson was recognized as the heavyweight champion of the world. He had won the Negro heavyweight championship in 1903. The reigning white champion, Jim Jeffries, refused to cross the color line, so Johnson had to wait until Jeffries came out of retirement to fight him in 1910. Johnson left the United States in 1913 to avoid arrest on charges of violation of the Mann Act. When he returned on July 20, 1920, he was arrested and jailed at Leavenworth. After his release he returned to boxing, but without success. He died in an automobile crash at Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1946.


Jul 22

On this day in 2014, Dallas Cowboys‘ great Robert Newhouse passed away from heart disease. Newhouse suffered a stroke in 2010 and had been under treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. where he passed away. Newhouse starred at Galilee High School in Hallsville, situated between Longview and Marshall. The University of Houston was the only major school recruiting offer he received and with the Cougars, from 1969-1971, Newhouse set several rushing records and left the school as its all-time single-season rushing leader with 1,757 yards as a senior. That total, at the time, was the second most rushing yards in a season in NCAA history and earned Newhouse second team All-American honors. He was a second round draft pick by the Cowboys in 1972 and played all of his 12 NFL seasons with Dallas. Newhouse led the team in rushing with 930 yards in 1975.


Jul 22

On this day in 1944, Dr. Lawrence Nixon, an El Paso physician, voted in the Democratic primary, the first black voter in the state to do so. The Texas legislature had passed a law in 1923 forbidding blacks from voting in the primary. However, Nixon, working with the NAACP, challenged the law and attempted to vote on July 26, 1924 and was refused a ballot. Twice the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, however, the state Democratic Party found legal loopholes (including asserting the party was a private organization and could set restrictions on who could vote) to continue preventing blacks from voting in the primary. Finally, as a result of the Court’s ruling in Smith v. Allwright (where Lonnie Smith had brought a similar suit in Harris County), the all-white primary was ended on April 3, 1944 enabling blacks to vote in the primary. The Court ruled that a primary was an election and a political party was an agency of the state and thus could not discriminate by race.


Jul 25

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, blues singer, died of a heart attack at age 57 on this day in 1984 in a Los Angeles boarding house. Thornton grew up in Montgomery, Ala., but settled in Houston where she started her recording career after being discovered by singer and producer Johnny Otis and working with Houston music mogul Don Robey’s Peacock Records. By the time of Thornton’s death, Otis had become a pastor and in that capacity officiated Thornton’s funeral as many musical artists paid tribute. She was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Los Angeles. Later that year, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. Thornton’s 1953 hit, “Hound Dog,” was No. 1 for seven of its 14 weeks on Billboard’s R&B charts. Elvis Presley made it an even bigger hit, and Janis Joplin popularized Thornton’s “Ball and Chain.”


Jul 28

On this date in 2000, Curtis John Guillory was named Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Beaumont, becoming fifth bishop of the 34-year-old Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont and the first African American Catholic bishop in Texas. Guillory was born in Mallet, Louisiana on Sept. 1, 1943, as the oldest of 16 children. He attended Catholic school and entered the seminary of the Society of the Divine Word in Bay St. Louis, Miss., in 1960. He was ordained a priest of the Divine Word Dec. 16, 1972, and he was ordained as the 12th African American bishop in the United States Feb. 19, 1988.


Jul 30

On this day in 1946 Warren McVea was born in San Antonio. McVea was arguably the top high school running back in the country when he graduated from Brackenridge High School in 1964. During his senior season, McVea scored 315 points and 46 touchdowns, which was a single-season record for the University Interscholastic League’s largest school classification (4A). In college, “Wondrous Warren”  was the first black player for the University of Houston program and the first to receive a scholarship to a major previously all-white college in Texas. Professionally, he was a fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals and was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs when they won Super Bowl IV, defeating the Minnesota Vikings. He was inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2003 and the UH Hall of Honor in 2004.

August

Aug 1

On this day in 1948, football and track star Clifford Branch was born in Houston. At Evan E. Worthing High School, Branch was All-District in football (1966), but was also the first schoolboy in Texas history to run the 100-yard dash in 9.3 seconds. He was the state champion in the 100-yard dash (1965) and the 220-yard dash (1966). He attended the University of Colorado where he was an All-American wide receiver (1971) and the 1972 NCAA 100-meter champion with a record time of 10.0. Branch was selected in the fourth round of the National Football League Draft by the Oakland Raiders and played his entire pro career (1972-85) with the team, including three Super Bowl titles. He was named first-team All-Pro three times and finished his career with 501 receptions for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns. He is a member of the Prairie View Interscholastic League Hall of Fame.


Aug 2

Legendary Prairie View A&M football coach William J. “Billy” Nicks was born on this day in 1905 in Griffin, Ga. He attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta where he played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. Nicks returned to his alma mater as head football coach on three different occasions — 1930-35, 1937-39 and 1941-42. His 1941 team was named black college national champion. Nicks began coaching at Prairie View in 1945 and in 17 years compiled a 127-39-8 record and won eight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and five black college national championships. He had five undefeated seasons as Prairie View became a black college football power in the 1950s and 1960s. Nicks had a winning record against every SWAC school, including Grambling State and legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. His overall record, for 28 years, was 193-61-21, a winning percentage of .763. Nicks is a member of numerous halls of fame, including the College Football Hall of Fame, NAIA, and the SWAC.


Aug 2

In 1944, 15 months before he would break Major League Baseball‘s color barrier, the court martial of 2nd Lt. Jackie Robinson was held on this day at Fort Hood in Killeen. On July 6, Robinson had refused to move to the “colored section” in the back of a post bus. Among the several resulting charges against Robinson were conduct unbecoming an officer. The trial lasted four hours and after brief deliberations, a panel of nine officers (one of them black) found Robinson not guilty of all charges. Robinson had been morale officer for the all-black 761st Tank Battalion but, by the trial’s end, the unit had departed for Europe where they would perform heroically with Gen. Patton’s Third Army. Robinson was transferred to Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he coached black athletic teams until his honorable discharge in November 1944. He played the 1945 season with the Negro League Kansas City Monarchs and in October of that year signed to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers and was sent to their top Minor League affiliate, the Montreal Royals. Robinson’s debut as MLB’s first black player came on April 15, 1947, at age 28.


Aug 4

On this day in 1840, minister and Republican State Senator Matthew Gaines was born into slavery in Pineville, La. In 1863, he was sold to a planter in Fredericksburg where he worked as a blacksmith and a sheepherder. After emancipation, he relocated to Washington County where he became a leader of the black community, and was elected as a state senator during Reconstruction to represent the Sixteenth District. He was a staunch proponent for education, prison reform, the protection of blacks at the polls, the election of blacks to public office, and tenant-farming reform.


Aug 4

District Court Judge Ben Connally labeled the Houston school board‘s desegregation plan a “palable sham and subterfuge” on this day in 1960. Houston’s 173 schools comprised the largest segregated school district in the U.S., and in 1957 Connally ordered the schools to be integrated “with all deliberate speed.” However, in August, 1959, the board revealed in a 373-page report to the Court that it had no desegregation plan and requested additional time to prepare one. Connally ordered the board to submit a plan by June 1, 1960. It was that plan which enraged Connally. In it, the board sought to integrate only three schools, but stated that no child need attend the integrated schools. As a result, Connally ordered desegregation to commence in all first grades in September 1960 and to proceed at one grade per year thereafter. The board’s attitude may have been typified by parliamentarian Bertie Maughmer who had won election to the board in 1956 proudly declaring: “I’d rather go to jail than see my kids go to school with niggers.”


Aug 5

On this day in 1880, Gertrude E. Rush, attorney and civil rights activist was born in Navasota. Rush was also an accomplished playwright and author. The daughter of a Baptist minister, her family moved to the Midwest and settled in Oskaloosa, Iowa, southeast of Des Moines. Rush studied law while working in the office of her attorney-husband James B. Rush and was admitted to the Iowa State Bar in 1918 as the state’s first Black female lawyer and only such lawyer in the state until 1950. In 1921, she was elected president of Iowa’s Colored Bar Association, making her the first woman in the nation top lead a state bar association that included both male and female members. However, she was denied admission to the American Bar Association, and in 1925 Rush and four other black lawyers founded the Negro Bar Association (later renamed the National Bar Association). Rush also wrote numerous plays, pageants, and hymns, such as the popular “Jesus Loves the Little Children” (1907).


Aug 6

President Lyndon Johnson, on this day signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 abolishing literacy tests and poll taxes designed to disenfranchise African American and other minority and poor voters. Johnson signed the act in the President’s Room just off the U. S. Senate chamber floor, the same location and on the same date when 104 years earlier President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Confiscation Act of 1861. That bill freed slaves being used by the Confederate States in the war effort, an early move towards Lincoln signing the Emancipation Proclamation. In some Southern states, voting officials asked potential black voters to recite the entire U.S. Constitution or explain complex provisions of state laws before they could cast their ballot. (As a means of discriminating against Irish-Catholic immigrants, Connecticut adopted the nation’s first literacy test for voting in 1855.) The Voting Rights Act vastly improved voter turnout among blacks and also gave them the legal means to challenge voting restrictions, which were not readily enforced in the South and often simply ignored. Texas never utilized literacy tests, but did institute a poll tax in 1902 requiring eligible voters to pay between $1.50 and $1.75 to register to vote. The poll tax was finally abolished for national elections by the 24th Amendment in 1964 which was ratified by all but 12 states, including Texas, which finally did on May 22, 2009.


Aug 9

Al Freeman, actor, died on this day in 2012 at age 78 in Washington, D.C. A San Antonio native, Freeman starred on Broadway in the 1960s in productions such as “Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright” and in plays by James Baldwin and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), including “Blues for Mister Charlie.” In 1979, Freeman became the first African American to receive a Daytime Emmy for a soap opera for his role as a police  captain on “One Life to Live.” He also drew critical acclaim for his portrayal of Malcolm X in the mini-series “Roots: The Next enerations,” and in 1991 played Elijah Muhammad in the Spike Lee movie “Malcolm X.”


Aug 9

This day marks the death, in 1912, of George Smith, founder and first principal of the first school for African Americans in Brownwood. Smith was a teacher, former Buffalo Soldier (10th Cavalry), and an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He had been born into slavery in Virgina in 1847. After his military service ended at Fort Concho in San Angelo, he was recruited by AME Bishop Richad H. Cain to organize AME churches in communities where there were none. Smith traveled 100 miles northeast to Brownwood, where he found one AME church, but no school for black children. He organized and taught classes at various locations in the town, including the AME church. Five years after Smith’s death, a four-room stone facility was built for the school and, in 1934, was named in honor of former principal Rufus F. Hardin.


Aug 10

On this day in 1918, jazz saxophonist Arnett Cobb was born in Houston. He was exposed to music at an early age; his grandmother taught him to play the piano when he was about 10 years old. He soon picked up the violin. As the only violin in an 80-piece brass band at Phillis Wheatley High School, he switched to saxophone in order to be heard. Known as the “Wild Man of the Tenor Sax,” Cobb made his professional debut with Frank Davis in 1933. Cobb played with Chester Boone from 1934-1936 and with Milt Larkin from 1936-1942. In 1942, he replaced Illinois Jacquet in Lionel Hampton‘s band, where he remained until 1947 when he left to form his own band. Serious injuries resulting from being hit by a car when he was 10 and an automobile accident in 1951 plagued him throughout his career, but never prevented Cobb from helping to shape and define what become known as the Texas-tenor sound.


Aug 11

On this date in 1922, Negro Leagues star and Tuskegee Airman John “Mule” Miles was born in San Antonio. Miles attended Phillis Wheatley High School, then served as a mechanic for the 99th Pursuit Squadron. After that, Miles played for the Chicago American Giants from 1946 to 1949 and in 1947 hit 11 home runs in 11 straight games, a feat that has never been equaled. He played alongside such greats as Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks and Satchel Paige. Giants’ manager Candy Jim Taylor, gave Miles his nickname saying that he “hit like a mule kicks.” Among his many honors, Miles was inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2000, to the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame in 2003, to the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2009, and to the Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010.


Aug 11

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Otis Taylor was born on this day in 1942 in Houston. Taylor attended E.E. Worthing HS where he starred in football and basketball. At Prairie View A&M, Taylor was a member of the Panthers’ 1963 and 1964 Black College National Championship teams. He was a fourth round draft pick of the Chiefs where Taylor would spend his entire AFL/NFL career (1965-1974). He remains the Chiefs second-leading receiver in career touchdowns (57) and is No. 4 on their list for all-time receiving yards (7,306). He scored a dynamic catch-and-run touchdown in Kansas City’s 23-7 upset win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV. Taylor was twice named an All-Pro.


Aug 12

In 1862, Julius Rosenwald was born in Springfield, Ill. In 1917,  as president of Sears and Roebuck, he established the Julius Rosenwald Fund to support educating black children. His belief was that America could not prosper “if any large segment of its people were left behind.” His fund paid for the construction of more than 5,000 schools (“Rosenwald Schools”) in 15 southern states to educate blacks, including 464 schools in Texas that impacted 57,330 students.


Aug 14

Alta Vista Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas for Colored Youth” was established by the Fifteenth Legislature of Texas on this day in 1876. The school would become Prairie View A&M University, the first state supported College in Texas for African Americans. The Texas Constitution of 1876, in separate articles, established an “Agricultural and Mechanical College” and pledged that “Separate schools shall be provided for the white and colored children, and impartial provisions shall be made for both.”


Aug 13-14

In 1906, at Fort Brown, in Brownsville, Texas, members of the all-black 25th Infantry regiment supposedly killed a bartender and wounded a policeman, both white, the night after a white woman had reportedly been attacked by black soldiers. The men of the 25th denied participating in any of the incidents. However, despite dubious testimony from Brownsville citizens, President Theodore Roosevelt presumed the mens’ guilt and issued the largest summary dismissal in U.S. Army history as three companies (167 men) were dishonorably discharged. However, in 1972, U.S. Congressman Augustus Hawkins (D-CA) successfully had the discharges reversed to “honorable.”


Aug 15

In 1945, Gene Upshaw was born in Robstown, Texas. Upshaw was an All-America lineman at Texas A&I University (now Texas A&M-Kingsville), from 1963-66. He was a first-round draft pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1967 and for his 15-year career played on two Super Bowl winning teams. After his playing career, he became executive director of the National Football League Players’ Association and, in 1987, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Aug 16

Surgeon Lee Gresham Pinkston was born on this day in 1883 in Forest, Mississippi. He received his M.D. degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn. He moved to Terrell, Texas in 1910 to begin private practice and later opened a clinic and drugstore. In 1927, he opened the Pinkston Clinic Hospital, which was the only operating clinic serving the African American community. He was the first of five African American doctors on the staff of Dallas’ St. Paul Hospital, where he remained until his death in 1961. Pinkston High School in Dallas is named in his honor. In 1936, Pinkston helped found the Democratic Progressive Voters League, one of the oldest black political organizations in the state of Texas.


Aug 16

Austin’s historic Victory Grill was opened on this day in 1945 (Victory over Japan Day) by band manager Johnny Holmes in a converted ice house as a venue for African American servicemen on R&R as well as those returning from World War II. The restaurant and night club became known for its blues and jazz music as well as its food and drink and attracted multi-racial crowds. At its peak, in the 1950s, most of the popular national R&B and jazz acts performed at the Victory Grill as part of the “Chitlin’ Circuit,” including Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry, and Janis Joplin.


Aug 18

In 1935, Rafer Johnson was born in Hillsboro, Texas. Johnson was the gold medalist in the decathlon at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. That same year, he received the James E. Sullivan Memorial Award as the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete. In 1984 he lit the torch signaling the opening of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.


Aug 19

Andrew L. Jefferson, the first black state district judge in Harris County, was born on this day in 1934, in Dallas. Jefferson grew up in Houston, graduating from Jack Yates High School in 1936 and Texas Southern University in 1956. He graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1959 as the only African American to graduate in his class. As a statesman, Jefferson was active in numerous legal, civil and political organizations, holding the highest leadership offices for the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the Houston Lawyers Association. He was admitted to practice law in all courts in the state of Texas as well as the United States district courts for the Southern and Western Districts of Texas, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth, Sixth, and Eleventh Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court. In 2001, the Andrew L. Jefferson Endowment for Trial Advocacy was established at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. (Listen to Judge Jefferson’s oral history interview for the Houston Public Library here.)


Aug 23

Members of the Third Battalion of the 24th Infantry (Buffalo Soldiers) were involved in the Houston Riots on this day in 1917. Also known as the “Camp Logan Mutiny,” men from the all-black unit violently marched on the city of Houston in response to racist treatment from the city’s white citizens, and especially the persistent verbal and physical abuse from Houston policemen. As a result of the two-hour incident, which became known as the only “race riot” in U.S. history in which more whites (15) than blacks (4) were killed, 19 black soldiers were court-martialled and hung. It was the largest court-martial in military history and the largest murder trial in U.S. history.


Aug 24

In 1859, Rufus F. Hardin, educator, was born into slavery in Kaufman County, southeast of Dallas. However, he was driven to become educated and did so, attending several black colleges and earning a degree at Prairie View Normal College. He taught in Brownwood for 38 years, beginning in 1896 at the Brownwood Colored School, the county’s only school for black children. Hardin also became a community leader. In 1934, the school was renamed in his honor.


Aug 25

On this date in 1960, seventy Houston lunch counters quietly integrated, the result of an agreement between local businesses to avoid the unrest that had occurred in other U.S. cities during the civil rights movement’s lunch counter sit-in demonstrations. Bob Dundas, vice president of Foley’s department store in downtown Houston, got local downtown merchants to agree to desegregate their lunch counters all simultaneously on the condition that there would be no press coverage of the event. Dundas and John T. Jones, publisher of the Houston Chronicle and president of the Houston Endowment, secured an agreement between local newspapers and radio stations to remain silent on the event for ten days drawing criticism from the national press for censoring the move. Students from Texas Southern University had begun the sit-in movement in Houston in the spring of 1960. (See video, Texas Southern University: Silencing Houston’s Jim Crow; documentary,The Strange Demise of Jim Crow.)


Aug 25

The Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association was formed on this date in 1886 in Galveston. The group came to be because the Texas Medical Association refused admission to 15 African-American medical professionals, including physicians Monroe Alpheus Majors – the first black Texan to graduate from a medical school (Meharry, 1886) and Benjamin Jesse Covington, one of the founders of Houston Negro Hospital (now Riverside General Hospital). After endorsing the group in 1939, the TMA began admitting African-Americans in 1955. Lone Star was the second organization of black medical professionals formed in the U.S., following the Medico-Chirurgical Society of Washington D.C. founded in 1884 as the first African-American medical society.


Aug 25

Henry Miller Morgan, a barber, was born in Tyler on this day in 1895. Texas began requiring licenses for barbers in the 1920s, but because of segregation there were no schools admitting African Americans. In 1933, Morgan opened the first college for black barbers. The school had only five chairs, but in less than two decades, he had opened branches of his barber college around the country, including Houston, Dallas, New York, Jackson, Mississippi, and Little Rock. At one time, the school reportedly was training a majority of the nation’s African-American barbers. Morgan went on to help found the Texas Association of Tonsorial Artists, a professional barber’s organization, as well as the Democratic Progressive Voters League, one of the oldest African American political organizations in the state. On June 21, 2005, the Texas State Senate honored Morgan with a resolution honoring his life and achievements.


Aug 27

Prairie View A&M basketball great Zelmo Beaty died of cancer at age 73 on this day in 2013. A native of Hillister (100 miles northeast of Houston), Beaty played during segregation at all-black Scott High School in Woodville. At PV, Beaty led the Panthers to the 1962 NAIA national championship and was named tournament MVP. He averaged 25 points and 20 rebounds during his collegiate career. Though undersized at 6-9 for a center, Beaty was the third overall pick in the 1962 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks and made the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1963 and was a league All-Star in 1966 and 1968 in an era dominated by centers Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Beaty jumped to the American Basketball Association and led the Utah Stars to their only championship in 1971. In eight NBA seasons, Beaty averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds a game. In 2014, he was named to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was named to the NAIA’s 75th Anniversary All-Star Team.


Aug 28

On this date in 1963, in conjunction with the National March for civil rights in Washington, approximately 900 protesters marched on the Texas state capitol in Austin. The group, which included Hispanics, blacks, and whites, attacked the slow pace of desegregation in the state and Gov. John Connally’s opposition to the pending civil rights bill in Washington.


Aug 30-31

In 1956, defiant white citizens of Mansfield blocked the enrollment of three black students at Mansfield High School in what became known as the “Mansfield School Desegregation Incident.” The school district had been sued by the NAACP and a federal court ordered the district to desegregate – the first such order in Texas. However, Mansfield would not integrate its schools until 1965.


Aug 30

In 1924, Kenny Dorham, jazz trumpeter, was born on this day in Fairfield. A pioneer of the bebop era, Dorham attended Anderson High School in Austin and played in the Wiley College dance band. In the ’40s and ’50s, he played with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, and Thelonius Monk. Dorham was also a founding member of the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey.


Aug 31

Frank Robinson, the first black manager in Major League Baseball, was born on this day in Beaumont. Robinson grew up in Oakland and played the bulk of his career with the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Orioles. He won the triple crown — leading the league in home runs (49), runs batted in (122), and batting average (.316) — in 1966, and became manager of the Cleveland Indians in 1975. A Baseball Hall of Famer, his 586 career home runs are ninth all-time in MLB.

September

Sept 1

Curtis John Guillory was born on this day in 1943 in Mallet, Louisiana. Guillory became Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Beaumont in 2000 and the first African American Catholic bishop in Texas.


Sept 1

On this day in 1990, Dr. Marguerite Ross Barnett became president of the Univ. of Houston and the first black woman to lead a major American university. From Charlottesville, Virginia she grew up in Buffalo, New York and earned a political science degree from Antioch College and master’s and doctorate degrees in political science from the University of Chicago. A recognized scholar in political science, she taught at Princeton, Howard, and Columbia universities. At UH, she succeeded in raising more than $150 million for the institution, establishing the Texas Center for Environmental Studies, and instituting the nationally renowned Bridge Program, which aided and motivated disadvantaged students to make a successful transition from high school to college. Barnett died of complications from a neuro-endocrinological condition on February 26, 1992.


Sept 2

E.H. Anderson was born on this day in 1850 in Memphis, Tenn. Anderson would become the second principal for Prairie View State Normal School (Prairie View A&M University) in 1879. At the time, the school’s enrollment was only 50 students.


Sept 2

On this date in 1946, musician William Everett “Billy” Preston was born in Houston. A child prodigy, Preston began playing piano at age 3, was performing as an organist by age 10 for gospel singers such as Mahalia Jackson and touring with Little Richard at age 16. He became widely acknowledged as the “Fifth Beatle” having been the only party to ever have his name included in the label credits of the BeatlesLet It Be” and the “Abbey Road” albums as well as the landmark “White Album.” As a solo artist, Preston had a string of Number 1 hit singles including the Grammy-winning “Outta Space,” “Will It Go Round In Circles,” “Nothing From Nothing” and “Space Race.” He wrote the song “You Are So Beautiful” which was a
multi-platinum hit for British blues singer Joe Cocker.


Sept 4

Multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning singer Beyoncé Knowles was born on this day in 1981 in Houston. Knowles rose to fame as the creative force and lead singer of R&B girl group Destiny’s Child, the best-selling female group of all time, with over fifty million records sold. The multi-talented Knowles is also an dancer, actress, producer, fashion designer and model, and was twice-nominated for Golden Globe Awards for her performance in “Dream Girls” in 2006. In 2008, she married hip hop mogul Jay-Z and in 2013 was ranked by Forbes magazine among the most powerful celebrities in the world.


Sept 5

Football player Jerry LeVias was born on this day in 1946 in Beaumont. LeVias starred as a quarterback at Hebert High School, but became the first black scholarship athlete and second black football player in the Southwest Conference as a wide receiver in 1966 at Southern Methodist University.  He was an All-America (athletic and academic) as a senior and twice led the league in receiving and left SMU with numerous school and conference career records. With the Houston Oilers, LeVias was selected to the 1969 American Football League All-Star Team. He is a member of both the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame.


Sept 5

Dr. June Brewer was born in Austin on this day in 1925. Brewer was the first of five African-American women to apply for admission to  the University of Texas Graduate School in 1950 after the U.S. Supreme Court‘s ruling on Heman Sweatt‘s admission. She was an English Professor at  Huston-Tillotson College for 35 years and was Chairperson of the department, the first Endowed Professor (Karl Downs Professor of Humanities) and Professor Emeritus on retirement. She received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship to conduct research on black women writers which became her teaching specialty. Brewer served on numerous Austin Independent School District task forces, including one for dropout prevention, and also founded a nonprofit organization, Borders Learning Community, which promoted closing the racial achievement gap, especially raising standardized test scores.


Sept 5

On this day in 1956, Texarkana Junior College was integrated when Jessalyn Yvonne Gray and Laura Ellis passed aptitude tests and were admitted to the school. Their acceptance set off a chain of violent protests and community-wide death threats against blacks by local white racists. A black-owned service station was blasted with shotgun fire, two crosses were burned and a black man was hanged in effigy hours after the 30-year segregation policy was struck down.


Sept 9

On this date in 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1957. Originally proposed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, the Act marked the first occasion since Reconstruction that the federal government undertook significant legislative action to protect civil rights. Although influential southern congressman whittled down the bill’s initial scope, it still included a number of important provisions for the protection of voting rights. It established the Civil Rights Division in the Justice Department, and empowered federal officials to prosecute individuals that conspired to deny or abridge another citizen’s right to vote. Moreover, it also created a six-member U.S. Civil Rights Commission charged with investigating allegations of voter infringement. But, perhaps most importantly, the Civil Rights Act of 1957 signaled a growing federal commitment to the cause of civil rights.


Sept 10

John Westbrook, a running back for Baylor University, became the first black player to compete in the Southwest Conference when he entered a game against Syracuse in the fourth quarter on this day in 1966. His debut came one week before the more celebrated start for Southern Methodist University’s Jerry LeVias.


Sept 12

On this date in 1977, Azie Taylor Morton of St. John Colony in Dale, Texas becomes the first African-American appointed to the office of Treasurer of the United States. Tabbed by President Jimmy Carter, Morton is the only black to ever hold that post. As a child, Taylor worked in cotton fields, but was an outstanding student and entered Huston-Tillotson College at age 16, graduating cum laude in 1956 with a degree in commercial education. She served as Treasurer until January 20, 1981.


Sept 12

In 1970, wide receiver Hugh McElroy of Houston (Worthing HS) became the first African-American to start a game for the Texas A&M football team. The next week, at LSU, he became A&M’s first black player to score a touchdown when he caught a short pass from quarterback Lex James for the winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in the game giving the Aggies a 20-18 upset.


Sept 12

Singer and composer Barry White was born on this date in 1944 in Galveston, but was raised in Los Angeles, where he began his musical career at age 11 playing piano (self-taught) on the Jesse Belvin hit, “Goodnight My Love.” White also made several records during the early 60s, under the name “Barry Lee.” In 1969, he put together “Love Unlimited,” a successful female vocal trio. A five-time Grammy winner, his gravelly, seductive, bass voice also earned him 106 gold and 41 platinum albums, 20 gold and 10 platinum singles, with worldwide sales in excess of 100 million.


Sept 13

Olympic sprint gold medalist Michael Johnson was born on this day in Dallas in 1967. Johnson graduated from Baylor University in 1990 with a marketing degree. As an Olympian, he won 18 gold medals combined in the 200- and 400-meter events and was national champion in those events eight times. at the 1996 Olympics where he became the first man to ever win gold at 200 meters and 400 meters at the same Olympics.


Sept 14

In 2004, San Antonio native Wallace Jefferson became the first African American Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas when he was appointed to the post by Gov. Rick Perry. The University of Texas School of Law honored Chief Justice Jefferson with its Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2005. He is the descendant of a slave who was owned by a Waco judge before the Civil War. That slave, Shedrick Willis, served his community as a two-term member of the Waco City Council after the War.


Sept 15

The 761st Tank Battalion arrived at Camp Hood in Killeen on this day in 1943 to begin advanced training for duty in World War II. Known as the “Black Panthers,” the 761st would become the Army’s first all-black tank unit and they served with valor. However, the widely held belief in Washington, D.C. about using blacks in combat roles, especially in armored units, was as one officer observed, “As fighting troops, the Negro must be rated as second-class material, this primarily to his inferior intelligence and lack of mental and moral qualities.” Early on, Gen. George S. Patton had agreed with that sentiment, saying, “A colored soldier cannot think fast enough to fight in armor.” Yet, when he needed armored reinforcements for his Third Army, he got the 761st, which he had seen training at Camp Hood. Upon their arrival in Europe, he addressed the men and told them, “I would never have asked for you if you weren’t good. I have nothing but the best in my Army. I don’t care what color you are as long as you go up there and kill those Kraut sons of bitches. Everyone has their eyes on you and is expecting great things from you. Most of all your race is looking forward to you. Don’t let them down and damn you, don’t let me down!’ The 761st was involved in combat for 183 straight days, including action in the Battle of the Bulge. The unit received the Presidential Unit Citation and one of its members, Staff Sgt. Ruben Rivers, posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The tankers also participated in the liberation of Gunskirchen, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp, in May 1945.


Sept 17

Rube Foster, known as the “Father of Black Baseball,” was born on this day in 1879 in Calvert. Foster was a pitcher (right-handed), manager, and team owner who started his career at age 18 with the semi-pro Waco Yellow Jackets. In 1920, Foster led the founding of baseball’s first successful all-black league, the Negro National League, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo. Foster was league president, as well as manager and pitcher for the powerful Chicago American Giants. The NNL had teams in the South and Midwest. Some of the Texas teams affiliated with the NNL and other all-black baseball associations were: Austin Black Senators, Fort Worth Black Panthers, Houston Eagles, San Antonio Black Bronchos, San Antonio Black Indians. Foster was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.


Sept 18

On this day in 1899, a copyright was registered for Scott Joplin‘s “Maple Leaf Rag.” The Texarkana native’s ragtime composition for piano is his best known piece. More than a million copies of the tune’s sheet music was sold encouraging the publication of hundreds of similar pieces as a ragtime craze swept the country. Joplin’s piece was the genre’s biggest hit and became the model for ragtime compositions. The name of the tune was derived from the Sedalia, Mo. social club, the Maple Leaf, where Joplin played. The piece gave Joplin a steady if unspectacular income for the rest of his life. Listen to the song here.


Sept 19

Former Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs running back Abner Haynes was born on this day in 1937 in Denton. In 1956, Haynes and Leon King became the first African-American student athletes at North Texas State College (now North Texas State University). In 1960, Haynes, a graduate of Dallas Lincoln High School, joined the Texans in the first season for the American Football League and led the league in rushing attempts, yards, and TDs in its first year and was the league’s first Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Haynes had an eight-year career and still owns several Chiefs’ franchise records. His 12,065 combined yards is the AFL record.


Sept 19

On this day in 1943, baseball player Joe Morgan was born in Bonham. A second baseman, Morgan grew up in Oakland, Calif. In 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, Morgan had 2,517 hits, 268 home runs, 1,133 RBIs, 1,650 runs, 689 stolen bases, and a .271 batting average. His 266 home runs as a second baseman broke Rogers Hornsby‘s record for most home runs by a player at that position. In 1965, Morgan’s first full season in the majors, he was named the NL Rookie of the Year for the Houston Astros; he hit 14 home runs, scored 100 runs, and had a .271 batting average. With the Cincinnati Reds, Morgan made the All-Star team during each of his eight seasons and received five Gold Gloves for fielding excellence. He was NL MVP in 1975 and 1976 when he led the Reds to back-to-back World Series championships. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1990.


Sept 24

On this day in 1946, football great Charles Edward Greene, “Mean Joe”, was born in Temple, Texas. Greene starred at Dunbar High School, then became an All-American lineman in 1968 at North Texas State University. Greene (6-4, 275 pounds) was the Pittsburgh Steelers No. 1 pick in the 1969 National Football League draft and was a dominant force on the Steelers’ four Super Bowl championship teams the 1970s as leader of their “Steel Curtain” defense. He was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969, played in 10 Pro Bowls, was All-NFL five times, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and 1974. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.


Sept 25

John Quill Taylor King was born on this day in 1921, in Memphis, Tenn. King attended L.C. Anderson High School in Austin, graduating at age 15, and received a mathematics degree from Fisk University and a Ph.D. in mathematics and statistics from UT-Austin in 1957. King was a faculty member at Huston-Tillotson University and rose to become the school’s dean and then president in 1965 and chancellor in 1987. He entered the U.S. Army during WWII as a private, but earned officer status and retired as a major general in 1983. Upon leaving active duty, King became the Army Reserves’ first black general officer. With the Texas State Guard, he was promoted to Lt. Gen. in 1985. His mother, Alice Clinton Woodson, was a direct descendant of Thomas Woodson, son of slave Sally Hemings and her owner, Thomas Jefferson. A licensed mortician, King was also president of King-Tears Mortuary, Inc. in Austin.


Sept 28

On this day in 1941, Charley Taylor, was born in Grand Prairie, Texas. A multi-sport star at Dalworth High School, Taylor was all-state in football and track. At Arizona State University, he was an All-American in football (running back and defensive back), but also excelled in baseball. Taylor was the third overall pick in the 1964 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins and was named National Football Conference Rookie of the Year as a running back. He was switched to wide receiver two seasons later and led the league in receiving three times. He retired after the 1977 season as the NFL’s all-time leading receiver with 649 catches for 9,110 yards and 79 touchdowns. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

October

Oct 3

On this day in 2014, Dallas businessman and philanthropist Comer Cottrell passed away from natural causes. A native of Mobile, Ala., Cottrell founded Pro-Line, hair care products for African-Americans, in Los Angeles in 1970. He is noted for popularizing the “Jheri curl“. In 1980, he relocated the business to Dallas where it became the largest black-owned firm in the Southwest and one of the most profitable black companies in the United States. Cottrell was the first black member of the powerful Dallas Citizens Council and became part owner of Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989, becoming the first African-American to hold such a stake in a Major League Baseball team.


Oct 3

Heman Sweatt, whose landmark case against the University of Texas Law School in 1950 set a precedent for Brown v. Board of Education and the integration of all public schools in the U.S., died on this day in 1982 in Atlanta, Ga. Sweatt, was born in Houston and graduated from Jack Yates High School and then Wiley College. Before his attempts to enter UT, he studied biology at the University of Michigan with intentions of entering medical school. After resolution of his case, Sweatt attended the school for two years, but the emotional and physical toll from his quest forced him to leave school. He received a scholarship to study social work at Atlanta University and earned a master’s degree in community organizations in 1954. He later became assistant director of the National Urban League‘s southern regional office in Atlanta.


Oct 4

Born on this day in 1937 in Wewoka, Oklahoma (southeast of Oklahoma City), Lee Patrick Brown was the first African-American police chief and then the first African-American mayor for the city of Houston. Brown’s parents were sharecroppers and moved to San Jose, California where he began his law enforcement career as a police officer while a student at San Jose State University. There, he earned degrees in criminology (1960) and sociology (1964 – master’s). He also earned a master’s and then a doctorate in criminology from the University of California-Berkeley. Brown was the first African-American police for three cities: Atlanta (1978), Houston (1982), and New York City (police commissioner, 1990). In Atlanta, he was chief during the Atlanta child murders case which resulted in the arrest and conviction of Wayne B. Williams. In Houston, Brown pioneered the community policing concept that included officers patrolling neighbors on foot. In 1993, he was appointed director of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, and in 1997 was elected mayor of Houston and served three two-year terms.


Oct 7

George McElroy,

“Mr. Mac”, the first black columnist for the Houston Post, died on this day in 2006. A Houston native, McElroy was also the first African-American to earn a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, which he attended on a scholarship from the Wall Street Journal. McElroy began his career at age 16 earning $2 a week writing a youth column for the Houston Informer, the city’s oldest black newspaper. Years later, he became the paper’s executive editor. McElroy, the recipient of numerous honors, taught journalism at Houston’s black high schools, as well as Texas Southern University (his alma mater) and the University of Houston.


Oct 9

On this day in 1835, Samuel McCullough, a free black man, participated in the first offensive action of the Texas Revolution, in Goliad, and is considered the war’s first casualty. McCullough was born on Oct. 11, 1810 in Abbeville, South Carolina and came to Texas with his father, who was white. McCullough joined the Matagorda Volunteer Company as a private and was severely wounded in the right shoulder during the Goliad confrontation as the Texans stormed the Mexican officers’ quarters. McCullough was the only Texan wounded in the battle.


Oct 10

Singer and actress Teresa Graves died in a fire at her Hyde Park (Los Angeles) home on this day in 2002 at age 54. Graves, a Houston native, was a regular on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” comedy show in 1969 and 1970. She also starred in the television police drama “Get Christie Love” in 1974-75, making her the first black actress to have her own hour-long dramatic TV series.


Oct 10

On this day in 1914, Ivory Joe Hunter, R&B singer and songwriter was born in Kirbyville. Hunter was a teenager when he began touring as a musician. His first of several hit songs was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” which topped the R&B charts in 1950 and later that year “I Need You So” reached number 2. In 1957, “Since I Met You Baby” reached No. 1 and “Empty Arms” reached No. 2. Later in his career, he turned to country and western music and regularly appeared at the Grand Old Opry. A prolific songwriter, it’s estimated that Hunter penned more than 7,000 songs. Elvis Presley recorded two of Hunter’s songs that made the Top 20, “My Wish Came True” and “Ain’t That Loving You Baby.” And, in 1970, Sonny James cover of “Since I Met You Baby” was No. 1 on the country charts. Hunter is honored as a music legend in the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame in Port Arthur. A Texas Historical marker honoring Hunter was erected near Magnolia Springs in Jasper County in 2009.


Oct 10

Milt Larkin, bandleader and self-taught jazz trumpeter, was born on this day in 1910 in Navasota. Larkin began playing trumpet at age 16 and only 10 years later formed his own band in Houston after playing with Chester Boone. Larkin’s group, known as “the last of the great Texas bands,” included saxophonists Illinois Jacquet and Arnett Cobb and was compared favorably with Jimmie Lunceford and Cab Calloway. His popularity grew in New York where he led house bands at the Apollo Theater and the Celebrity Club.


Oct 11

On this day in 1930, Clifton Richardson founded and became editor/publisher of the Houston Defender, a weekly newspaper focusing on the city’s black community. Richardson had the same roles in 1919 with the Houston Informer. He was also a vocal supporter of civil rights and was a founding member of the Civic Betterment League (CBL) of Harris County and founding member and later president of Houston’s NAACP chapter.


Oct 12

On this day in 1950, Herman A. Barnett, III, an Austin native, enrolled as a regular student of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston becoming the school’s first black student. However, in the previous year, Barnett had been accepted to the school but as a student in Houston at Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University), attending UTMB under a contract program between the schools. The program was stopped after the Veterans Administration (Barnett’s tuition was covered by the GI Bill) refused to recognize the contract system and Barnett’s attorney threatened legal action. Barnett became a prominent surgeon and anesthesiologist and was a graduate of Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University) in Austin. During WWII, he was a Tuskegee Airman (332nd Fighter Group) and in 1968, became the first African-American to serve on the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners. In 1973, he was the first black elected president of the Board of Trustees of the Houston Independent School District.


Oct 12

Physician Monroe Alpheus Majors was born on this day in 1864 in Waco. Majors was also a civil rights leader and writer. He attended Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University) in Austin, but graduated from Central Tennessee College in Nashville then enrolled at Meharry Medical College and graduated as salutatorian of his class in 1886. He was one of the founders of the Lone Star State Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association, one of the first medical societies in the country for black physicians. In 1888, fearing for his life after racist threats because of his influence in the community, he moved to Los Angeles and became the first black physician to practice medicine west of the Rocky Mountains. He returned to Waco in 1890 to practice medicine and serve as lecturer in hygiene and sanitation at Paul Quinn College, and also built and operated a hospital for blacks. As a writer, he published Noted Negro Women (1893), a book of biographies of prominent black women of the period, and in 1921 wrote First Steps and Nursery Rhymes, the first book of nursery rhymes written specifically for black children.


Oct 12

On this day in 1919, Pearl Harbor hero Doris (Dorie) Miller was born in Waco.  Miller was a mess man aboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. Miller moved several wounded sailors to safety and then manned an anti-aircraft gun, for which he had no training, and fired at attacking planes. For his actions, Miller was the first African-American to be awarded the Navy’s second highest honor, the Navy Cross. (Note: Please see TIPHC Bookshelf for “Doris Miller, Pearl Harbor, and the Birth of the Civil Rights Movement.”)


Oct 13

In 1875, on this day, Adam (or, “Adan”) Paine (1843-1877), a black Seminole, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Paine was a scout at Fort Duncan, Texas, and received the MOH for his actions during a battle at Quitaque Peak where he defended himself and four other scouts against several bands of Comanche Indians on September 26, 1874. Greatly outnumbered, the scouts fled, fighting as they went, though Paine held back to protect the others, allowing them to get away as he fired repeatedly at their pursuers. Payne’s horse was shot from under him, however, Paine continued to fight and eventually shot the rider of one horse, mounted the animal and made his escape. Thanks to his efforts during the engagement, all of the scouts survived. Paine’s commanding officer, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, said that Paine “has more cool (and) daring than any scout I have ever known.”


Oct 13

On this day in 1864 the Elm Creek Raid occurred, during which a band of several hundred Kiowa and Comanche Indians raided a settlement in the Elm Creek Valley (northwest of Dallas and South of Wichita Falls) where Britt Johnson, a ranch foreman and former slave, and his family lived. During the raid, Johnson’s son, Jubal, was among several settlers killed. Johnson’s wife, Mary, and two daughters were among the hostages taken into Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Johnson spent the next year traveling into the Territory and finally locating his family. Johnson worked with Comanche Chief Asa-Havey to pay a ransom and regain his family. The story of Johnson’s quest (fact or fiction) was the inspiration for Alan LeMay’s 1954 novel, The Searchers, which director John Ford would turn into a movie of the same name in 1956 starring John Wayne.


Oct 15

Houstonian Emmett Scott was appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of War, Newton Baker, on this day in 1917 as a liaison between black soldiers and the War Department amid rising racial tensions in the country. Among Scott’s accomplishments in that role were:

  • The formation of a Speakers’ Bureau, or “Committee of One Hundred,” to enlighten black Americans on the war aims of the government.
  • The continuance of training camps for black officers and the increase in their number and increasing their scope of training.
  • Betterment of the general conditions in the camps where blacks were stationed in large numbers, and positive steps to reduce friction between
  • The opening of every branch of the military service to colored men, on equal terms with all others, and the commissioning of many colored men as
    officers in the Medical Corps.
  • A report about conditions facing African-Americans during the period, which were published in 1919 as The American Negro in the World War.

Oct 18

On this day in 1912, World Heavyweight Champion and Galveston native Jack Johnson was arrested for violating the Mann Act against transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, specifically prostitution, because of his relationship with a white woman who was Johnson’s fiancée. Her refusal to cooperate in his prosecution doomed the case though Johnson would be arrested again less than a month later on similar charges, however, the woman involved this time testified against him. Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to a year and a day in prison, but he jumped bail and left the country for France. He wouldn’t fight for over a year until he defeated Jim Johnson, an African-American, in Paris in the first fight for the heavyweight championship between two black men.


Oct 19

Two-time Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holliday was born on this day in 1960 in Houston. Inspired by congresswoman and fellow Houston native Barbara Jordan to be a good citizen and a good person, Holliday began singing in the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church choir. She gained fame in the starring role of Effie “Melody” White in the Broadway production “Dreamgirls,” for which Holiday earned a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. In the show, she sings “And I Am Telling You I’m not Going,” which also reached No. 1 on R&B charts.


Oct 22

Christia Daniels Adair, suffragist and civil rights activist, was born on this day in 1893, in Victoria, Texas. A graduate of Prairie View Normal College, Adair was an elementary school teacher in Kingsville where she organized a group of black and white women to acquire voting rights in 1919. She later became one of the first black women to vote in the state’s previously all-white primary. Adair and her husband relocated to Houston where she would become executive secretary for the Houston chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. With the NAACP she led campaigns to desegregate the city’s public schools, libraries, transportation, hospitals and other public facilities. In 1952, Adair help found the first Harris County interracial political group, the Harris County Democrats. In 1977, a Houston city park was named for her.


Oct 22

In 1936, Bobby Seale was born on this day in Dallas. Seale would become a political activist and revolutionist, and in 1966 co-founded (with Huey Newton) and was national chairman of the Black Panther PartyJ. Edgar HooverFederal Bureau of Investigation director, described the Panthers as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country. “Seale was also one of the “Chicago Eight” defendants charged with conspiring to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention. Seale was charged with 16 counts of contempt of court after repeated outbursts during the trial for which he was bound and gagged. He spent four years in prison. In 1973, he finished second in a run for mayor of Oakland, Ca. Since, Seale has been a community activist and author. Among his several books are his biography, “Seize the Time,” and a cook book, “Barbeque’n with Bobby.”


Oct 23

On this day in 1955, Dallas native Charlie “Choo-Choo”  Brackins played the final minutes of a game against the Cleveland Browns, making him the fourth black quarterback to play in an NFL game, but the first quarterback from a historically black college to play in the league. Brackins attended Lincoln High School in Dallas then starred at Prairie View A&M, leading the Panthers to 33 wins in the 37 games he played. He was a 16th round pick by the Green Bay Packers in the 1955 draft.


Oct 24

Two historically black Austin institutions of higher education, Samuel Huston College and Tillotson College, merged to form Huston-Tillotson College (now University) on this day in 1952. Tillotson Collegiate and Normal Institute (named after Unitarian minister George Jeffrey Tillotson) first opened its doors in 1881, and Samuel Huston College in 1876 in Dallas, relocating to Austin two years later. The two East Austin schools were less than a mile apart. Huston-Tillotson is a coeducational college of liberal arts and sciences, operated jointly under the auspices of the American Missionary Association of the United Church of Christ and the Board of Education of the United Methodist Church.


Oct 25

Prairie View and National Basketball Association great Zelmo Beaty was born on this day in 1939 in Hillister (50 miles north of Beaumont). Beaty played during segregation at all-black Scott High School in nearby Woodville. At PV, Beaty led the Panthers to the 1962 NAIA national championship and was named tournament MVP. He averaged 25 points and 20 rebounds during his collegiate career. Though undersized at 6-9 for a center, Beaty was the third overall pick in the 1962 NBA draft by the St. Louis Hawks (now Atlanta), made the 1962-63 NBA All-Rookie Team and was a league All-Star in 1966 and 1968 in an era dominated by centers Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Beaty jumped to the American Basketball Association and led the Utah Stars to their only championship in 1971. In eight NBA seasons, he averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds a game. He is a member of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.


Oct 27

On this day in 2002, Dallas Cowboys’ running back Emmitt Smith passed Chicago Bears great Walter Payton and became the National Football League’s all-time rushing leader on an 11-yard gain in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 17-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Dallas. Smith retired two years later with 18,355 career yards to Payton’s 16,726. Smith, who played collegiately at the University of Florida, was the Cowboys first round pick (number 17 overall) in the NFL’s 1990 draft. He played in eight Pro Bowls and was a four-time first-team All-Pro. In 2005, Smith was inducted to the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor and in 2010 he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.


Oct 28

English and Speech Professor Melvin Tolson organized the Forensic Society of Wiley College on this day in 1924. The debate teams compiled a ten-year winning streak. Tolson wrote the team’s speeches and the debaters memorized them with Tolson training them on every gesture and pause. He anticipated opponents’ arguments and wrote rebuttals before the actual debates. The 1935 team won the national championship, defeating the University of Southern California. The story of that team and Tolson’s leadership were the subjects of the 2007 film “The Great Debaters.”


Oct 29

E.H. Anderson, Prairie View State Normal School principal, died on this day in 1885. Anderson, a native of Memphis, had become the school’s second principal in 1879.


Oct 30

On this day in 1974, Houston’s George Foreman, heavyweight champion, lost his title to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, Zaire. Foreman was favored to win, but in the second round, Ali began his “rope-a-dope” strategy – leaning against the ropes while shielding his head and absorbing body blows from Foreman. As Ali continued the tactic, Foreman tired and his punches lost power and in the eighth round a visibly fatigued Foreman was knocked down for the first time in his career and counted out suffering his first defeat. Years later, Foreman would say, “The day after I lost to Ali, people came by and put a hand on my shoulder and said, ‘It’s okay, George. You’ll have another chance.’ That was pity. (I went) from being feared to being pitied. Brother, that’s a long fall.”


Oct 30

On this day in 1892, Clifton Richardson was born in Marshall, Texas. Richardson became founder (in 1919), editor and publisher of the Houston Informer. In 1930, he had the same roles with the Houston Defender. Richardson was also a vocal supporter of civil rights and a founding member of the Civic Betterment League (CBL) of Harris County and founding member and later president of Houston’s NAACP chapter.


Oct 31

On this day in 1835 a volunteer company was formed in Huntsville, Ala. to travel to Texas and help fight in the Texas Revolution against Mexico. A free black, Peter Allen, a flutist, was welcomed into the company as a musician. Allen, a native of Philadelphia, Pa. was the son of Richard Allen, founder and first Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. On March 20, 1836, Allen and his company, approximately 300 men commanded by Col. James Walker Fannin, participated in the Battle of Coleto Creek, but the men were forced to surrender and were imprisoned at Goliad. A week later, on Palm Sunday, all of the men were executed and their bodies burned in what became known as the Goliad Massacre. Asked by the Mexican commander to play a tune in exchange for his freedom, Allen refused and was also executed. Reportedly, Allen had responded to the request by saying, “No, I’ll not play, but I’ll just go along with the rest of the boys.”


Oct 31

State Senator George T. Ruby died of malaria in New Orleans on this day in 1882. Ruby had been an agent for the Freedman’s Bureau administering its schools for former slaves. In 1868 he was the only black delegate from Texas at the National Republican Convention and also was one of 10 African American delegates to Texas Constitutional Convention of 1868-69. As a senator in the 12th Legislature Ruby was appointed to the Judiciary, Militia, Education, and State Affairs committees. He introduced successful bills to incorporate Texas railroads and a number of insurance companies and to provide for the geological and agricultural survey of the state. He was called “one of the most influential men of the 12th and 13th Legislatures,” and one of the “most prominent black politicians of Reconstruction.”


Oct 31

Kenneth Sims was born on this day in 1959 in Kosse, Texas. Sims, a defensive end, would become the first member of the University of Texas football program to win the Lombardi Award, presented to college football’s best lineman. Sims won the award as a senior, in 1981, and was taken No. 1 overall in the 1982 National Football League draft by the New England Patriots. He played eight years in the NFL.

November

Nov 1

In 1903, on this day, Houston music impresario Don Robey was born. Robey was influential in developing the Texas blues scene, but he also produced major gospel talents. Robey’s music business empire included several music labels, most prominent being Peacock Records, and his was likely the first such enterprise run by an African-American. Robey produced dozens of blues and gospel artists, including Bobby “Blue” Bland, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Memphis Slim, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, the Dixie Hummingbirds, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.


Nov 2

On this day in 1963, the Baylor University Board of Trustees voted to integrate the school, the world’s largest Baptist institution of higher learning. Hilton E. Howell, chairman of the board, said, “The action of the Baylor University Board of Trustees was taken after full and free discussion. While the final vote of the board adopting the new policy was not unanimous, the decision was reached by amicable discussion and democratic procedure.”


Nov 2

On this day in 1999, legendary Prairie View A&M football coach Billy Nicks passed away in Houston at age 94. Nicks was a native of Griffin, Ga. and attended Morris Brown College in Atlanta where he played football, basketball, baseball, and ran track. As a coach, his 1941 Morris Brown team was named black college national champion, but it would be in Texas, at Prairie View, where Nicks would make his mark as one of the top coaches in college football history. He began coaching at Prairie View in 1945 and in 17 years compiled a 127-39-8 record and won eight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and five black college national championships. He had five undefeated seasons as Prairie View became a black college football power in the 1950s and 1960s. Nicks had a winning record against every SWAC opponent, including Grambling State and legendary head coach Eddie Robinson. Nicks’ overall record, for 28 years, was 193-61-21, a winning percentage of .763. He is a member of numerous halls of fame, including the College Football Hall of Fame, NAIA, and the SWAC.


Nov 3

Matthew “Bones” Hooks was born on this day in 1867 to former slave parents in Robertson County, Texas. Hooks was a cowboy and legendary horse breaker, who was also one of the first black cowboys to work alongside whites as a ranch hand. He later became a civic leader and worked with youth groups in Amarillo.


Nov 5

On this day in 1901, actress and singer Etta Moten was born in Weimar, Texas. Moten was touted as the “new Negro woman” for her ground-breaking movie roles. She married Claude Barnett, founder of the Associated Negro Press in 1934 the same year, she became first black woman to sing at the White House when she performed for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s birthday celebration. For the production of “Porgy and Bess,“ Broadway composer George Gershwin wrote the female lead character with Barnett in mind.


Nov 6

On this cold, post-storm morning in 1528, Moroccan Moor servant Esteban (Estevanico) waded ashore near Galveston with a group of shipwrecked Spanish conquistadors and became the first African to set foot in what would become Texas. He and the other survivors would wander for eight years, at times as hostages of Native American tribes, through Texas and along the Rio Grande and into Mexico. Esteban is also considered the first black person to explore Arizona and New Mexico.


Nov 6

Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger was born on this day in 1822 in Joy, Wayne County, New York. As Union commander of the Department of Texas, Granger would arrive at Galveston on June 19, 1865 and deliver General Order No. 3 announcing that slaves in Texas were free, as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued two years earlier. The announcement is the basis for Juneteenth celebrations.


Nov 6

In 1973, on this day, Los Angeles elected its first black mayor, Tom Bradley, a native of Calvert, Texas. The son of sharecroppers and the grandson of slaves, Bradley moved with his family to Los Angeles at age seven. In 1963, after an outstanding career with the Los Angeles Police Department, Bradley became the first African-American elected to the Los Angeles city council. Ten years later, he became the first African-American mayor of a predominantly white city and served an unprecedented five terms. His achievements included securing the 1984 Summer Olympic Games for Los Angeles.


Nov 10

Renowned jazz flutist Hubert Laws was born on this day in 1939 in Houston. Laws played in the marching band at Phillis Wheatley High School in Houston then studied music at Texas Southern University before beginning his professional career playing in Houston jazz groups such as the Crusaders. Has played an recorded with numerous artists including Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Leonard Bernstein and was recipient of the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Award and lifetime achievement award from the NEA in the field of jazz.


Nov 10

Wiley College was founded on this day in 1873 and was the first black college west of the Mississippi River. Named in honor of Bishop Isaac T. Wiley, an outstanding minister, medical missionary and educator, the school opened its doors just south of Marshall, Texas with two frame buildings.


Nov 11

Captain Norman W. Scales, a Tuskegee Airman and the first licensed black pilot in Austin, was born on this day in 1918. Scales flew 70 missions over enemy territories and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and certificate of valor.


Nov 12

On this date in 1893, physician James Lee Dickey was born near Waco. A graduate of Tillotson College (now Huston-Tillotson University) in 1916, he entered Meharry Medical College in Nashville and graduated in 1921. Dickey returned to Texas to help is widowed mother raise his eight siblings and settled in Taylor, northeast of Austin. Dickey was the only black doctor in Williamson County and one of only 130 black doctors in Texas. He established a medical facility that began with a three-bedroom clinic and expanded to a fifteen-bed hospital with modern surgical and obstetrical facilities. The clinic was open to all needy patients — regardless of race — from Williamson, LeeTravisMilamBell and Bastrop counties. Early in his career he also curbed a typhoid fever epidemic in 1932 through a vigorous vaccination program. He became a trustee of Tillotson college and in 1953 was named Taylor’s most outstanding citizen by the chamber of commerce, the first time a black man had been so honored in the community.


Nov 12

Ken HoustonPro Football Hall of Fame safety, was born on this day in 1944 in Lufkin, Texas. Houston played collegiately at Prairie View A&M, then starred with the Houston Oilers and Washington Redskins. Houston became the National Football League’s premier strong safety of 1970s and was All-Pro or All-AFC/NFC eight of nine years, 1971-1979.


Nov 13

On this day in 1947, John Hill Westbrook was born in Groesbeck, Texas. On September 10, 1966, Westbrook, as a running back for Baylor University, became the first black football player to compete in the Southwest Conference when he entered a game in the fourth quarter. His debut came one week before the more celebrated start for Southern Methodist University’s Jerry LeVias.


Nov 14

Doris Hollis Pemberton, reporter, civic leader, and author, was born on this day in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1917. Pemberton studied at Texas College and graduated from Texas Southern University. In 1944, as a writer for the Dallas Express, she became the first black reporter to cover a state Democratic convention in Texas. In Houston, during the 1950s, Pemberton helped develop classes for black students in arts, crafts, and science at local museums. She was the author of “Juneteenth at Comanche Crossing.”


Nov 15

Conrad “Prof” Johnson, director of the legendary Kashmere High School Stage Band and one of Houston’s greatest jazz educators, was born on this day in 1915 in Victoria, Texas. Johnson taught in Houston schools for more than 30 years. He created and led the Kashmere band during its heyday in the 1960s and ’70s when it was among the nation’s best, and traveled across the United States and to Europe and Japan. The band won 42 out of 46 contests it entered between 1969 and 1977, and recorded eight albums featuring more than 20 original compositions by Johnson. The band is featured in the documentary, “Thunder Soul.”


Nov 16

On this date in 1963, tennis professional Zina Garrison was born in Houston. In 1990 at Wimbledon, Garrison became the first Black woman since Althea Gibson to reach a Grand Slam final. In 1989, she reached a career high ranking of No. 4 in the world and teamed with Pam Shriver to win an Olympic gold medal in 1988 in doubles competition in Seoul, Korea.


Nov 17

Basketball player Elvin Hayes, one of the first black athletes at the University of Houston, was born on this day in 1945 in Rayville, La. Hayes was a three-time All-America and was selected as the College Player of the Year in 1968. As a pro, he was the first pick in the 1968 NBA draft by the San Diego (later Houston) Rockets, and would also star for the Baltimore/Washington Bullets. Hayes retired in 1984 as the second-leading scorer in league history with 27,313 points, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990, and was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996.


Nov 23

On this day in 1963, Baylor University’s athletic council announced it would integrate all of the school’s athletic teams, effective with the opening of the spring semester, Jan. 30, 1964. At the time, the school had no black students, but had announced its intention to open enrollment. John Bridgers, head football coach and athletic director said, “We don’t know of any Negro athletes right now that we’re interested in, but there may be some we will want to look at and investigate…there are some tremendous Negro athletes all over the country.” Bridgers said he personally agrees with the action of the trustees and the athletic council. “I feel it’s something that should be, from a standpoint of being right.” Ironically, Baylor was the first program in the Southwest Conference to have a black player take the field when running back John Westbrook, a walk-on, carried the ball twice in the Bears victory over Syracuse University on Sept. 10, 1966. A week later, Southern Methodist University‘s Jerry Levias became the SWC’s first black scholarship player.


Nov 24

Called the “King of Ragtime,” Scott Joplin was born this day in 1868 near Linden, Texas. (Some documents, however, refer to his birth as between June 1867 and mid-January 1868.) Joplin grew up in Texarkana, Texas and taught himself to play piano in the home where his mother worked as a domestic. Sheet music for his best-known piece, “Maple Leaf Rag,” sold over a million copies and his works also include a ballet and two operas. Joplin’s music was featured in the 1973 motion picture, “The Sting,” which won an Academy Award for its film score. In 1976, Joplin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for “Treemonisha,” the first grand opera by an African American.


Nov 24

Jazz pianist Teddy Wilson was born this day in Austin in 1912. Known as “the definitive swing pianist,” Wilson began his career in the late 1920s in various Midwest bands, and from 1935 to 1939, played on sessions that resulted in legendary vocalist Billie Holiday‘s greatest work. He joined Benny Goodman in 1936, breaking the color barrier by performing on an equal footing with Goodman in trios, quartets and sextets. He is best known for his role as “Sam” in the Humphrey Bogart classic movie, “Casablanca,” in which he is the piano-player and singer (“As Time Goes By“) and the target for the line, “Play it (again, Sam)!”


Nov 24

Attorney, businessman and civil rights activist Percy Sutton was born on this date in 1920 in San Antonio. The son of a former slave, Sutton served in World War II with the Tuskegee Airmen, then settled in New York. In 1971, he co-founded the Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, which purchased WLIB-AM, making it the first black-owned station in New York City. He earned a law degree in 1950 and served in the New York State Assembly before taking over as Manhattan borough president in 1966, becoming the state’s highest-ranking black elected official. Sutton also headed a group that owned the Amsterdam News, the second-largest black weekly newspaper in the country.


Nov 27

On this day in 1944, U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland was born in Lubbock. He graduated from Houston’s Phillis Wheatley High School in 1963 and earned a pharmacy degree from Texas Southern University in 1970. Leland served six terms in Congress (18th District) and five years as a Texas state legislator (88th District). He was a civil rights activist and a staunch advocate in the fight against hunger. He was the lead supporter for passage of the Africa Famine Relief and Recovery Act of 1985, legislation that provided $800 million in food and humanitarian relief supplies. Leland died in a plane crash on August 7, 1989 while on a relief mission to an isolated refugee camp, Fugnido, in Ethiopia, which sheltered thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing the civil conflict in neighboring Sudan.


Nov 28

The Jack YatesPhillis Wheatley high school football rivalry in Houston started in 1927, but the game officially became the “Turkey Day Classic” on this day in 1946. Played at Jeppesen Stadium — then a venue for public school sports events, the Thanksgiving Day game would be played until 1966 and drew standing room only crowds of 30,000-plus fans making it, for many years, the largest event in the nation for high school football.


Nov 28

Claude William Black, Jr., minister and political figure, was born on this day in 1916 in San Antonio. Rev. Black was pastor of Mt. Zion First Baptist Church in San Antonio for almost 50 years, but was also a noted Civil Rights leader who became a four-term city councilman (1973-1978) and the city’s first black Mayor Pro Tem. He was an associate of Martin Luther King, Jr., A. Phillip Randolph, and Thurgood Marshall. During President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, Black was a delegate to the White House Conference on Civil Rights.

December

Dec 1

On this day in 1989, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey died in New York City of blood dyscrasia. Ailey, a native or Rogers, Texas, founded his namesake dance theater in 1958. A native of Rogers (Bell County), Ailey made his Broadway debut in 1954 and in 1958 gained his first critical success for his choreography for Blues Suite, which also marked the beginning of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. His troupe, in 1970, became the first American dance company to tour the USSR in 50 years and received a 20-minute ovation for their performance in Leningrad.


Dec 1

On this day in 1956, Charles Brown became the first black athlete to participate in a major college sport in Texas when he suited up for Texas Western College (now Univ. of Texas at El Paso), 10 years before John Westbrook at Baylor and Jerry LeVias at Southern Methodist University broke the color line for the Southwest Conference in September 1966. Brown had attended predominantly black Douglass High School in El Paso, served in the Air Force during the Korean War then attended Amarillo Junior College before he and his nephew, Cecil, joined Texas Western. In his debut, Brown scored 16 points and, according to the El Paso Times, “dazzled the crowd” as the Miners beat New Mexico Western 73-48. Though only 6-foot-1, from 1956-1959, Brown led the Border Conference in scoring and rebounding. He concluded his career with 1,170 points and 578 rebounds, averaging 17.5 points and 8.6 rebounds. Brown was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999 and the UTEP Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. On March 2, 2011, UTEP hung Brown’s jersey No. 25 in the rafters. On Sunday, May 11, 2014, Brown passed away in Antioch, California at the age of 83.


Dec 1

James Cash becomes the first African American to play basketball in the Southwest Conference on this day in 1966 when Texas Christian University opened its season at Oklahoma, losing 90-76. Cash had starred at Fort Worth I.M. Terrell High School playing for legendary coach Robert Hughes. Cash graduated from Terrell in 1965, but because of the NCAA’s freshmen ineligible rule, would not take the court for TCU until 1966. In his first season, 1966-67, Cash started at forward and averaged 11.5 points, and led the team in rebounds with 266. The team would finish the season 10-14 overall, 8-6 in the SWC (second place). However, Cash would help lead the team to a conference championship and NCAA Tournament (first round loss) the next season. An Academic All-American, Cash received a degree in math and later a master’s and Ph.D. from Purdue University and would become a full-time professor and then Dean of the MBA Program at the Harvard Business School (and the school’s first tenured black professor). Cash served on various corporate boards including Microsoft, General Electric, and Wal-Mart and became part owner of the NBA Boston Celtics.


Dec 1

On this day in 1976, the Clarksville neighborhood in Austin was added to National Register of Historic Places. Clarksville was originally the location of slave quarters for a plantation outside of Austin owned by Texas Governor Elisha M. Pease who gave the land to his emancipated slaves. Freedman Charles Clark established the community in 1871 and subdivided the land among other freedmen.


Dec 5

On this day in 1972, Austin musician Kenny Dorham died of kidney failure at age 48 in New York City. Dorham was one of the great trumpet pioneers of the bebop era, and worked with many of the bebop giants in the ’40s and ’50s, including Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, Lionel Hampton, and Thelonious Monk.


Dec 5

Willie M. “Bill” Pickett, the cowboy known as the “Dusky Demon” and inventor of the rodeo sport of bulldogging (steer wrestling), was born on this day in 1870 in Taylor, northeast of Austin. In 1971, Pickett was the first black man elected to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center in Oklahoma. In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service honored him as part of its Legends of the West series of stamps.


Dec 6

The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified by three-fourths of the states on this day in 1865, officially becoming part of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment declared that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” However, when the newly elected 11th Texas Legislature met in August 1866, the members refused to ratify either the 13th or 14th Amendment (granting citizenship to African Americans). The legislature wanted to return Texas as much as possible to the way it was before the war and restrict the rights of African Americans. Texas would not ratify the 13th amendment until February 18, 1870. Mississippi would be the last state to comply, ratifying the amendment in 1995, but the state didn’t officially notify the U.S. Archivist until 2012, when the ratification finally became official.


Dec 7

Publisher Julius Carter was born this day in 1914 in Houston. Carter founded the Forward Times newspaper in 1960 when segregation was in full force in Houston. Carter realized his vision of the Forward Times becoming a voice for the city’s African-American community.


Dec 7

Philanthropist and founder of Pro-Line Corporation, maker of black hair products, Comer Cottrell, Jr., was born on this day in 1931 in Mobile, Alabama. Cottrell founded Pro-Line in Los Angeles in 1970, but relocated the business to Dallas in 1980. Pro-Line became the largest black-owned firm in the Southwest and one of the most profitable black companies in the United States. He is noted for popularizing the “Jheri curl” hairstyle. Cottrell became part owner of Texas Rangers baseball team in 1989, becoming the first African-American to hold such a stake in a Major League Baseball team and was also the first black member of the powerful Dallas Citizens Council.


Dec 7

On this day in 1941, Navy messman Doris Miller, a Waco native was aboard the USS West Virginia when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Miller moved several wounded sailors to safety and then manned an anti-aircraft gun, for which he had no training (because the Navy limited black sailors to non-combat roles and menial duties), and fired at attacking planes. For his actions, Miller was the first African-American to be awarded the Navy’s second highest honor, the Navy Cross.


Dec 9

Taylor native Bill Pickett became the first African-American elected to the Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame on this day in 1971. Pickett is noted as the originator of “steer wresting” with his technique of “bulldogging” steers, during which Pickett would subdue unruly cows by jumping from his horse to the cow, wrestling him to the ground, then biting the creature’s lip. Pickett said he got the idea from watching dogs do the same thing when they were herding cows. Known as the “Dusky Demon,” Pickett has also been honored by the U.S. Postal Service as part of its “Legends of the West” series of commemorative stamps.


Dec 9

On this day in 1930, Calvert native Rube Foster, founder of baseball’s first successful all-black league, the Negro National League, died in Kankakee, Illinois. Known as the “Father of Black Baseball,” Foster was a star pitcher and manager for the Chicago American Giants, as well as league commissioner. The NNL, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., had teams in the South and Midwest including Texas teams such as the Austin Black SenatorsFort Worth Black Panthers, and the Houston Eagles. Foster was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.


Dec 10

This day marks the passing of Rev. Jacob Fontaine in 1898. Born in Arkansas, Fontaine was a Baptist minister, publisher, and community leader who came to Austin in 1839 with his owner, Rev. Edward Fontaine, who served as personal secretary for Texas president Mirabeau B. Lamar. In 1867, Jacob Fontaine founded the First Baptist Church (Colored) on the same property where the Austin History Center now sits. In 1876, he established the Gold Dollar, one of the first black weekly newspapers in the South and the first newspaper under black ownership in Austin. He also participated in the founding of five African-American churches as well as the St. John Regular Missionary Baptist Association.


Dec 10

On this day in 2011, Kevin Sumlin became the first black head football coach at Texas A&M University. In his first year as the Aggies’ head coach, Sumlin led A&M to a No. 5 national ranking and the program’s first 11-win season since 1998. Sumlin was a national coach of the year finalist and coached the first-ever freshman to win the Heisman Trophy – quarterback  Johnny Manziel. Sumlin went to Texas A&M after leading the University of Houston Cougars to a school-record 13 victories and the program’s highest finish (No. 20) in the Bowl Championship Series standings in 2011. Sumlin posted a 35-17 overall record and led the Cougars to three bowl games fueled by his high-powered offense that led the nation in passing, total and scoring offense that set NCAA FBS team records for total offense and passing yards. When hired at UH in 2008, Sumlin became the first African-American head football coach at a NCAA Division I school in the state of Texas. Sumlin was born in Brewton, Alabama, however graduated high school in Indianapolis and attended Purdue University, graduating in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in both criminology and criminal justice. He was a standout linebacker for the Boilermakers.


Dec 11

On this day in 1912, Heman Marion Sweatt was born in Houston. In 1946, Sweatt, a graduate of Wiley College, challenged the admissions policy at the University of Texas law school. He teamed with the NAACP, which was looking to test separate but equal education statutes in Texas. Sweatt’s legal battle struck down segregationist policies at the UT law school, gained him admission, and paved the way for the landmark decision of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.


Dec 11

Texas blues pioneer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born on this day in 1926 in Montgomery, Alabama. Thornton left home in 1941 to pursue her musical career, eventually settling in Houston in 1948. Her 1952 recording of “Hound Dog” was later a huge hit for Elvis Presley, and her song “Ball and Chain” was made famous by Janis Joplin.


Dec 12

The Ashworth Act was passed by the Texas Congress on this day in 1840 in response to an act passed on February 5, 1840 which prohibited free blacks from living in the Republic of Texas. The Ashworth Act was targeted towards certain free blacks (primarily a family of blacks named Ashworth who had “contributed generously” during the Texas Revolution), but generally said that “all free persons of color together with their families, who were residing in Texas the day of the state’s Declaration of Independence” (March 2, 1836) could remain in the state. Other free blacks had two years to vacate Texas or be sold into slavery.


Dec 13

On this day in 1967, actor and comedian Eric Marlon Bishop was born in Terrell. In 1989, Bishop changed his name to Jamie Foxx in an effort to get more performance time as a stand-up comic at a Los Angeles club. As an actor, he became the first African American to receive two acting Oscar nominations in the same year (2004) for two different movies, Collateral and Ray.


Dec 14

On this day in 1978, Iola Bowden Chambers, co-founder and director of the Negro Fine Arts School in Georgetown, died in Brownwood. Bowden was a native of Holder and received a diploma in piano in 1926 from the Washington Conservatory of Music. She returned to Texas and taught music at Southwestern University where she and three of her students began teaching piano to black children in Georgetown as the Negro Fine Arts School. The program was sponsored by the Student Christian Association at Southwestern University and classes were held at the First Methodist Church of Georgetown. Over 200 students participated in the school during its existence from 1946 to 1966. The program held an annual recital but also awarded college scholarships. One former teacher said the basic impact of the organization was “the realization of the power of music as a universal language to transcend racial and cultural barriers.”


Dec 15

Jesse Belvin, R&B singer and songwriter, was born on this day in San Antonio (some accounts say Texarkana, Texas). At the age of five, Belvin moved with his family to Los Angeles. Known by some as the “Black Elvis,” Belvin’s most popular hit was “Good Night My Love,” which reached No. 7 on the R&B charts in 1956. He also wrote the song “Earth Angel” which was a hit for the Penguins and sold over a million copies in 1954.


Dec 17

On this day in 1933, jazz bassist Walter Booker was born in Prairie View, Texas. Booker moved to Washington, D.C. at an early age when his father joined the faculty at Howard University. Booker became an elite bassist playing with many prominent jazz performers, including Sarah Vaughan, Chick Corea, Donald Byrd, Sonny Rollinsand Thelonius Monk. Booker played on more than 275 albums and in the late 1950s, while serving in the Army in Europe, was in the same unit as Elvis Presley.


Dec 18

Saxophonist and blues singer Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson was born on this day in 1917 in Houston. Vinson was still a student at Jack Yates High School when he began his professional career with Chester Boone’s band in 1935. Working with Milt Larkin’s band, the next year, Vinson teamed with Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet to form the group’s sax section. Vinson also wrote two Miles Davis classics, “Tune Up” and “Four.” In the early 1950s, Vinson’s own band included a young John Coltrane.


Dec 19

On this date in 1963, the Mary A. Brown High School Leopards football team in Smithville won the Prairie View Interscholastic League Class 1A state championship, the only state football title in Smithville history. Brown, coached by Gene Sampson, finished the season with a 12-1 record after crushing Mineola’s McFarland Bears, 38-6, making Brown the Class A state Negro schoolboy football champions.


Dec 21

On this day in 1931, Eldrewey Stearns was born in Galveston. In 1960, Stearns became the first president of the Progressive Youth Association at Texas Southern University and led the group’s demonstrations against discrimination in various Houston facilities. The group was successful in opening access for African Americans in downtown stores, and their demonstrations against employment discrimination opened jobs for blacks at drugstores, service stations and banks in the city’s black communities.


Dec 22

On this day in 1897, Rev. John Henry “Jack” Yates died in Houston. Yates, a former slave, was born in Virginia but migrated to Texas when his wife’s master moved to Matagorda County in 1863. After emancipation, Yates moved his family to Houston where he became the first pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, the first black Baptist church in Houston. He also organized the first Baptist association for blacks in Houston. Jack Yates High School is named in his honor.


Dec 23

Singer Esther Mae Jones was born in Galveston on this day in 1935. As “Little Esther,” she began her professional career at age 13. She changed her last name to Phillips in 1962. In 1975, she recorded her biggest hit single, “What a Difference a Day Makes,” which ranked in the top 10 of both the R&B and pop charts.


Dec 23

On this day in 1943, David Lattin was born in Houston. Lattin graduated from segregated Evan E. Worthing High School where he was twice named a high school All-American, the first such honor for any Texas prep basketball player. Afterwards, he was the starting center for Texas Western (now UT- El Paso) on its historic 1966 national championship team that upset No. 1-ranked Kentucky and its legendary coach, Adolph Rupp. Lattin has been inducted to both the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


Dec 23

Bob Lemmons (or, Lemons) died on this day in 1947. Called “the most original mustanger,” by author J. Frank Dobie, Lemmons was born into slavery in Lockport, Caldwell County in 1848, but freed at age 17 in Carrizo Springs in Southwest Texas. He moved to Eagle Pass to work and learn from rancher Duncan Lemmons, and adopted his mentor’s last name. Bob Lemmons became known for his ability to track and gather wild horses by isolating himself from humans and riding with a wild herd until they accepted his presence. He then took control of the herd by mounting the lead stallion and leading the herd into a corral on a nearby ranch. The picture book Black Cowboy, Wild Horses is based on accounts from Lemmons.


Dec 24

Quarterback Eldridge Dickey was born this day in 1945 in Houston. Dickey was a gifted All-State performer at Booker T. Washington High School (a member of the Prairie View Interscholastic League) then starred at Tennessee State University (Tennessee A&I) from 1964 until 1967 and was a three-time black college All-America. At Tennessee State, Dickey threw for 6,523 yards and 67 touchdowns and in 1966 led the Tigers to the program’s first-ever undefeated, untied season (10-0) as well as their first black college national championship. In 1968, the Oakland Raiders made Dickey the first-ever African-American quarterback taken in the first round of a pro draft. Dickey was inducted to the Black College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.


Dec 26

On this day in 1929, the city of Independence Heights was formally annexed by Houston. The Wright Land Company had originally secured the land, incorporated in 1910, and developed a new community for blacks. By doing its own financing the company made it possible for people with small incomes to become homeowners. Resident contractors built most of the houses and churches. Independence Heights incorporated in 1915, with a population of 600; according to a Houston Post story dated January 17, 1915, it was the first incorporated black city in Texas. In November 1928 Independence Heights residents voted to dissolve the city’s incorporation because of their desire to become a part of Houston. In 1989 a Texas Historical Commission marker was placed on the grounds of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church to mark the city site.


Dec 26

On this date in 1908 Galveston’s Jack Johnson became the first African-American to win the world heavyweight boxing title. Johnson dethroned reigning champion Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia winning a 14-round decision. Johnson had claimed the unofficial black heavyweight championship in 1903 with a victory over “Denver Ed” Martin. However, champions John L. Sullivan and Jim Jeffries, both white, had refused to fight Johnson, claiming that to do so would sully the sport’s reputation.


Dec 27

On this day in 1941, basketball coach Nolan Richardson was born in El Paso. Richardson played collegiately at Texas Western College (now the UT- El Paso). As a coach, he led Tulsa to the National Invitation Tournament championship in 1981. At the University of Arkansas, he took the Razorbacks to the Final Four three times, winning the National Championship in 1994 against Duke. He is the winningest coach in Arkansas history (389-169) and the only head coach to win a Junior College National Championship (Western Texas College), the NIT, and the NCAA Tournament.


Dec 27

This day marks the passing, in 2008, of Captain Louie White, one of the first black officers for the Austin Police Department. The department only had seven black officers when White joined in 1959 and none of them were allowed to arrest white suspects or patrol outside of East Austin. He served APD for 29 years, retiring in 1988, and was lauded as an influential community leader. The medal of valor was among his many awards and commendations. White died at age 76.


Dec 28

Theodore Boone was born on this date in 1896 in Winchester. Boone became an attorney, pastor, author, and editor. He was pastor of the Eighth Street Baptist Church in Temple and in 1926, he wrote “History of Negro Baptists in Texas” and served as editor-in-chief of the Western Star, a Black Baptist church publication, Boone wrote “Race Migration, Its Cause and Cure in 1924.”


Dec 28

Blues artist Freddie King, “The Texas Cannonball,” died on this day in 1976 in Dallas at age 42. Originally from Gilmer, King began playing guitar at an early age and moved with his family to Chicago at age 16. There, he picked up the electrified Chicago blues style and was influenced by Muddy Waters, Jimmy Rogers and others. His 1961 hit, “Hide Away,” reached No. 5 on the R&B charts and became a staple of blues group in the U.S. and Great Britain. King inspired musicians such as Jerry Garcia, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughn, and Eric Clapton. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.


Dec 29

In 1897, renowned baritone and composer Julius “Jules” Bledsoe was born on this day in Waco. Bledsoe was the first African-American artist to perform regularly on Broadway, including his 1927 performance in “Showboat,” where his rendition of “Ol’ Man River” is considered a classic.


Dec 29

Former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was born on this day in 1917 in Calvert. The son of sharecroppers and the grandson of slaves, Bradley moved with his family to Los Angeles at age seven. In 1963, after an outstanding career with the Los Angeles Police Department, Bradley became the first African-American elected to the Los Angeles city council. Ten years later, he became the first African-American mayor of a predominantly white city and served an unprecedented five terms. His achievements included securing the 1984 Summer Olympic Games for Los Angeles.


Dec 29

The U.S. Congress, on this day in 1845, accepted the state constitution – which permitted slavery – by two votes, and Texas became the 28th state in the Union. Two months later, on Feb. 19, 1846, the Republic of Texas was officially declared dead, however Texas’ admittance to the Union ignited the Mexican-American War.


Dec 30

On this day in 1900, Thelma Patten-Law was born in Huntsville. Patten-Law was the first woman physician to lead the Lone Star State Medical Association, serving in 1939-40. During her term as president, the National Medical Association held its annual meeting for the first time in Texas (in Houston). She was the first African-American woman to practice medicine in Houston and the first female obstetrics-gynecology specialist in the state. In 1934, she joined the medical staff at the Maternal Health Center in Houston in the Third Ward. The center would become the organization Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas.