Archive

1. D. Joe Williams

D. JOE WILLIAMS’ HALL OF FAME RINGS

FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TO INTEGRATE COLLEGIATE SPORTS IN TEXAS

D Joe Williams (1936-2013) was the first African American to integrate collegiate sports in Texas. In recognition of his athletic excellence, Williams was inducted into three different Texas sports Hall of Fame.

Born in Dobin on March 4, 1936, Williams moved to McAllen as a child, where he picked up baseball at the age of 10. He became one of the first African Americans to play in the junior league in the late 1940s, hitting over .400 as a first baseman. He also played in a semi-pro Negro League at the age of 16.

Williams attended segregated Booker T. Washington Hgh School in McAllen where he excelled in track, cross country, and baseball. As a position player on their baseball team, he stole 26 bases and went 10-3 with 78 strikeouts as a pitcher. This led to him getting scouted by the St. Louis Browns in 1953. The coaches at Pan American College in Edinburg, Texas were also impressed and extended him an offer to join the Broncos baseball and track teams. This was a bold move for the university as they had not previously or ever admitted African American students. Their pioneering decision stood out in Texas as the first college to integrate its sports program. Texas Western University integrated a year later in 1955, and North Texas State College in Denton in 1956. Most other schools in Texas and the nation did not follow suit until the 1960s.

In 1954, Williams was a starting centerfielder on Pan American’s baseball team and contributed offensively and defensively to the team’s Big State Conference championship squad. Williams also captured third place in the half-mile run at the conference track meet that year, helping that team to a conference championship.

Following his collegiate career, Williams coached at Charlie Brown High school in West Columbia, Texas for five years before moving to El Paso, Texas area where he taught and coached for 47 years at Fabens, Socorro, and Tornillo High Schools. he led Fabens to three distinct titles in five years, advancing to the regional final each time. He coached several players who went on to play in the Mexican League and in minor league baseball.

He continued to pursue athletics, forming, coaching, and playing for a semi-pro baseball team, the Viejos, for whom Williams was a two-time All-Star. He led the league in strikeouts in 1979, his second to last season as a player. Williams also played fastpitch softball, where he was an outstanding pitcher. When his playing career ended, Williams spent time as an umpire at several levels of baseball.

Williams was inducted into the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996, the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.

Mr. Williams was also displayed in the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, Texas. Williams was an original member of the Board of Directors for the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame, and at one point, served as president in 1998. The Texas Senate issues a proclamation honoring D Joe Williams for his athletic achievements and his contributions to education.

A STORY TO BE TOLD

The African American Western Heritage Center, Inc. would like to acknowledge D Joe Williams for his commitment, accomplishments, and contributions to the success and legacy of our people. His profound and persistent efforts are insurmountable. Our nation should be grateful that we were blessed to enjoy his presence for seventy-seven years.

He is survived by his wife for 49 years (Thelma Johnson Williams), his son (Dejeaux Williams), his daughter (Michelle Williams Harrison), two grandchildren (Jaelisa and Camerin), three great-grandchildren (JeaSean, Jaelyn, and A. J.). He is also survived by two sisters (Iva Adams and Gene Stroud). Others who mourn are several brother-in-laws, sister-in-laws, nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.

The AAWHC, Inc would like to take this opportunity to commend Pan American University Leadership for this action taken in 1954. These were times of segregation and overt discrimination toward African Americans. The Board of Regents, University President, Athletic Director, Head Baseball Coach, and other coaches are all to be commended for their fairness, boldness, forethought, and humanism.

The Supreme Court passed Brown vs The Board of Topeka that very same year. The nation was just beginning its’ journey to integrate all public schools. Tensions were high. The Galena Park Independent School District was the only district in the nation to tell the federal government to keep all federal monies. There was no integration in their district. Our college system here in Texas was worse. During these times no one played college sports in the state of Texas who was an African American.

These conditions only shine more light on what took place at Pan American University in 1954. Many black citizens of Texas and the nation would like to thank Pan American Univeristy in Edinburg, Texas, Texas Western University in El Paso, Texas and North Texas State in Denton, Texas for their positive leadership.


2. L.C. Anderson

Austin History Center, Austin Public Library

Laurine Cecil (L. C.) Anderson, black teacher and school administrator, was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1853 and received his B.A. from Fisk University. He trained for the Methodist ministry and taught at Tuskegee, Alabama, with Booker T. Washington before moving to Texas in 1879 to assist his brother E. H. Anderson, who was a minister and teacher at Prairie View Normal Institute (now Prairie View A&M University). In 1882 L. C. Anderson lobbied for university status for the school. Upon his brother‘s death on October 9th, 1885, Anderson succeeded him as principal of Prairie View. During his tenure there Anderson helped form and was elected the first president of the Colored Teachers State Association (see TEACHERS STATE ASSOCIATION OF TEXAS). He served as president of the college from 1885 to 1889 and worked to unity African-American leaders in business, politics, and religious and fraternal organizations, as well as for to improve conditions for black Texans through education. After heading Prairie View for seventeen years, Anderson moved to Austin to serve as principal of the school for blacks that later became Anderson High School, named in his honor. He was principal for thirty-two years and taught Latin until he was forced to resign in 1923 because of ill health. Anderson died in Austin on January 8, 1938, and was buried at Dairwood Cemetery (information from the Handbook at Texas, Texas State Historical Association).

It was L. C. Anderson who was mainly responsible for elevating Prairie Normal institute to the University level. He addressed the Texas Legisiature on or before March 11, 1878 to grant the university status to Prairie View under the Morrill Act of 1862. Mr. Anderson was successful. March 11, 1878 Prairie View Normal Institute became Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical University. It is the second official University granted in the state of Texas. Texas A&M was first in 1876; Prairie View A&M was second in 1878; and the great University of Texas was third in 1883. Prairie View A&M University remains an historic pillow in the black history of the black community in the state of Texas.

L. C. Anderson moved to Austin, Texas after his contribution at the collegiate level. He helped to establish a public high school there to serve the black community. He served as the leader of this public institution for thirty-two years. it was later named in his honor (L. G. Anderson High School). The contributions of this great African American will be forever cherished.


3. Perry Ellis Sutton

The African American Western Heritage Center, Inc. would like to take this opportunity to honor and give tribute to Samuel Johnson Sutton Sr. and all his family for the extraordinary contribution made to the African American Culture by such an outstanding group of individuals. This feature story is about Percy Ellis Sutton the baby. To discuss only one member of this family is an injustice. This is an American story not to be matched. Percy Ellis Sutton was a national visionary born in San Antonio, Texas November 24, 1920.

Biography

A pioneer, Renaissance man, and visionary. Percy Ellis Sutton was a businessman and a lawyer who has served as a Tuskegee Airman, Malcolm X’s attorney, Borough President of Manhattan New York, and founder of both the inner City Broadcasting and Synematics, Inc. a high technology software company. He was the youngest child of 15 siblings born in San Antonio, Texas in 1920. His father was born free, three years before the Emancipation Proclamation. Both parents were educators and business people. Pry supported himself with odd jobs while attending three historically colleges. Prairie View, Hampton Institute, and Tuskegee Institute. He joined the United States Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet and served as an intelligence officer in World War II the famous Tuskegee Airmen.

After being honorably discharged in 1945 Sutton earned his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and passed the New York bar in 1950. He then returned to the military as a trial judge advocate. In 1953 Sutton left the military and with his brother Oliver Sutton and George Covington set up a law partnership. For many years Percy Sutton was the attorney for Malcolm X. After Malcolm’s death Sutton continued to represent the Shabazz family, when needed, without cost. Sutton was elected President of the New York NAACP in 1961 and participated in, and gave leadership to, many civil demonstrations and protests. He helped to integrate the Greyhound
Bus Station lunch counter in Montgomery, Alabama in 1961.

Sutton’s early political efforts were not too successful, but after 11 years (1953 – 1964) of losing elections, Sutton was elected a New York State Assemblyman in 19674. As an Assemblyman, Sutton was a major supporter of the New York Public Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Another initiative of his was the Search for Education, Evaluation, and Knowledge (S. E. E. K. ) program which today enables thousands of disadvantaged
students to gain a college education. In 1966 the New York City chose Sutton to become Manhattan Borough President. Re-elected in his own right by an overwhelming majority, he was for 11 years (1966-1977), the highest elected African American official in the state.

In 1971 Sutton founded the Inner-city Broadcasting Corporation, which purchased and developed radio stations WLIB-AM and WBLS-FM; making them the first black-owned station in New York City. In 1981 Sutton rescued from bankruptcy the world-famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. He created the nationally syndicated television show. “It’s Showtime at the Apollo” and operated the theater until 1991.

In 1995 and 1998, Sutton represented the United States as a business delegate to the Group of Seven (G-7) Nations Meeting on Telecommunication and High Technology in Brussel and the G-7 developing nations Intelligence Technology Conference in South Africa respectively. Sutton has received more than 750 national international, and local awards. In 1986 Sutton was granted NAACP highest award, the Spingam Medal.

Mr. Sutton and his wife Leatrice lived in Harlem and have two children, four grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

For one person to be able to accomplish so much in a lifetime is more than extraordinary. The African American Community over this entire nation should be proud of Mr. Percy Ellis Sutton.


4. Doris Miller

A native Texan, from Waco, Texas.
A native Texan, from Waco, Texas.

This is our fourth story presented to you by the African American Western Heritage Center, Inc.  This article was organized and written by Megan Danner.  It is a clear illustration of the simple truth about what the majority of African American men and women faced during the jim crow era.  We were considered to be less than but proved ourselves to be more than equal.  This story about Doris Miller is typical and informative of the plight of African American men during world war II before and beyond. 

Among the names of many individuals who served valiantly during World War II, Waco’s own Doris Miller was a hero of national and international acclaim.  Although many noted the valor he displayed during the war, some argue he still has not received the honors due to him.  

Born as the third of four sons to Connery and Henrietta Miller on October 12, 1919, Doris named for the midwife present at his birth, grew up on a small sharecrop farm just outside of Waco in Speegleville, Texas, Years later Henrietta Miller admitted that she hoped for a baby girl, and her wishful thinking led her to the feminine name, despite her husband’s protest.

Along with his siblings, Doris worked to support the family farm from an early age.  In his youth, he became an excellent marksman as he hunted for small game with his brothers.  Doris also had a successful school career at A. J. Moore High School. His tall stature gained the attention of the football coach who recruited Doris as a fullback on the team.  However, as Doris became older, and the war loomed on the horizon, he longed to join the armed forces much to the chagrin of his parents.  After several attempts to join different sectors of the military, Doris enlisted in the U.S. Navy in Dallas, Texas, on September 16, 1939.  Unfortunately at the time of his enlistment discrimination limited the areas of service for African Americans in the military. After training his assignment was as a mess attendant, third class. It was from this station that Miller answered the call in extraordinary circumstances.

Assigned to the USS West Virginia anchored at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941, Doris was collecting laundry in the hull of the ship when the attack began, according to some reports.  As the air-raid sirens started, Doris Miller burst into action.   When he ran to the deck of the ship, he saw his captain sprawled, fatally wounded, on the ground. Miller pulled the wounded captain to safety before racing back to an unmanned anti-aircraft gun in the midst of low-flying planes and a rain of bullets. Despite discriminatory policies that forbade African Americans to man heavy artillery, Miller seized control of a  .50 caliber machine gun to fire at Japanese planes. He committed his efforts to the defense of West Virginia until superiors ordered all to abandon ship is lifting accounts exist of Miller’s action last day, but the most widely circulated report won him quick and international attention.

After the attack, the military awarded Miller with an unprecedented honor.  He became the first African-American recipient of the Navy Cross, the highest decoration the Navy can offer besides the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The Navy leveraged Miller’s new status by returning him to the home front for a short time to act as a recruiter. In 1943, Miller received a promotion to petty officer, ship’s cook third class, and was assigned to the escort carrier USS Liscome Bay.  That November, in the Battle of Makin Island, a Japanese for Speedo struck the Lissome Bay, and the ship sunk within minutes. Miller did not survive the attack.

When awarded the Purple Heart posthumously, Doris Miller never received the Congressional Medal of Honor, which many believe he deserved.  Those who fight for his legacy still lobby for its award

Though his life was cut short due to the call of active duty, Doris Miller lives on in public memory. Throughout the nation, streets, schools, and parks bear his name.  In Waco, his hometown stands the Doris D. Miller Park and the Doris Miller Family YMCA, active reminders of one African American man’s willingness to serve his country despite its discriminatory practice. Cultural Arts of Waco is currently raising money for Doris Miller Memorial to be located on the bank of the Brazos River.
The African American Western Heritage Center, Inc. would like to thank Megan Danner for such a fine upstanding historical article. Our organization supports any efforts to secure the Congressional Medal of Honor for Dorris Miller. His name should be considered along with Crispus Attacks, Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, Paul Lawrence Dumbar, Phillis Wheatley, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Barbara Jordan, Shirley Chrisholm, Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman, and many other deserving people of African descent in the United States of America.

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Doris Miller receiving his NAVY CROSS

5. Heman Sweatt

The African American Western Heritage Center, Inc. would like to thank Black PastOur Society for their contribution to this article. Our organization would also like to challenge. The leadership at Texas Southern University to share in the acknowledgment of the contribution made to the University by Heman Marion Sweatt and the five other gentlemen. Mr. Sweatt is solely responsible for the creation of the Texas College for Negroes becoming Texas Southern University and a state-supported college, also the creation of the Thurgood Marshall College of Law on the campus. 

Our organization would also like to acknowledge others who participated with Mr. Sweatt in his effort to integrate the college of law at the University of Texas at Austin. These individuals are as follows: Jacob Carruthers, Elwin Jarmon, Virgil Lott, Dudley Redd, and George Washington Jr. Heman Marion Sweatt was a postal worker from Houston, Texas who integrated into the University of Texas (UT) Law School in 1950.  Sweatt was born on December 11, 1912, in Houston, Texas.  He was the fourth child of James Leonard and Ella Rose Sweatt.  In 1930, he graduated from Jack Yates High School and earned a degree from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas in 1934,  where he joined Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.  Soon after, Sweatt returned to Houston and worked as a mailman.

During the early 1940s, he participated in voter-registration drives in the African American Community and attended National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) meetings  As the local secretary of the National Alliance of Postal Employees, Sweatt helped challenge employment discrimination in the post office, where blacks were excluded from supervisory positions.

In 1946 Sweatt applied for admission to the University of Texas School of Law but was denied because of the state’s segregation laws.  On May 16, 1946, Sweatt, with the help of the NAACP, filed a lawsuit against Theophilus S. Painter, then UT President, and other officials in district court.  The presiding judge did not overturn Sweatt’s denial of admission. Rather, he gave the state six months to establish an educational institution in law for African Americans.  It responded by rapidly creating a law school at the newly established Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University).  Sweatt and other blacks refused to attend the new Houston Institution and insisted on entering UT Law School. NAACP sought to challenge segregation itself.  Their Lawyers advised Sweatt to testify that he did not believe that there could be equality under segregation.

After lower courts denied their petition and the Texas Supreme Court reaffirmed the lower court’s ruling, Sweatt and his attorneys took their case to the United States Supreme Court. In June 1950 the court concluded that black law students were not offered substantial quality. In educational opportunities and that sweat could therefore not receive an equal education in a separate law school.

On September 19, 1950, Sweatt registered at the UT law school.  However, in 1952, Sweatt interrupted his studies due to ailing health and returned to Houston.  He continued to work on several campaigns to eradicate racial discrimination until his death on October 3, 1982. In 1987, the University of Texas Little Campus has renamed the Heman Sweatt Campus, and The UT Law School established a $10,000 scholarship in Sweatt’s memory.