The nominating committee of Freedman Memorial Park chose to add six new names to the Freedman Memorial wall this year.
In conjunction with the Oak Lawn/Turner High Reunion, the following individuals had their names inscribed on the wall during a ceremony held Saturday, July 6. Henry Clay, Ely Green, Josie Briggs Hall, Alfred Mims Jr., George W. Pointer and Richard and Sylvia Sweatt were all added as the newest members of Freedman Memorial.
Waxahachie City Councilman and committee chair Chuck Beatty said the Freedman Memorial is a loving tribute to all the brave and entrepreneurial souls that made the Freedman Community an integral part of the city of Waxahachie. He said the last time names were added to the wall was back in 2009, and he is proud to honor those who made this year’s list.
“As in times past, this group of nominees were major contributors to our community,” Beatty said. “Their deeds, service and accomplishments will serve as inspiration to future generations.”
George W. Pointer
Judy Pointer Smith said that is exactly what her father was to the city of Waxahachie, an inspiration. Even though Pointer has been gone for 10 years, Smith said she is constantly running into those who were inspired by her father.
“My dad was known for helping others,” Smith said. “As a barber he would always offer advice to the young men who came in for a haircut. They would always talk about receiving a mini-sermon from my dad anytime they went in to see him.”
She said he became a father figure to so many in the community, and he was an overall good guy.
“He never met a stranger,” she said. “He made sure to talk to everyone. Minyard was his favorite store. Anytime he went there, he would offer advice to anyone who was willing to listen.
Smith said to this day, when people see her they talk about the impact her father had on their lives.
She said being a part of the ceremony that recognized him for his many contributions was a blessing to her and her family. One of Smith’s nephews was in attendance and talked with her about how special it was to have his uncle’s name on the wall.
“My dad practically raised my nephew,” she said. “I see him following in my dad’s footsteps as he tries to serve this community through little league and other organizations. My nephew was very moved and honored by the fact that his (great) uncle was getting this type of recognition.”
Pointer was not only a barber, but for more than 30 years he served as the first African American U. S. Postal worker in Waxahachie. He was born in Ennis and raised in Ennis, Reagor Springs and Waxahachie. He was educated in Ellis County, attended the Dallas Culinary School, Texas Barber College and served in the U.S. Army.
Alfred Mims Jr.
Mims said having his name on the wall with such great people as his father was a great honor for him.
“To know that others consider you important enough to honor you in such a way is overwhelming,” Mims said. “To know that my father was on the other side of that wall was elating to me.”
He added that it’s good to know that you don’t have to die to be recognized for your efforts.
“It’s great to give people their flowers while they are still alive,” Mims said. “I’m glad to see that I didn’t have to die to receive recognition.” Mims jokingly added that he hoped this is not some sort of omen.
On a more serious note, he said this sort of thing is a golden opportunity to reach out to young people.
“The things I’ve done and what I do is not for me,” he said. “They are to show that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. This should be a lesson to them that it’s important to not only set individual goals, but to set community goals.”
Mims was the first African American probation officer in Ellis County, first chief probation officer in the county and longest serving chief in the state of Texas. He was also the first African American elected to the Waxahachie Independent School District board of trustees and the first African American to serve as board president.
Henry Clay Gray
Gray edited a weekly paper called “The Meddler.” It was issued on Saturday and contained comments on current affairs and news of particular interest to black Americans. He also operated a print shop. He was considered one of the most intelligent men of the black race during that time. He liked to discuss editorially the deeper meaning of nature’s laws and frequently gave expression to a thought or a conviction, which inspired thoughtfulness in others.
Ely Green was born in Sewanee, Tenn., in 1893. At the age of 18, being of mixed heritage Green was warring to reconcile one part of himself with the other. He fled the mountains of Tennessee and a brewing lynch mob for the plains of Waxahachie. He rose above bitterness and pain in order to give his readers an astounding and poignant portrait of a young man trying to come to terms with race relations in the early 20th Century South. He is known for his autobiography and the book “Too Black, Too White: Too Black, Too White.”
Josie Briggs Hall
Hall was an African American schoolteacher and writer born Sept. 17, 1869 in Waxahachie. Due to the death of her parents when she was 12, Hall moved in with her sister. She was influenced by Booker T. Washington, who stressed the importance of education and economic advancement for black people.
Hall attempted to found a junior college near Doyal in Limestone County, but the project failed. During her later years she moved to Dallas, where she founded the Homemakers’ Industrial and Trade School. She ran the school from Feb. 1916 through the summer of 1928. Some of her works include: “Parents Must Leave a Legacy,” “Intemperance,” “Right is Might,” and “All World Things are Perishable.”
The Sweatt Family
Many Waxahachie residents remember the Sweatt home as Cobb’s Service Station. The Sweatts lived there for more than 30 years. The Sweatt family was one of the most influential families of the American Civil Rights Movement. Sylvia and Richard Sweatt’s only son, James Leonard, graduated from Prairie View Normal Institute. He taught for a while before moving to Houston and began working as a postal clerk. He was instrumental in organizing the National Alliance of Postal Workers and was a charter member of the NAACP Houston Branch.
Herman Sweatt, one of Leonard’s sons applied for admission to the University of Texas, but was denied because he was black. This began the four-year Sweatt vs. Painter lawsuit that finally resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in Herman’s favor in June 1950. The decision set the stage for the 1954 decision of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, which desegregated public education in the U. S. In 1987, five years after his death, the University of Texas’ Little Campus was renamed the Herman Sweatt Campus.
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