Civil rights

Remembering Houston Civil Rights Activist Beatrice Green

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – A civil rights legend who lived to be 108 years old was buried on Friday. Beatrice Lehman Green might not be a household name, but she has helped make Houston and our state fairer for everyone.

Green moved to Houston from Louisiana in 1939 in search of work.

Family and friends have described her as a gentle soul, but with the tenacity to fight segregation and discrimination, not only in public facilities, but in politics and even in church. A longtime Lutheran, Green set out to find a church in her new town.

“She went to Trinity Lutheran Church in Houston,” said friend John Williams. “And they said ‘I’m sorry, we can’t let you in through the front door, you have to come in from the back.'”

Green didn’t go back. Instead, she helped build a new Lutheran church for African Americans in the Third Ward.

Using donated wood and their own work, “in three or four years they co-founded the Lutheran Holy Cross Church,” Williams said.

She also became involved in civil rights, lobbying for equality in Houston, then heading to Austin on weekends with other activists.

“They would cook lunch on Friday,” recalls Green’s cousin Deloris Johnson. “Sit on the Capitol grounds all Friday night, Saturday night and come home Sunday until black people can vote. It was in the late 1950s and early 1960s.”

After the franchise bill passed in 1965, Green immediately became involved in city and county politics, working in polls until the age of 94. She also had a mantra.

“She always told us to go out and vote. To go out and vote,” said her great-granddaughter Kionna Lemalle. “So I don’t take this lightly.”

When Green arrived in Houston, she was looking for a job. She was hired by a prominent Houston family to care for their children and act as an assistant, including a man who has held one of the most powerful positions in the world.

Former Secretary of State James Baker was only nine years old when she came to his home. It was a relationship that would last the rest of their lives, despite having very different political views.

“I think it was a different world, but they talked a lot,” Williams said. “She taught him lessons in honesty, integrity, the power of love, the importance of Jesus Christ in your life and he took it with him throughout his life.”

It was Baker who introduced her to former President Barack Obama at the age of 105, and family members say Obama told her his life’s work helped get him elected. as the first black president.

Green’s cousin Sharon described their last time together.

“She passed away that Tuesday, and the previous Sunday he came to her to say goodbye to her. To tell her that he loved her. He cried and said goodbye to her. How he enjoyed it. that she did for him. “

Baker, now 91, delivered the eulogy at Green’s funeral and spoke of the huge impact she has had on his life.

There is another touching part to his funeral service.

“The beautiful part of that story is that now at 108, when she passed away, she has the last service,” Williams said. “It will be at Trinity Lutheran Church, the same congregation that wouldn’t let her in through the door when she was young, make sure she leaves the earth through the front door of their church. “

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