Joe Sing had many names in his life. He was born Jo Feng Sheng in China in 1860 and when he came to the United States to find work he became known as Jo Sing. In New Orleans he worked under the name of Joe Hall. Then in Austin, he was known to his customers as Hong Lee.
According to the U.S.census he was in Galveston in 1880 before spending some time in Boston, MA, as well as Shreveport, LA. And in 1894 he was issued a certificate of residence in New Orleans (a document required for a Chinese national to work).
Eventually he settled in Austin and became one of the city’s first Chinese residents. He opened Hong Lee Laundry with his wife, Francisca Moreno, who also worked as a cook for Gov. Ma Ferguson.
Hong Lee Laundry became a successful business that catered to bankers, legislators, and white-collar workers who worked along Congress Avenue.
Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 Sing was never able to become a U.S. citizen, and because of the Married Women’s Citizenship Act Francisca gave up her citizenship without realizing it when she married him.
Today, Joe Sing is buried near other members of his family at Oakwood Cemetery Annex here in Austin.
Zachary Thomson Scott was born in December 1880, in Fort Worth, Texas and grew up on his family’s ranch in Bosque County, Texas. He attended a private school near Fredericksburg, Virginia and was taught by his aunts, returning to Texas to attend the University of Texas medical school in Galveston.
As he was living in Galveston at the time of the 1900 hurricane, he was actively involved in rescuing the many patients that were trapped by the floods.
After graduating in 1903 he began his practice in Clifton, Bosque County, but moved to Austin in 1909. He established the Austin Sanitarium with Thomas J. Bennett where he developed a life-long professional interest in Texas Tuberculosis Association and the treatment of TB, even instituting the sale of tuberculosis seals in Texas - Beginning in 1907 seals were introduced as a way to help physicians fund tuberculosis hospitals or sanitoriums. Still a fundraiser for the American Lung Association today the funding the seals provide has been expanded to include other respiratory diseases like lung cancer, asthma, COVID-19, and lung damage due to air pollution and second-hand smoke.
During World War I, he served as a lieutenant commander in the navy and organized a medical, which was moved to the naval hospital in Gulfport, Mississippi, under his command.
Portrait of Dr. Scott courtesy of the Austin History Center
After the war he returned to Austin and served on the Austin Selective Service Board for many years. And in 1923 he established the Scott-Gregg Clinic with Frank C. Gregg and specialized in the treatment of tuberculosis.
When the clinic closed in 1930 due to the Great Depression, Scott became Chief of Staff at Brackenridge Hospital where he served until he retired in 1947.
When he retired he returned to his family ranch near Buda and began to breed cattle, crossing Santa Gertrude with Hereford cattle to form a new breed he called San Gerfords.
He was also a ruling elder and trustee of University Presbyterian Church, and a member of the board of directors of the Capital National Bank of Austin from its creation in 1934 until his death. And he was active in the American Medical Association and the Texas Tuberculosis Association throughout his time in Austin.
Dr. Zachary Thompson Scott died in Austin on January 19, 1964, and is buried in Austin Memorial Park.
Jane Legette Yelvington McCallum is known as a suffragist leader and Texas Secretary of State. She attended school in Wilson County, at Dr. Zealey's Female College in Mississippi, and studied at the University of Texas, though she never received a degree.
Photo#PICB-13189 courtesy of Austin History Center, Austin Public Library
She moved to Austin in 1903 when her husband became school superintendent. While here she joined in the fight for women’s rights and in 1915 was elected president of the Austin Woman Suffrage Association. She served as State Manager of Press and Publicity for the state constitutional amendment on full suffrage and as State Chairman of the ratification committee for the nineteenth amendment. Going on to be State Publicity Chairman for the Education Amendment to the Texas Constitution and running publicity for the League of Women Voters of Texas where she served a term as the First Vice President. Not stopping there, she was also a member of the Texas Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor and was appointed Secretary of State in 1927.
More locally, she was appointed to the first Austin city planning commission in 1944 and in 1954 she became the first woman Grand Jury Commissioner in Travis County!
She passed away on August 14, 1957 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery here in Austin.
Annie Web Blanton (1870-1945), known for being a teacher, suffragist, and the first woman in Texas to be elected to statewide office, was born in Houston as one of seven children and a twin (though her twin sister died as a child)
She graduated High School in 1886, she taught in Fayette County and then in Austin. While teaching in Austin, she studied at UT. Graduating in 1899 and going on to serve on the English faculty of North Texas State Normal College (Now University of North Texas).
Photo provided by The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International
She was elected president of the Texas State Teachers Association in 1916, and was the first woman to hold this position.
When Gov. Ferguson was impeached in 1917, suffragists found support with the new governor, Gov. Hobby. His first legislative session granted women the right to vote in Texas primaries, so they supported his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and Blanton was asked to run for state superintendent of public instruction. Her victory made her the first woman in Texas elected to statewide office.
Photo provided by The Delta Kappa Gamma Society International
While she was in office, a system of free textbooks was established, teacher certification laws were revised, teacher salaries were raised, and rural education became a focus for improvement. After she was reelected in 1920 voters passed the Better Schools Amendment, she proposed it in order to remove the constitutional limitations on tax rates for local school districts.
In 1922, she attempted a run for the US Congress after which she then earned her Master’s degree from UT and worked as Adjunct Professor of School Administration before earning her Ph.D. at Cornell. In 1933 she became Professor of Rural Education, the third woman to gain this rank at UT.
In May of 1929, she founded the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International with 11 other members. Now an international organization, it was founded as an organization in which women educators could come together for better professional preparation, recognition of women’s work in the teaching profession, and scholarships.
Throughout her career, Blanton published several books: ‘Review Outline and Exercises in English Grammar’ (1903), ‘A Handbook of Information as to Education in Texas’ (1922), ‘Advanced English Grammar’ (1928), and ‘The Child of the Texas One-Teacher School’ (1936)
She passed in Austin in 1945 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
Courtesy of Austin History Center, Austin Public Library.
Maude Evangeline Craig Sampson Williams (1880-1958), suffragist, civil rights activist, and educator, was born and raised in East Central Austin. After she graduated from Prairie View State Normal College (now Prairie View A&M) in 1900, she moved to El Paso and began teaching at Frederick Douglass School. In 1906, she returned to Austin to teach at Gregory Town School, one of the first schools for Black children in Austin. During this time, she helped found the Douglass Club of Austin, the oldest African American women’s service organization in Austin and Central Texas that is still active today. She returned to El Paso in 1907 to be married and resumed teaching there.
In 1914, she was one of the founding members of the El Paso branch of the Phyliss Wheatley Club, a local civic organization of a national network of Black women’s clubs. During WWI she led campaigns in support of the war effort. She organized programs that promoted Liberty Bonds, Junior Red Cross membership drives, and aimed to boost the morale of Black soldiers stationed at Fort Bliss and Biggs Field.
From 1917-1924, she was the vice president of the El Paso chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Just a few months after her election to the board, she held a meeting in her home for local Black and white women to discuss women’s suffrage and information for the 1918 election. The El Paso Negro Woman’s Civic and Enfranchisement League formed later that night, and Sampson was elected chairperson going on to speak at numerous meetings of women’s suffrage.
In June 1918, Williams wrote to the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) executive Maude Wood Park to enroll her local league as an auxiliary branch. White leaders of NAWSA and the Texas Equal Suffrage Association (TESA), including national president Carrie Chapman Catt and Texas president Minnie Fisher Cunningham, wrote back and forth discussing her request. NAWSA amended its constitution the year before to ban African American leagues from being directly associated with the national organization fearing negative consequences from white southern members. The only way local groups could affiliate with NAWSA was through their state's association, which was TESA. It was determined that since the local Black group’s application for membership was the first one of its kind, it would need delegate approval but the next convention would not be until the next spring. Cunningham also said that she hoped the federal amendment would be ratified by that point, inferring TESA would not have to act on her application at all.
Undeterred from politics, Williams became campaign organizer for the prohibition candidate in the Democratic primary two years later. However, her participation was restricted as the Texas legislature implemented a law that defined voting for primary elections for whites only. Because of this, the El Paso NAACP won two Supreme Court cases, Nixon v. Herndon (1927) and Nixon v. Condon (1932), massively assisting the overturning the state’s white primary structure.
Photograph from Marion Butts Collection, courtesy of the Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library
In the 1940s and 50s, she was a member of the Council of Church Women and the Women’s Federated Clubs and Societies She organized programs that promoted integration, hosted WWII Black troops, and served as trustee of the Mary L. Peyton Foundation. While serving as the chair of the Legal Redress Committee of the El Paso NAACP, she petitioned the City Council and Parks and Recreation board for more housing and leisure facilities for Black citizens, worked against the threats of Black owned property values by city subdivision plans, and fought for desegregation of public schools in four districts.
She then took on segregation in schools at the university level in 1955. Just after the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruling by the Supreme Court, Williams went with El Paso's Black high school valedictorian, Thelma Joyce White, to Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) to register her for classes. White was denied registration because of the state’s segregation laws, and the El Paso NAACP filed and won White v. Smith in the U.S. District Courts; Texas Western College was desegregated in 1955.
In 1957, Williams moved to Oklahoma to live with her sisters. A year later she was struck by a truck and passed away. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery here in Austin near her siblings and parents.
Pauline Lynch Evans Creighton was born on May 18, 1868 in Clay County, Mississippi to Hettie M. Cochran Lynch and Judge James Daniel Lynch. Little is known about Pauline's life during and after her two years of college, but it is believed that she married H. L. Evans. Together, they had a son, Hugh McCord Evans on March 12,1891.
Pauline's parents moved to Austin, Texas in 1884 and Pauline and her son joined them some time after. It is not known what happened to her first husband, but Pauline married John Orde Creighton in 1901. The couple welcomed their first child together, a son named John Orde Creighton, Jr.
Pauline was active in local city improvements, advocating for better sanitary conditions throughout Austin. She served as the president of the Civic Improvement Club and the Austin Equal Suffrage Association. In 1914, she joined the Austin Women's Club, working closely with Jane McCallum and Minnie Fisher Cunningham in Washington, DC to promote women's suffrage before congress.
In 1923, Pauline was elected as president of the Austin Altrusa Club, an organization that encouraged women in business to build strong relationships to benefit the community.
Throughout World War I, Pauline worked with the Humane Society and the American Red Cross to aid in humanitarian efforts. Pauline Creighton died March 26, 1941 and is buried here in the Oakwood Cemetery near her husband, John.
James A. Michener was born in NYC in 1907, but never knew who his birth parents were. As a foundling he was adopted by Mabel Michener and raised as a Quaker. In his teens he hitchhiked and traveled by boxcar all across the US gaining life experiences that fed into his later writing. After graduating from Swarthmore College summa cum laude he became a teacher. He began his writing career with articles on teaching social studies published between 1936 and 1942.
Image Courtesy of University of Northern Colorado Archives and Special Collections
During WWII he enlisted in the Navy and served as naval historian in the South Pacific from 1944 to 1946. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1948 for the collection Tales of the South Pacific (1947), that he sent to his former publisher anonymously. When it was adapted for Broadway by Rodgers and Hammerstein it won another Pulitzer Prize as a musical and turned Michener’s book into a bestseller.
Image courtesy of Austin Public Libraries
Michener would do very in depth research for his novels and traveled extensively. Hawaii (1959) took four years to write and was written after he had moved to Honolulu and become active in Hawaiian civic affairs.
Occasionally Michener would shift his focus towards American life. Centennial (1974) was written for the bicentennial of the US and Chesapeake (1978) featured families on the east coast and Chesapeake Bay. Space (1982) was a fictional chronicle of the U.S. space program. With the Covenant (1980) he returned to international stories and wrote about South Africa against the background of apartheid. In Mexico (1992) he deals with the problems of contemporary Mexico, through the lens of bullfighting and Indian slavery in the country’s silver mines.
Image courtesy of Austin Public Libraries
Not all of Michener’s works were fictional. The Fires of Spring (1949) and his 1992 memoir, The World Is My Home, were both autobiographical. His last completed book was A Century of Sonnets (1997).
Image Courtesy of University of Northern Colorado Archives and Special Collections
In his later life, Michener became a philanthropist. He contributed millions of dollars to universities and the Authors League Fund. And before his death, he donated 1,500 Japanese prints to the University of Hawaii. He and his wife Mari Sabusawa Michener also left a generous endowment to the University of Texas in the early 1990s creating the Texas Center for Writers that became the Michener Center for Writers to honor him after his death.
In 1997 he determined that he had “accomplished what he wanted to accomplish” and decided to take himself off of dialysis, dying in his home at 90 years old.
William H. Holland was born a slave in Marshall, but the exact year is not known for sure. In Negro Legislatures of Texas his birth year is recorded as 1849 but other sources like Dictionary of American Biography has it listed as 1841. He and his brothers were likely the sons of Capt. Bird Holland, a white man who bought their freedom and moved them to Ohio in the late 1850s. William and his brother Milton attended the Albany Enterprise Academy, a black owned and operated school.
In 1864 Holland enlisted in the Union Army's Sixteenth United States Colored Troops. Holland participated in the battles of Nashville, the Overton Hill campaign, and in the pursuit of John Bell Hood.
He also did garrison duty in Chattanooga and eastern and middle Tennessee. His brother Milton enlisted as well, but in the 5th US Colored Troops and won the Medal of Honor for his role in the battle of New Market Heights in 1864.
After the war, Holland attended Oberlin College for two years before returning to Texas and teaching in multiple counties and in many of the city schools of Austin. He was also appointed to a position with the Austin post office.
In 1873 Holland was on the committee at the Colored Men's Convention in Brenham to discuss support for friendly race relations, a federal civil rights act, open political meetings, black landholding, internal improvements, immigration to the United States, President U. S. Grant, and the Republican party, as well as criticism for the violence faced by blacks and efforts to repudiate state debts.
In 1876 he won election to the 15th Legislature as a representative and sponsored the bill establishing the Prairie View Normal College (now Prairie View A&M Univ) and in 1876 and 1880 he was a delegate to the Republican national convention.
He later submitted to the Texas legislature for the est of a school for the deaf, mute, and blind in Texas. The Deaf, Dumb, and Blind Institute for Colored Youth was established April 5, 1887 (became part of the Texas School for the Deaf in 1965). About $50,000 was appropriated to build the school 2 miles outside of Austin and the school offered instruction in trades like broom, mattress, and shoe making as well as repair work and cooking. Holland himself was appointed as the first superintendent by Governor Ross making him the first black man in the United States to head a public institution. His wife, Eliza, also joined the staff in 1890 as an instructor. Holland remained for ten years before being succeeded by S. J. Jenkins, who served until he died in 1904. Holland resumed the position and served until his death in 1907.
Image: drawing of William Holland courtesy of Austin History Center, Austin Public Libraries
Día de los Muertos has become a popular holiday held throughout major cities in the United States. It’s an event that is still mysterious and misunderstood by many. But in Mexico, it’s a holiday that is rooted in Mesoamerican mythology and Catholic beliefs of Spain.
The days identified with Día de los Muertos are from October 27 – November 2, when the living remember their loved ones by cooking special foods, decorating altars, and providing offerings for those deceased. In indigenous rural regions in Mexico, families and communities gather together for a procession to the cemeteries where they spend days cleaning the tombstones, preparing for the occasion.
Families devote themselves to washing tombstones and decorating them with traditional flowers—Cempasúchil, Cockscombs, and Calla Lilies. Preparations include cooking traditional foods such as mole, tamales, and chocolate and gathering stacks of Cempasúchil flowers to take to the cemetery. Mexicans today believe as did their ancestors, the Aztecs, that death is a cycle of life, not to be feared.