Celebrating Black History Month: Local leaders speak on fighting for single-member districts

Black History Month

LUBBOCK Texas – East and North Lubbock did not always have representation in Lubbock City government. Local leaders spoke on the history of how single-member districts were adopted.

Rose Wilson, the first female to serve as president of the Lubbock NAACP, said she came to Lubbock with her five children in the 60’s. She said during that time, Lubbock and the country was different.

“Black people wasn’t allowed past Avenue A, in those days, we all had to be huddled up on this side of town,” said Wilson.

Prior to 1984, Lubbock officials were elected by a city-wide ballot and which meant people who did not live in a certain area could run for office and not have to live in the area they represented.

Wilson said she was approached by a member of the League of Women Voters, an organization she and her mother were part of, to serve as a plaintiff to help Lubbock adopt single-member districts.

“She said, ‘We want you to go in there and fight, and we are going to get you a lawyer’ and that’s what they did,”said Wilson.

Wilson said the effort to fight for single-member districts stemmed from a man named Gene Gaines, the first African American to graduate from Texas Tech School of Law, after his loved one passed.

“His wife died and he wanted to bury her up at the front part of the cemetery and they denied him that, said Wilson “

Wilson said Gaines wound up winning the case and moved to advocate for single-member districts.

“It took almost 7 years for us to get single-member districts where we were able to be represented, said Wilson, “Someone on that board [could now represent] the District 2 area which is East Lubbock and to get someone to represent District 1 which is where most of the Hispanic people live.”

Floyd Price, a former police officer and District 2 council member from 2004 to 2016, said after the 1970 tornado, more minorities started moving into East and North Lubbock and those areas started getting neglected because the people who represented those areas did not reside in the districts.

“The flight went to South West Lubbock and West Lubbock,” said Price, “It was a concern for people living in East and North Lubbock,” said Price.

In 1984, residents elected the first minorities to serve on Lubbock City Council. Maggie Trejo, became the first Hispanic to represent District 1 and T.J. Patterson, was the first African American to represent District 2.

Patterson served on Lubbock City Council for 20 years.

“I just saw people. Black, white, or brown, they’re God’s children,” said Patterson. “That’s all that was important to me. Anything that I could bring to the table, to help somebody during that day or that week, I felt good about that.”

Billie Caviel and her husband were the first African American couple to own a pharmacy in the United States. Caviel later went on to serve 6 years on the Lubbock ISD school board and said single-member districts helped pave the way for minorities to be able to serve in other capacities.

“Had it not been for the efforts that they put forth to see that we had to single-member districts,” said Caviel,” It never would have happened. \We would have never would have had representation.”

Price said although the effort to implement single-member districts was achieved, there is still more equity to be spread within the city.

“The money has been flowing to Southwest Lubbock, West Lubbock for a long time, and we need to get the money flowing back in this direction because we are running out of space in Southwest Lubbock,” said Price.

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