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Dr. Freeman Reflects on His Relationship with Barbara Jordan

Thomas F. Freeman

Sound | 1975, interview recorded 2012

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  •  Hon. Judge George Allen, First African American Mayor Pro Tempore of Dallas and Justice of the Peace in the 1970s, namesake of the Dallas Courthouse 
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  •  Barbara came to me as a 16 year old kid.  
  •  I judged an oratorical contest when she was in high school, they had the Elks annual contest,  
  •  I was one of the judges.  
  •  For that tournament, I ranked Barbara first.  
  •  She did not win first; she won second place.  
  •  And that next year she came to Texas Southern seeking the debate coach,  
  •  and she was on the team for four years.  
  •  The only woman, not the only, the first woman to travel with the team.  
  •  And for her first experiences, all Barbara did was to present the first speech.  
  •  She did not argue.  
  •  She could not think on her feet.  
  •  All she could do is speak.  
  •  And so, I'd take her there to mesmerize the audience,  
  •  and then the fellas would come along and clean up afterward.  
  •  So she did that for three years, and then the fourth year,  
  •  she entered the rebuttal along with the others.  
  •  She and Otis King integrated Forensics in the South at Baylor University.  
  •  Blacks had never attended white tournaments.  
  •  In fact, we couldn't stay in town,  
  •  we had to stay out of town, 
  •   and couldn't stay at the hotel where the tournament was being held.  
  •  But when the tournament was over,  
  •  Barbara had won first place in Oratory,  
  •  and Otis had won first place in Extemporaneous Speaking,  
  •  and from then on, every year that we would go there,  
  •  one of our students would win in Oratory, another would win in Extemp.  
  •  In fact, one year, the second year that Barbara was there,  
  •  Barbara won first place and Sydney Carter won second place in Oratory.  
  •  At that time, they didn't have all of the events that we have now,  
  •  all they had was oratory and extemporaneous speaking,  
  •  now they have everything. 
  •  Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Extemporaneous Speaking, Impromptu Speaking, Reader's Theater-- 
  •  they have all of it!  
  •  And our team just came back from the University of Houston  
  •  over this past weekend, you saw the counter, did you see the counter? 
  •  M- No, I didn't. 
  •  TFF- Well on the way out you'll see that our team brought back awards in ten of the eleven events.  
  •  So the tradition is being carried on, even by those who are involved.  
  •  But Barbara set the pace, and many times when I would introduce her on programs,  
  •  I would say, "One of our star debaters,"  
  •  and she would get up and say, "THE star debater!"  
  •  And Barbara would narrate for my brother Paul.  
  •  He's a conductor, a symphony conductor.  
  •  The Czechoslovakia Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta,  
  •  and Barbara would narrate "The Lincoln Portrait."  
  •  And I have had the occasion when I would introduce Barbara.  
  •  Well the last occasion in 19--I don't know, Barbara said,  
  •  "One of the reasons I came to this convention is that  
  •  I just so much like to hear myself being introduced,  
  •  and for Tom Freeman to do it, I could not resist this temptation."  
  •  And she died, I used that statement to preface what I had to say about Barbara. 
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This video, produced by TAMI, is composed of excerpts from an informal interview with Dr. Freeman voiced over a home movie from his film collection. As scenes play of Barbara Jordan receiving an honorary doctorate at Texas Southern University, Dr. Freeman describes how he met Jordan and his unique relationship with her that spanned several decades. The interview was conducted by TAMI’s Madeline Fendley on September 10, 2012 at Dr. Freeman’s office at TSU.
Dr. Thomas F. Freeman was born in 1919 in Richmond, Virginia, where he also spent his childhood and attended college. Freeman left Virginia temporarily to serve a nine month contract at Houston's Texas Southern University in 1949. Many decades later, Dr. Freeman is still a professor and debate coach at TSU, on campus six days a week, and has helped multiple generations of young Texan African-American students find their voice and rise to new heights of scholarly achievement. A pillar of the Houston community, Dr. Freeman also has ministered at Mt. Horem Baptist Church for more than 65 years, still delivering sermons every Sunday; taught Religious Studies at Rice University for 20 years; helped found Houston's Model Cities program; founded and served as Dean of TSU's Weekend College; was the Founding Dean of TSU's Honors College; and over the course of his teaching career, taught and influenced many prominent African-Americans leaders, including Otis King, Barbara Jordan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Barbara Jordan was born in Houston's Fifth Ward in 1936, the daughter of a Baptist minister and domestic worker. Jordan attended Texas Southern University where she was a member of the debate team; she was the first woman to travel with the team, and along with debate partner Otis King, integrated tournaments in the South, consistently sweeping competitions. Jordan went on attend Boston University School of Law, finishing in 1959. After practicing private law in Houston, again with Otis King, she entered the political arena. Jordan was the first African-American elected to the Texas Senate since 1883 and the first southern black female elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1976, Jordan was the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, a speech that is still lauded as one of the best in modern history. After retiring from politics in 1979, Jordan taught ethics at the University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Among many other honors, Jordan was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994. In 1996, Barbara Jordan died of complications from pneumonia, a result of her battles with both multiple sclerosis and leukemia. She rests in the Texas State Cemetery, the first African-American woman to be buried there. 
Barbara Jordan's Honorary Degree Address, delivered May 17, 1975

Come Home

To the members of the Board, Dr. Sawyer and other administrative officials, faculty and staff, to the graduating class, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen . . .

I am honored to appear before you this evening - I thank you.


"Through many dangers, toils, and snares,

I've already come:

It was grace that brought me safe thus far,

And grace, will lead me home."


The lines of that "Old Negro Spiritual" tell quite a story. It speaks of a people who have had the fortitude to overcome many obstacles in search of a dream. It tells of the trials and tribulations experienced by those who were faithful in their determination.

It is that same kind of faith that we must have, if we are to overcome all remaining vestiges of deprivation and discrimination. Added to that faith, however, must be the will to work in behalf of those persons, those programs and those institutions that serve our goals. We have an obligation to those, either, less fortunate or less able than ourselves to provide a brighter future. We must always be prepared to defend those principles, and those institutions, which have helped us on our way. Such an institution is Texas Southern University. As graduates of this university, you have several obligations to the university. 

You should always bear in mind that state support, federal funding, foundation support, tuition and fees and related funding only support a part of the university's total program. You will be called on from time to time to support the university through financial contributions. I hope that you will contribute generously. Some of are probably thinking that you are through with T.S.U. . . . that you will never contribute a penny to this place that's given you such a hard time . . ., hard time . . .? You are now members of a very elite group. You are a minority within a minority. You are all a part of that small fraction of the world's population that has earned a college degree. Many of you would not have made it, had it not been for T.S.U. I certainly would not have." We must never forget the bridges that helped to carry us across . . ." We must assure the continuance of this university . . . 

For a school to function it must have students . . . The obligation of every T.S.U. graduate should be the replacement of his or herself with the finest students available. This will assure the leadership needed to cope with the many problems of the future.

Another, and certainly not the least of every graduate's obligations should be the defense of the university from its detractors. The same is true of black institutions generally.

The Houston Chronicle in a headline story of July 20th said that "Prairie View students have the highest loan default record in the state." The article dealt at some length with the problems of collecting from former students who had received National Direct Student Loan funds. It went on to say that T.S.U. was not far behind Prairie View, and that the problem was particularly acute among predominately black colleges. The author proudly pointed to the fact that the University of Texas had the highest pay-back record in the state.

Now please don't misunderstand me, . . . I believe that loans should be repaid . . . I also believe rather firmly in freedom of speech. More important, however, is my belief that articles like the aforementioned one, tends to mislead the public and obscure the real issues . . . The article did not deal with the problems young black graduates have in finding jobs . . . it did not bother to speak to the fact that minority graduates are most often called on to provide support for other family members, or that we are often the last hired, and the first fired . . . nor did it say that many students who receive these loans are forced to drop out of school and join a dwindling labor market . . . the author was talking about the intricacies of the system. We are talking about survival . . . 

Articles like this one, must not go unchallenged. Counter measures must be used to mold public opinion, and constantly remind the larger society that the benefits derived from these programs are long overdue, and are vital to the public welfare. Black, and other minority graduates must proudly proclaim their heritage. A part of your heritage is, and always will be, Texas Southern University . . .

We must have pride in our school, just as we have in ourselves, for ours is a common destiny. Wherever you go, and whatever you do; you will represent T.S.U. -- and T.S.U. will be represented through you . . . in praising the university, you praise yourself. Thousands of years ago, a prophet said it best: "a tree shall be known, by the fruit it bears." Dr. Sawyer, our president, put it this way, "each of us who lists Texas Southern University on our resume, says something about ourselves. It then becomes our obligation to see to it that the name 'Texas Southern University' is meaningful, important and positive." We must continue to work in unison with those forces which seek to build an even greater university . . . Conversely, all efforts to thwart our progress must be met with unified opposition . . . We are no longer an institution in search of a mission . . . ours is the task of making real, the special purpose designation that we received. We are telling the world that there is a uniqueness about Texas Southern. It then becomes incumbent on each of us to perform in such a way as to demonstrate that ours is a valid claim. 

As president of the Texas Southern University Ex-Students Association, I call for a new "affirmative action alliance for progress." It must be an alliance based on love of the institution . . . It must be an alliance that recognizes and appreciates the value of every person: administrator, staff, teacher, student, and ex-student . . . It must be an alliance that contributes to the growth of T.S.U. in all areas of endeavor . . .  It must be an alliance that provides for the defense of the university; that says to all who attack us, or try to destroy us, that we will stand and fight for our right to exist and prosper. It must be an alliance that is willing to move into the forefront of the battles against all forms of racism, discrimination, poverty, and injustice . . . It must be an alliance of people interested in people: willing to contribute their skills, and minds for the betterment of humanity . . . It must be an alliance that although having a commonality of interest: respects difference of opinion . . .

Finally, it must be an alliance, not of negativism, but of affirmative action: critical, yet constructive: flexible, yet unbending: understanding, yet resolute in determination, based on the faith of our fathers and our concerns for providing a better life for those who come after us . . . 

The Ex-Students Association has entered into a new era of cooperation with the university, and with the community. We have stated rather forthrightly that we can remain dormant no longer. We have pledged to the entire university family that we will be amiable force henceforward, interested in all phases of university life. This is as it should be and this is how it must be if we are to survive. We have pledged our finances, our voices, our talents, and our votes, to assure the continuance, and uplifting of this university.

We are about an action oriented program. To this end the association has begun a scholarship program whereby worthy, needy, students will be encouraged to attend Texas Southern at the association's expense. The first two four-year scholarships were awarded in June of 1975, and two deserving students will be enrolled this fall in the College of Business at this university. This program will continue, and will grow. We are working toward the building of a permanent scholarship fund, whereby needy black and other minority students will be able to attend Texas Southern.

Earlier I referred to the attack on the financial aid and student loan program. We recognize not only the desirability, but the necessity for such programs, if the majority of our students are to continue their education . . . We know that the university has contacted local foundations and corporations relative to the matching funds needed, if these programs are to survive. We encourage these contacts, and offer our assistance in identifying and contacting prospective donors. We also recognize an obligation to these programs, and commit our organization to their security.

The association is proud of the university's athletic programs, and has already made a substantial contribution to that program. Other substantial contributions will be forthcoming. We would like to go on record publicly, and congratulate the T.S.U. tennis team and its coach, Herbert Provost. Mr. Provost is an active life member of the Ex-Students Association. 

We recognize that black college and university athletic programs are being severely challenged by majority colleges and universities, for the services of minority athletes. These institutions are promising virtually everything, . . . everything that is but a degree. A very small percentage of these athletes ever receive a degree, other than from a black college. We must become recruiters and assist in the recruitment of athletes for the university. We must help to destroy the myths that academic excellence or high athletic achievement can only be found at a predominantly majority institution. If you look at professional sports rosters today, I believe that you will find that a majority of the black players are from black colleges: and many with degrees. Let's be honest with our kids. My generation certainly knows that "integrated education" is not a panacea within itself. Help us to seek out these young people, and bring them home. We need their talents, and they need our guidance, and understanding. 

The association will work hand in hand with the athletic department in establishing a "Sports Hall of Fame" where significant achievement may be enshrined for posterity. We pledge our efforts toward making these T.S.U. athletic programs second to none in this country. 

Texas Southern is a young school. There has not been time to develop some of the traditions honored by many universities. We are an urban school caught up in a pace different from many others. Yet there are deep and abiding loyalties here, notwithstanding the fact that there are no vine covered walls, or 100 year old buildings . . . We must help to build school spirit, whenever, and wherever we can. Each of us should become ambassadors of goodwill for this university . . . The Ex-Students Association will sponsor freshman and graduate orientations in the future in a continuing attempt at Espirit De Corps. 

We will work with all segments of the university family in our desire for cooperation and excellence. I am calling for a convention of T.S.U. alumni and ex-students for the summer of 1976. We will be asking our graduates from around the country to come home: to look the old place over, to visit with old friends and colleagues, to meet and talk with students, faculty, and staff and community residents, and to engage in a series of workshops and brain-storming sessions about the meaning, the needs, and the aspirations of our university. It will also give us an opportunity to plan for the building of the kind of organization that this university needs, and deserves.

Texas Southern is a community school. The Ex-Students Association will also be community oriented; as it must be if we are to be effective. No longer can we afford to isolate ourselves. We must be prepared to deal with the issues that affect us all. We are, and will be involved with the Houston-Alliance of Black Educators, the Support Black Business Campaign, and other such programs that help to influence our lives, and the lives of our people.

In 1976, this country will celebrate its bi-centennial. We will participate in that celebration. We will remind this nation, that we are an integral part of its history. We must remind them that we are familiar with the promises of freedom, and equality made by the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the Constitution. We will tell them that we still intend to collect on these promises. We will say that although segregation in public education was outlawed more than twenty (20) years ago; there is still segregation in virtually every school system. We will say that school integration as imposed locally has failed, and that as a result our children are suffering. We must tell them that although equal employment opportunity is the law of the land: the gap between minority and majority income is constantly widening, and that unemployment among blacks and other minorities is usually double that of the majority . . .

Then there are some other things we must tell this country. We will speak of the contributions of black Americans, of black colleges, and particularly of Texas Southern University. The Ex-Students Association will engage in a series of programs designed to highlight the achievements of graduates and ex-students of this university. We will invite ex-students to participate in a series of activities during T.S.U. week, culminating with the Ex-Students Annual Banquet, where distinguished persons will be recognized and honored.

You who graduate today, automatically become members of the Ex-Students Association. We invite your active participation. The Texas Southern University Ex-Students Association is an organization created for the purpose, of promoting, fostering, and advancing the interest and welfare of Texas Southern University and its students. Although the national and largest chapter is located in Houston, there are chapters in cities around the country. Where there are no chapters in areas of T.S.U. Exes, we are trying to establish them. If you find that there is no active chapter in your area of residence, please contact us, and we will assist you in setting one up. If there is an active chapter, please affiliate with it.

In the past we have been criticized, and sometimes justly so, for our inability to relate to the total university program, or for the lack of focus on issues, and programs that benefit the university family. It has been said that we socialize too much, and that our demonstrated interest in the university was too little. It has also been said that we will never be accepted by the university as a  major recognizable force.

Today, I proclaim that we have taken on a new face. A face that will always be before this university, and vitally involved in university affairs. A face that will be about the business of deeds rather than words. A face that must become recognizable force, that will endure eternally.

Indicative of this change, the Board of Directors of the T.S.U. Ex-Students Association has authorized me to present this check for $3,000 to Dr. Sawyer, earmarked for the matching funds needed for the National Direct Student Loan Fund, enabling needy students to continue their education.

(Pause, Present check to Dr. Sawyer)

Yes, we will say by word as well as by deed, that we are no longer an organization in search of a mission. Our goals are high, our purpose is clear, and our dedication in unswerving . . . 


"Come Home"

In Our hearts you'll always stay

As you lead us on our way

T.S.U., T.S.U., we love you

"Come Home"


Original transcript provided courtesy of the Congresswoman Barbara C. Jordan Papers, 1936-1996, 1979BJA001, Speeches Series, Special Collections, Texas Southern University

ALLEN, GEORGE LOUIS (1908–1991). George Louis Allen, businessman and civic leader, was the first African American elected to the Dallas city council and to serve as mayor pro-tem of the city of Dallas. Allen was born around 1908 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the son of Samuel Joseph Allen and Marie Breaux. He earned his A. B. degree at Xavier University in New Orleans and completed additional studies at the Southern Methodist University Institute of Insurance Management and the University of Southern California. Allen married Norma Fuller, and they had one daughter and three sons—Norma, Don, Arthur, and George Jr.

George Allen was a trailblazer in both Dallas and Texas history. In 1938 he became the first African American to enroll at the University of Texas. He attended ten days before the university’s administration realized that Allen, a light-skinned man of Creole descent, was not white. Subsequently, he started his own insurance business, Great Liberty Insurance Company, as well as his own public accounting firm and the Southwest School of Business Administration. He also became very active in the Dallas community. In the 1960s Allen served on the “Committee of 14,” the committee of seven whites and seven African Americans organized by the Dallas Citizens Council in 1960 that began the process of desegregating public facilities, schools, and employment in Dallas. In 1963 and 1965, he ran unsuccessfully for the city council, but in the former year, he became the first African American to serve on a city board or commission when he was appointed to the City Plan Commission.

Finally, in 1968 Allen was appointed by Dallas mayor Erik Jonsson to fill a newly-created seat on the Dallas city council. One year later, with the endorsement of the Citizens Charter Association, he became the first African American to win election to a seat on that body. As a city councilman he proposed and the city council passed an Open Housing Ordinance to end housing discrimination against African-American citizens, and he was also successful in passing a public accommodations ordinance to cover those areas not addressed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. From 1973 to 1975, he achieved another “first” when he served as mayor pro-tem of Dallas city council.

In 1975 after serving three terms on the Dallas city council, Allen resigned from his seat to accept an appointment as justice of the peace. He was subsequently elected to that office for three terms and served as a justice of the peace in Dallas County for thirteen years. During that time he also served on the board of regents for Texas Southern University. In total, he served on the TSU board for twenty-five years. For his service to Dallas as well as the state of Texas, George Allen earned numerous awards, including honorary degrees from Bishop College and Texas Southern University. His fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, honored him as its “Man of the Year.” He was also honored for his community service by African-American organizations such as the South Dallas Business and Professional Woman’s Club and the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce (now Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce) as well as by organizations such as the Dallas Big Brothers, the Knights of Columbus, and the Metropolitan YMCA of Dallas.

Allen died on February 22, 1991, in Dallas. A funeral Mass was held for Allen, a Catholic, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, where he was a longtime parishioner. His wife had preceded him in death, and he was survived by his second wife Juanita M. Allen. The Dallas County Court building at 600 Commerce Street in downtown Dallas was named the George L. Allen Sr. Courts Building in his honor in 1992. 

Ida Carey, "ALLEN, GEORGE LOUIS," Handbook of Texas Online(http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/faldu), accessed March 30, 2015. Uploaded on May 23, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.