In conjunction with the biennial Oak Lawn/Turner High Reunion, the names of Waxahachie natives or residents who have made significant contributions to society are inscribed on the Freedman Memorial.
The memorial is located at Freedman Memorial Plaza, 430 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., with the recognition ceremony held immediately after a celebratory parade that starts at the Oak Lawn site on Wyatt Street and ends at the memorial.
The program will begin with a prayer led by the Rev. Broderick Sargent and the singing of the Negro National Anthem. Waxahachie City Council member Charles “Chuck” Beatty will present acknowledgements and then the 2019 inductions.
The program ends with the singing of “God Bless America” and a benediction.
The 2019 inductees are Easter B. Fleming, Bobbie J. Mitchell, Mary L. Tempton and James Russell Williams. Each will be listed on the memorial under the category for which their legacy is honored.
“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,” the ceremony program reads. “May this memorial serve as a fitting acknowledgement of their service and contributions to the community. May their deeds, service and accomplishments serve as an inspiration to future generations.”
Individual biographies for the 2019 inductees are as follows.
Easter Butler Fleming
Easter Butler Fleming was born in Waxahachie in 1943 and lived on Gerald Street until she finished high school and left Waxahachie. Her education started with her grandmother, whose knowledge and common sense she relied on to guide her most of her life.
“The things that she used to talk to me about or tell me never really hit me until I was an adult,” Fleming said. “For instance, she would tell me, because I was really smart as a little girl, ‘It’s good to have book sense but don’t be a fool; you gotta have common sense, too.”
Fleming also shared, “What I am and who I am and what I have done in life is certainly credited to the people who surrounded me when I was young ’cause they’re the ones that put it all together and got me to understand certain things and what certain things had to be done, so you can’t escape that. You cannot escape your heritage. Like the genes ... whatever is in your genes, in your parents’ genes, you might as well get ready, ’cause here it comes.”
Fleming went to Prairie View College, where she obtained a degree in mathematics. She taught mathematics and math-related subjects at W.D. Spigner High School in Calvert, Texas, for four years before going to work for the Social Security Administration, which was the beginning of her government career. She worked in Bryan, Texarkana and then Dallas, where she transferred to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She worked as a program analyst in the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at its Fort Worth regional office and managed five states.
Denton County Pct. 3 Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell can trace her more than 30-year political career to a single water bill. Her daughter had just left for college and, in 1985, a rise in her water bill raised questions for which she finally had time to seek answers.
“At the time, I just wanted to see what was going on, why the water bills were going up,” Mitchell said. “And the way to do that is to get involved to see, so that’s why I did. I’m pretty nosy. I like to know what’s going on.”
Mitchell was elected Lewisville’s first black mayor and third woman to hold the office. From 1993-2000, she helped manage a city government that had to respond to the demands of a rapidly growing population.
James Kunke, the city’s community and tourism director, said that while Mitchell’s main goal wasn’t to break social barriers in the city, some of those barriers were broken in the process.
“One thing Bobbie Mitchell did was she really strengthened the sense of unity within this community in Lewisville,” Kunke said. “People didn’t look at Bobbie Mitchell as a black mayor, they just looked at her as mayor.”
Mitchell was elected Denton County Pct. 3 commissioner in 2000, a position in which she continues to serve. She has served on the North Texas Central Texas Council of Governments board of directors from 1996 to the present and was the board’s president in 2012. Mitchell has served on numerous local, state and national boards and commissions.
She lived in Waxahachie with her grandfather John Hughes but moved before she started school.
Mary L. Tempton
Mary L. Tempton was born and raised in Waxahachie, Texas, where she attended Oak Lawn Elementary and graduated as salutatorian from Turner High School. She received a licensed vocational nursing certificate from W.C. Tenery Hospital and earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Prairie View A&M University.
She traveled extensively with her husband, Col. Willie A. Tempton, and their four children, Willie Jr., Michelle, Gerald and Sharon. She returned home as often as she could and was instrumental in getting the streets paved in East Waxahachie, as well as leading a Cub Scout group.
Tempton served as the first lady of Prairie View A&M University during her husband’s tenure as interim president. She wrote and published a children’s safety book and enjoys special times with her 11 grandchildren and eight great-grands, whom she describes as “absolutely awesome.”
She was nominated for the honor by Michelle Tempton and Sharon T. LaCour.
James R. ‘Skin’ Williams
The late James R. “Skin” Williams graduated from Turner High School in Waxahachie in 1961. He was recruited for an athletic scholarship to Prairie View A&M University and was drafted by the Houston Oilers professional football team.
He entered the U.S. Army and was subsequently selected as an All-Army performer in both basketball and football while stationed in Germany.
Williams was Inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Sports Hall of Fame in 2007 as a member of the 1963 Prairie View Panthers championship team. Williams, as did many others on the Panthers’ winning team, played more than one position; served as a quarterback and defensive safety.
Williams passed away Jan. 28, 2011; his daughter Carla Williams still resides in Waxahachie, as do many members of his family.
Nomination criteria for the Freedman Memorial include the recipient having been born or lived in the city of Waxahachie. Each recipient, who must be of good character, must have made a contribution or achieved a noteworthy achievement.
Those making a nomination must provide biographical information for the proposed recipient, along with their nomination letter.
Nominations may be submitted to Chuck Beatty at P.O. Box 2634, Waxahachie, TX 75168. For more information, contact Beatty at 972-935-2211.
The committee overseeing inductees to the Freedman Memorial extends its acknowledgements to Broderick Sargent, the Waxahachie City Council, the Waxahachie Parks and Recreation Department, Giles Monument, Dunkin Sims Stoffels, Sylvia Smith, the Black Academy of Art and Culture and Shannon Simpson of the Ellis County Museum.
A special thanks is extended to Sargent who, in honor of his grandparents Delmar and Gertrude Erskin and Ira and Myrtle Sargent, donated the land for Freedman Memorial Plaza.