ANDREWS, ROBERT LEE
ANDREWS, ROBERT LEE (1865–1933). Robert Lee Andrews, merchant, businessman, and civic leader, was born on February 4, 1865, to Robert and Ellen Andrews in Alabama. As a child, he lived with his mother, a seamstress, in Muscogee County, Georgia, for a time before moving to Caldwell County, Texas, to live with his father, a farmer. In 1884 Andrews married his first wife, Modestia Allen (1865–1944), the daughter of Houston businessman and politician Richard Allen. They had a son, Richard T. Andrews, in 1886 but divorced within a few years.
During the early decades of the twentieth century, Andrews became an important merchant and civic leader in Houston. In 1900 he opened Andrews Grocery Store and was later assisted in this endeavor by his son Richard. He was so successful as a grocer that Andrews was nicknamed the “sweet potato king” due to his cornering of the sweet potato market in Houston. By 1919 he was one of two African Americans to pay taxes on property assessed at over $30,000, which enabled him to purchase the Ewing Residence, where millionaire George Hermann once lived, and a 1920 Cadillac Eight, for which he paid $4,800 cash. He married his second wife, Annie Belle Fox, around 1902, and the marriage remained childless.
In addition to being a successful businessman, Andrews was active in the African-American Houston community. In 1921 he served as vice president of a chamber of commerce committee dedicated to raising funds for Negro Boys Agricultural Clubs and personally donated $300 of the $500 raised. In addition, Andrews was a trustee of Wiley College in Marshall. During the late 1920s, Andrews and his wife moved to California for a time, but the specific reasons for this are unknown. However, they returned to Houston in the early 1930s. By the time of Andrews’s death on December 1, 1933, he was the largest black taxpayer in the city of Houston, with a property value of more than $100,000. He was buried at College Memorial Park Cemetery in Houston.
The Crisis, Vol. 18, edited by W.E.B. DuBois. Dallas Express, July 16, 1921. Dallas Morning News, December 2, 1933.
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Patricia Prather and Jennifer Bridges, "ANDREWS, ROBERT LEE ," accessed March 28, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fan67.
Uploaded on September 26, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.