BROWN, WELDER (1917–2000). Welder Brown was an elected official and community activist from Corpus Christi, Texas. He was born on September 5, 1917, in Bastrop County, Texas, to Walter and Lula (Ridge) Brown. As a family headed by a sharecropper, the Browns regularly moved across rural Texas in the search for employment. Walter Brown settled his family in subdivisions and labor camps that mostly housed ethnic Mexican populations between Bastrop County and Lee County. The family’s constant relocation before and during the Great Depression forced Welder and his siblings out of school prior to reaching the ninth grade. (On his army enlistment record, Brown listed one year of high school for his education.) As a young man, Welder Brown’s search for employment led him to Alice, Jim Wells County, Texas, where he worked as a day laborer in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The 1940 census listed Welder as living in Alice, Texas, and working as a “yard man.” Also listed in the household was a wife, Virginia, and a daughter, Galentha.
At the age of twenty-four, in 1942, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a private and served in World War II until he was honorably discharged in 1946. After the war, he married Earmeane (sometimes spelled Armeane) Mae Fox (1921–1989) in September 1949 and bought a home in Corpus Christi. Brown found work as a truck driver for Brown Express and later worked for Jackson Flowers Funeral Home transporting the deceased. He was eventually hired at Reynold’s Metals where he became a member of the United Steelworkers Local 235A and later retired as supervisor of the electrode department.
Welder Brown is most recognized for his service toward the working-class residents of the Molina Addition—an economically-challenged, predominantly ethnic Mexican and African American neighborhood on the west side of Corpus Christi—and its school district, West Oso. West Oso ISD had served the Molina Addition since the neighborhood’s inception in the 1940s. The district had previously only served rural Anglo property owners who resided along the outskirts of Corpus Christi toward Robstown and Petronila beginning in the late 1800s. Brown was one of the many community activists whose work strengthened the political influence of the district’s majority-minority resident population. After insistent poll tax drives and write-in campaigns headed by the community’s newly-founded Molina Civic Association in the early 1960s, Molina Addition residents had elected a Molina-dominated school board in 1963—dubbed the year of the “West Oso School Board Revolution.” After the resignation of the two remaining Anglo trustees, the board appointed two Anglo trustees to serve out the terms. After those terms expired, Brown was elected in 1964 to fill one of the seats on the board, and he became the first African American school board member in the district. The new board hired Dr. John W. Skinner, who was an ally to Molina residents in their struggle for community representation, and the board fully integrated schools, redrew district lines, and initiated plans to construct a new high school building near the Molina Addition. In 1966 Brown was appointed school board president by acclamation and consequently became the first African American school board president in Nueces County. During his nineteen years on the school board, Brown served at a leadership capacity as either president, vice president, or secretary.
One of the major challenges Brown faced in the 1960s as board trustee involved the prospect of merging the newly minority-run West Oso with the heavily Anglo-populated Corpus Christi Independent School District. Concerned that consolidation would undo years of work that had finally produced a district with accurate school board representation, Brown and a handful of trustees, community activists, and neighborhood residents fought against consolidation while having publicized their distrust of the Corpus Christi ISD. Brown’s aims were realized in 1967 when West Oso ISD residents elected to remain a separate, smaller district. The Corpus Christi ISD electorate voted similarly. Soon thereafter, construction of the new West Oso High School at 5202 Bear Lane began; the school opened for class in September 1969.
During his nineteen-year tenure as West Oso ISD trustee (1964–83), Brown was elected as a Nueces County delegate for Texas Democratic conventions in 1964 and 1965 alongside Héctor P. García; lobbied for the formation of a statewide human rights commission led by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) at the Texas legislature in 1969; and served with the Nueces County Community Action Agency (1964–84). After his service on the West Oso ISD board of trustees, Brown served on the Corpus Christi city council, became a member of the Texas Black Caucus, founded the Coastal Bend Civic Association, and served as a committee member of the Corpus Christi Human Relations Commission. After his wife’s death, he married Jacquelyn Courton in December 1990; she died in 1996. He was a lifelong member of the NAACP, the Shriners Gulf Port Lodge No. 4, and the Thompson Chapel Church of God and Christ. He passed away at the age of eighty-three on September 18, 2000. He was buried in Memory Gardens Cemetery next to his wife Earmeane in Corpus Christi.
Corpus Christi Caller-Times, June 14, 1964; March 9, 1965; August 11, 20, 1967; September 22, 2000. Moisés A. Gurrola, Creating Community in Isolation: The History of Corpus Christi’s Molina Addition, 1954–1970 (M.A. thesis, University of North Texas, 2015). Renetta Hines, Interview by Moisés Acuña-Gurrola, Arlington, Texas, February 19, 2015.
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