While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Mary M. Standifer

COVINGTON, JENNIE BELLE MURPHY (1881–1966). Jennie Belle (Ladybelle) Murphy Covington, African-American civic leader, was born on September 21, 1881, in Clinton, DeWitt County, Texas, the daughter of Rachel Thomas. She was raised in Dement by her aunt and uncle, Jane and Will Jones. As a girl she developed a great love of gardening and frequently ordered seeds from New Orleans. She attended Guadalupe College in Seguin, where she worked as a seamstress for the wife of the college president, David Abner, Jr. She married Dr. Benjamin Jesse Covington on September 30, 1902, at the Second Baptist Church in Seguin. After living for a short period in Yoakum the Covingtons moved to Houston in 1903.

Jennie Covington was a founder of the Blue Triangle Branch of the Young Women's Christian Association and served as the first chairwoman of its committee on administration. She was also a cofounder and first head of the Houston Commission on Interracial Cooperation and served for more than a decade as chairman of the Texas Commission on Interracial Cooperation. She was a member of the executive board of the Texas Commission on Race Relations in the mid-1950s, a member of the first board of the Negro Child Center, and a member and first chairman of the Houston Settlement Association. Mrs. Covington also served with the Women in Yellow and with the Ladies in Gray, groups that assisted Jefferson Davis Hospital and the Houston Negro Hospital (later Riverside General Hospital), respectively.

Jennie Covington
Photograph, Historical marker for Jennie's husband, Benjamin Covington, and their house, the Covington House. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

She was a charter member of the YWCA Garden Club and won numerous blue ribbons at garden shows. She also belonged to the Married Ladies Social, Art, and Charity Club; the Ada Miller Band; and the Court of Calanthe. She was an ardent member of the Antioch Baptist Church on Robin Street.

Because Houston hotels were segregated, the Covingtons hosted many prominent black Americans who visited the city, including Marian Anderson, Booker T. Washington, Roland Hayes, William Pickens, and Anne Brown. Jennie Covington was among the first group of women honored by the YWCA with an Award of Distinction "for outstanding community leadership and service." She received recognition as an Ideal Mother from Antioch Baptist Church and as Woman of the Year from the Gamma Omega chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. In her honor the Women's Auxiliary of the Houston Medical Forum established the Jennie B. Covington Award, an award for nursing students. The Covingtons had one daughter. Jennie Covington died on October 8, 1966, survived by her daughter, one brother, and two sisters. She was buried in Paradise Cemetery (North) in Houston. In 1990 her daughter and grandchildren dedicated electronic chimes at Antioch Baptist Church in honor of her and her husband. In 1994 a Texas historical marker was placed at the site of the Covington home at 2219 Dowling Street.


Howard H. Bell, "Benjamin Jesse Covington, M.D., 1869–1961," Journal of the National Medical Association 55 (September 1963). Benjamin Covington Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Albert Walter and Jessie Covington Dent Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University. Houston Post, October 10, 1966. Fred Nahas, ed., Houston: City of Destiny (New York: Macmillan, 1980). Ruthe Winegarten, Finder's Guide to the`Texas Women: A Celebration of History' Exhibit Archives (Denton: Texas Woman's University Library, 1984).

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, Mary M. Standifer, "COVINGTON, JENNIE BELLE MURPHY," accessed July 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcoyp.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on December 12, 2016. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...