HASGETT, SIDNEY (1891–1952). Sidney Hasgett, African-American fireman, skilled laborer, and 1941 Houston NAACP test case plaintiff, was born in Mansfield, Louisiana, on October 16, 1891. Little is known about Hasgett’s early years, but he did register for World War I military service on June 5, 1917, in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It is not certain in what capacity Hasgett may have served, but upon registration he listed his occupation as stationary engine fireman. During the 1920s Hasgett lived with his wife Nancy in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he worked at a number of insurance companies in addition to serving as a fireman. By 1930 the couple had moved to Port Arthur, Texas, where Hasgett was employed as a laborer at a junkyard. In 1932 Hasgett lived in Houston, Texas, where he worked for a plaster company as a hod carrier.
In 1941 Hasgett made his most notable contribution, agreeing to become the plaintiff in a Houston NAACP lawsuit. Having been denied the right to vote in the Texas Democratic primary despite meeting all legal qualifications, Hasgett sought $5,000 in compensatory damages from two federal judges. Hasgett’s attorney, William J. Durham of Dallas, filed suit in Houston Federal Court against Harris County election judges Theodore Werner and John H. Blackburn in January 1941. After several postponements, district justice T. M. Kennerly heard the case of Hasgett v. Werner on April 25, 1941, and ruled against Hasgett on May 3. Although Hasgett did not win the case, he played a major role in the struggle to overturn the Texas Democratic Primary law, which ultimately came with the 1944 Smith v. Allwright decision.
Sidney Hasgett died on August 14, 1952, at the age of sixty. His brush with history was brief, but significant nonetheless.
Dallas Morning News, January 16, 1941. Darlene Clark Hine, "The Elusive Ballot: The Black Struggle Against the Texas Democratic White Primary, 1932–1945," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 81 (April 1978). World War I Draft Registration Card, “Sidney Hasgett,” Otero County, New Mexico, Roll: 1711805.
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Uploaded on January 31, 2013. Modified on May 21, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.