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 »


Debra Blacklock-Sloan
Lullelia Harrison
Lullelia Walker Harrison. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

HARRISON, LULLELIA WALKER (1913–2008). Lullelia Walker Harrison, educator, community servant, and civil rights activist, was born on January 24, 1913, in Houston, Texas, to Franklin Pierce Walker, Sr., and Etta (Day) Walker. Lullelia was the oldest of three children. Her father was a master carpenter and boat builder who ventured to Texas from Franklin, Louisiana, in search of work opportunities in the early 1900s. Examples of his craftsmanship can still be found in the Fifth Ward community. Her mother was a direct descendant of Isaiah Cates Day for whom the city of Dayton, Texas, is named.

Lullelia’s parents settled in the Fifth Ward community of Houston and contributed significantly to the development of the area. The family joined Mount Vernon Methodist Church, now one of the historical institutions and landmarks in the Fifth Ward. Lullelia remained a member of the church until her death and served as church historian and a board of trustee.

In the early 1930s Lullelia Walker married Alexander Crystal Harrison, and the couple had two sons—Charles “Tex” Harrison and Alexander Crystal Harrison II. Her husband served as a regional manager for General Foods, Inc., and was a small business operator most of his life. The Harrisons’ oldest son Alexander served as a regional manager for General Foods, Inc., and youngest son Charles was affiliated with the Harlem Globetrotters as a player and coach for fifty-plus years.

Wiley College Seal
Wiley College Seal. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
ZPB Member Photo
Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Member Photo. Courtesy of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Education remained a significant focus of Harrison’s endeavors throughout her long life. She attended Houston public schools and graduated from Booker T. Washington High School. She earned a baccalaureate degree from Wiley College and then conducted graduate studies at the University of Chicago and Texas Southern University. Wiley College eventually awarded her an honorary doctorate.

While attending Wiley College, Harrison, at the age of sixteen, joined Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., in 1929. Throughout her years of service, she held numerous leadership positions, received countless awards, and raised funds for the sorority’s endeavors. She held the following positions: 12th International Grand Basileus (national president), southern regional director, national executive secretary, coordinator of national projects, founder and national director of Amicae, and national historian. In addition to being a Golden Life Member of the sorority, she was an active and faithful member of the Lambda Zeta Chapter in Houston. During her tenure as national historian, she wrote the book, Torchbearers of a Legacy: A History of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. 1920-1997 (1998).

TSU Logo
Texas Southern University Logo. Courtesy of Texas Southern University. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

As a civil rights activist, Harrison helped tear down racial barriers and was also known for her dynamic and eloquent speaking. In 1946 postal worker Heman Marion Sweatt was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin’s law school because of race. The NAACP Houston chapter filed a lawsuit against the school, and during the case, Harrison and others testified before the Texas legislature to gain support for the creation of a state university for blacks in Houston. A year later, the Texas State University for Negroes (renamed Texas Southern University in 1951) was established. Harrison (as the only female on the committee) later spoke before the legislature again in support of the Heman Sweatt Victory Fund to help establish the Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

Jack Yates High School
The Original Location of Jack Yates High School. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Harrison’s professional career encompassed teaching and counseling young people. She taught English for one year at Colbert School in Dayton, Texas, followed by nineteen years of teaching English at Jack Yates High School in Houston. She also spent seventeen years as a guidance counselor at Ryan Middle School. She retired from Houston Independent School District in 1975.

DePelchin Faith Home
Picture of the original DePelchin Faith Home building. Courtesy of Houston Past. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Harrison Accepting Award
Lullelia Harrison Accepting an Award. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Harrison was also involved with DePelchin Faith Home for many years and was the first black to chair the governing board of the Negro Child Center, an office she held for more than twenty years. In this position she initiated the move to equalize board rates for all foster parents and eventually made recommendations to abolish racially-separate boards. Because of her presence, minority representation increased and all programs were integrated.

Harrison’s retirement afforded her an enhanced opportunity to embrace a wide range of volunteer assignments for many diverse organizations. Her enthusiasm and dedication to serving others resulted in a myriad of community service awards including the Community Leadership Service to Agency Award (from Sheltering Arms Senior Services), Savvy Award (from Foley’s and the Houston Chronicle), GAIA Award (from the Houston Grand Opera), Texas Star Award (from the YWCA), and Volunteer of the Year Award (from the United Way of Texas).

As part of her allegiance to community service, Harrison served on the board of directors of more than a dozen organizations including the Houston Chapter of the March of Dimes, United Way of Texas Gulf Coast, Houston Area YWCA, Hester House, and later the Blue Triangle YWCA/Multipurpose Center, Heman M. Sweatt Victory Fund, Florence Crittenton Center, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, DePelchin Children’s Center, Houston Advocates for Mentally Ill Children, Sheltering Arms Senior Services, Child Care Council of Greater Houston, Houston League Business and Professional Women, and the Houston Pan-Hellenic Council.

Harrison's Grave
Lullelia Walker Harrison's Grave. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

Lullelia Walker Harrison died at Methodist Hospital in Houston on October 11, 2008, and was buried in Houston’s Golden Gate Cemetery. She was survived by her son Charles and seven grandchildren.


A Celebration of the Life of Lullelia Walker Harrison, October 17, 2008 (Obituary). Houston Chronicle, January 8, 1988; October 15, 18, 2008. The Red Book of Houston (Houston: Soltex, 1915).

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, Debra Blacklock-Sloan, "HARRISON, LULLELIA WALKER ," accessed May 24, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fhaeo.

Uploaded on July 18, 2013. Modified on March 1, 2017. 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...