Grimes County has produced or been the home for famous Texas singers, actors and lawmen. But before most of them came to their fifteen minutes of fame, we gave the world a great motivational speaker.
Jack Green was born in Anderson, Texas in 1867. One of the first freeborn blacks in Grimes County, Jack became the archetypal “boot-strapper,” making his life and love the fields of inspiration and education. He went to the little one-room schoolhouse provided for him and the other children of recently freed slaves, whenever there was not planting or harvesting to do. He became a Christian when just a boy, and he actually finished High School at age 16, something very rare for a black youth, in 1883. He must have had wonderful encouragement from his family and the community, because the next year he attended Prairie View A&aM College in 1884, when just 17 years old. Soon he was back in Grimes County teaching what he had learned. For most of his life he was known as “Professor” J. W. Green.
I am trying to find out more about Jack Green, as he must have had a fascinating career. I have two posters about him made around the turn of the Century, and they tell us that he was active in his church, the Masonic Lodge, and other religious organizations. He advertised that he was a member of the Masonic Lodge, F.H.N.M., Prince Hall affiliation, whatever that was. Sounds important. But more significantly, he became a popular public speaker, traveling in eleven states throughout the South. From Texas to Indiana to Tennessee, Jack Green was called the “Tex Electric and Jubilee Speaker.”
One poster touted that this “well known” lecturer had taught school in Grimes County for several years, and had been active in many church building programs, and had served for 41 years as Worshipful Master of his lodge. Another poster claimed apologetically that he was “without a rival on a practical lecture.” His last place of service was noted as Deacon and Supervisor of Coaxberry M.B.C.W.M., of Ulmer Lodge, in Richards, Texas.
And perhaps most noteworthy, considering the racial tension and oppression which defined those times for this first generation freedman, was the thin notation at the very bottom of the poster;
“All are invited regardless of race, denomination. There will be nothing said to offend anyone present.”
We have to wonder what happened to this noble statesman, what kind of impact he made on this community, and how he fared during the ethnic cleansing and subjugation in the early 1900’s…
A photo of Jack Green recently discovered for sale on Ebay (and restored).
Perhaps someone knows, and will share his story with us.