Henry Boyd Hall (1899-1974)

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Dentist, community leader, and civil rights activist Henry Boyd Hall was born September 12, 1899 in Palestine, Texas, Hall attended Palestine’s Lincoln High School, and later Tennessee State University and Meharry Medical College where he graduated as a Doctor of Dental Surgery in 1923. After graduation, Hall moved to Seguin, Texas where he practiced dentistry for 12 years.  He joined the Second Baptist Church and in 1933 married Olivia Williams, a teacher. Hall began his civil rights activity in Seguin when he helped start a chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in that city.

Hall and his family moved to Corpus Christi in1937 and he began advertising his dental practice in his home. He also continued his activism. Shortly after his move, he noticed the absence of black postal carriers and found that none had received employment for 30 years.  He immediately launched a campaign to help blacks become re-employed.  Later, when he entered the local Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office to pay his taxes, he found segregated lines.  Hall phoned the Washington D.C. office of the IRS and the lines were integrated the next day. Encouraged by his success, Hall founded the first Corpus Christi branch of the NAACP in 1941 and served as its president for three years.  He also served as Vice President of the state NAACP and later as its State President.

In 1951, Hall began the effort to desegregate Del Mar Junior College and his strategic process worked.  He and other black community leaders, in early 1952, called on Dr. Edward L. Harvin, the president of the college.  Hall asked President Harvin to enroll blacks or “they would march on campus.”  The president and the Board of Regents concurred and in the fall of 1952, two years prior to the Brown decision, Del Mar allowed the first black students to be enrolled.  Hall then helped desegregate the Corpus Christi Independent School District and nearby Texas A&I University (currently Texas A&M University Kingsville), by 1956.

Concerned with finding additional housing for Corpus Christi African-Americans, Hall worked with developers and financiers to build the Greenwood Park Subdivision. He also persuaded the City Council to add 200 units to the Leathers Housing project for lower income residents. During the 1960s, Hall worked with other activists to integrate swimming pools, the local hospital, hotels, bowling alleys, and restaurants.  His efforts often produced threats on his life.  Olivia Williams Hall remarked, “there were times I was afraid for him to go out and crank his car.”

Nonetheless, Hall later proudly remarked that he accomplished most of his civil rights goals “…without the shedding of one drop of blood, without the filing of one lawsuit within 200 miles of Corpus Christi, [and] without the fomenting of ill feelings between the white and the black.”

Henry Boyd Hall received numerous awards during his lifetime, including Foremost Black Civil Rights Leader awarded by the American GI Forum.  Hall died in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1974.