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Marshall community honors voting rights leader Fred Lewis with historical marker

"The more I read and heard about him I said we need a historical marker, that man’s accomplishments needs to be remebered."

MARSHALL, Texas — With the general election about four weeks away, we take a look back at some of the trailblazers and leaders who used their platform to advocate for equal voting rights.

It took the hard work of generations, past and present, to ensure we all have the right to vote in elections. Civil rights advocates like Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis and countless others left a mark on this earth as legendary leaders and pioneers. 

Legends like them also live here in East Texas. A new historical marker in Marshall, Texas celebrates a local civil rights leader and his legacy of fighting for the African American community.

Fred Lewis was an advocate for voting rights and education during the 1940s. While an educator at Wiley College, he would later break the chains of segregation laws that prohibited blacks from voting. 

During the 1948 democratic primary elections Lewis ,along with the NAACP and a group of city leaders, came together to file a lawsuit against the Harrison County Democratic party. 

The lawsuit would later turn into a court case known as the Perry v. Cyphers case in 1949. A case that would take a collaborative effort to see its way through the courts. 

“The state NAACP said, 'yeah, we'll support you,' but you have to raise the money for the lawsuit, which was like $1,800,” Barbara Judkins, site manager for Starr Family Home State Historic Site, said. 

To meet the required amount, students, faculty and staff from Wiley College stepped in to help. 

Later, resulting in a winning victory, giving Black residents in Harrison County the right to vote in October of 1951. 

“It was really gratifying to me that not only did Fred do other things in the community, but he was very involved at Wiley and Wiley is a very important part of this community,” Judkins said. 

Lewis’ work and dedication to the Marshall and Wiley community is now stored at the Starr Family Home State Historic Site.

Craved in a historical marker that was finally revealed to the public on Friday, Oct. 7. 

“I’ve been wanting this historical marker for years,” Judkins added. "The more I read and heard about him I said we need a historical marker, that man’s accomplishments need to be remembered.”  

To learn more about Fred Lewis and his contributions to the Marshall community, visit the Texas State Historical Association

The deadline to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 11. 

Wiley College will have a voter registration event open to the public on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the student union near the cafeteria. 

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