One of Houston’s Own Made Ultimate Sacrifice for Civil Rights
O.P. DeWalt, was a powerful and active civil-rights leader right here in Houston. He was a charter member of the NAACP in Houston.
The son of John and Caroline DeWalt, he was born near Livingston, Polk County, Texas, probably around 1890.
DeWalt attended a rural school in the area and entered Prairie View College in 1907.
He graduated with high honors in 1910. He later moved to Houston, where he worked as a real estate agent with T. M. Fairchild.
In 1913 he married Maud Pernetter; they had one son.
For a brief period DeWalt worked as principal of Independent Heights School, before opening the Lincoln Theater.
The theater was the the first exclusively black theater in Houston.
The Lincoln Theater, on Prairie downtown, originally operated under white management, but DeWalt pushed its owners to let him manage it. He and his wife, Maud, would voluntarily come in and do things like take tickets.
In addition to running the theater, DeWalt maintained a real estate office in the building’s upper floors, which served as a professional space and meeting place for African-American fraternities.
During the 1920s, DeWalt was president of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (NAACP)
During the time when the Ku Klux Klan experienced a resurgence in activity, and DeWalt was heralded as an influential civil-rights leader who stood up to the KKK.
He was involved in the White Primary fight in which the Democratic Party excluded black participation. He also pushed for the establishment of a branch of the National Urban League in Houston.
DeWalt remained active as NAACP president until his death.
He was assassinated on April 24, 1931. Funeral services were held first in Houston and then in Livingston, where he was buried.
Michael L. Gillette, The NAACP in Texas, 1937–1957 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1984). Darlene Clark Hine, Black Victory: The Rise and Fall of the White Primary in Texas (Millwood, New York: KTO Press, 1979). Houston Informer and Texas Freeman, May 2, 1931; and Houston Chronicle history shorts
By: Darwin Campbell