Last Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Joyce E. Taylor and Jeffrey Bashir, two of the grandchildren of Samuel Walker Houston. To listen to the interview, visit: https://www.spreaker.com/user/livinghistory/taylor-and-bashir. To learn a little more about Samuel Walker Houston, his daughter Helen Hope Houston, and his grandchildren Joyce Taylor and Jeffrey Bashir, keep reading. (Special thanks to the Samuel Walker Houston Museum and Cultural Center and Briana Weaver for helping out!)
Born around 1871, Samuel Walker Houston was the son of Joshua and Sylvester Houston, two former slaves who worked for General Sam Houston in Huntsville, Texas. During the 1880s and 90s, Samuel Walker Houston attended the nation's leading black schools, including Atlanta University in Georgia and Howard University in Washington, D.C. At the turn of the century, he returned to Huntsville and founded a training school in the little community of Galilee. Houston's school was one of the first county training schools for African Americans in Texas. It enrolled students at every level, from first grade through high school, and provided a well-rounded education that included courses in literature, music, construction, and agriculture. By the time Houston's school merged with the Huntsville Independent School District in 1930, it boasted a dozen teachers and more than 400 students. Based on his remarkable record of achievement, Houston was selected as principal for the new African American high school in Huntsville, which was later named in his honor.
In April 1915, Samuel Walker Houston married Hope G. Harville, one of the teachers at his school. Ms. Harville was a graduate of Tuskegee Institute, the outstanding African American college run by Booker T. Washington in Tuskegee, Alabama. On August 25, 1917, the Houston family welcomed their second child and first daughter, Helen Hope, into the world. She later attended Wiley College, Talladega College, and graduated from Virginia State University, before enrolling to work for the IRS and teaching as a substitute teacher in New York. She spent the bulk of her career as a supervisor in the Data Processing Department at IBM, but also worked in California for the Naval Supply Center.
Joyce E. Taylor and Jeffrey Bashir are the children of Helen Hope Houston. They both grew up and lived their adult lives in California. Their story is fascinating because it ties the Samuel Walker Houston family to the developments of the post-World War II era, including the Black Power Movement, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panthers.