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Black San Antonio political leader dies

June
14
1937

On this day in 1937, Charles Bellinger died. Bellinger was born in Caldwell County in 1875 and worked in a Lockhart saloon as a teenager. He established his own saloon in San Antonio by 1906 and developed a reputation as an exceptional gambler. He expanded his activities to include a pool hall, a cafe, a cab company, a real estate and construction company, a theater, a barbershop, a private lending service for blacks, a lottery, and a bootlegging operation during Prohibition. Bellinger entered local politics in 1918 and, with the aid of black ministers, developed support among black voters for John W. Tobin, who served as sheriff and mayor, and later for the Quin family. In return the city government provided the black neighborhood with paved and lighted streets, plumbing, a meeting hall, and a branch library, as well as improved recreation facilities and schools. African-American political participation set San Antonio apart from most Texas and southern cities and stimulated the state legislature to require a white primary in the 1920s. In 1936 Bellinger was convicted of failure to pay income tax, a conviction that resulted in a fine and an eighteen-month sentence at Leavenworth penitentiary. Illness led to his transfer to a government hospital and to a parole granted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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