On this day in 1953, representatives of eleven mainline Protestant denominations met in Dallas to form the Texas Council of Churches. The council advocated elimination of all forms of discrimination based upon race, color, national origin, or sex. A major program was to mobilize member churches in world relief efforts. Other activities included volunteer councils and chaplaincies in state hospitals, ministries to migrant farmworkers, aid to dependent children, and efforts toward a redemptive system of criminal justice. The council was succeeded by a more inclusive organization, the Texas Conference of Churches, in 1969. The conference is an association of the largest judicatories in the state of twelve Protestant denominations, fourteen dioceses of the Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox churches, forty-nine groups in all, with a total of over three million members.
On this day in 1847, Pope Pius IX established the Catholic Diocese of Galveston and named Jean Marie Odin the new diocese's first bishop. Odin, born in France in 1800, had come to Texas in 1840 to revive Catholicism there in the wake of the secularization of the missions and the Texas Revolution. The Diocese of Galveston initially encompassed an area of almost 360,000 square miles, including all of Texas as well as parts of present Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Colorado, and Wyoming. Odin and twelve priests served the 20,000 widely scattered Catholics in this vast new see, which also included ten established churches and a convent of Ursuline Sisters; understandably, the early clergy became known as "saddle priests" because of their extensive travel on horseback. Odin's notable career in Texas ended in 1861, when the Vatican nominated him to become the second archbishop of New Orleans; he died in France in 1870. The Diocese of Galveston underwent the first of many divisions in 1874, when the Diocese of San Antonio and the Vicariate Apostolic of Brownsville were established. The Diocese of Galveston became the Diocese of Galveston-Houston under Bishop Wendelin Joseph Nold in the mid-twentieth century.
On this day in 1886, Albert Richard Parsons, a labor organizer from Texas, was implicated in the infamous Chicago Haymarket Massacre. The brother of Confederate colonel William Henry Parsons, Albert served in Parsons's Brigade, a unit of Texas cavalry commanded by his brother, during the Civil War. After the war he became a Radical Republican and traveled throughout Central Texas registering freed slaves to vote. When Reconstruction came to an end in Texas, Parsons was hated and persecuted as a miscegenationist and a scalawag. He moved to Chicago with his wife, Lucy E. Parsons, a woman of mixed racial heritage, and became a leading agitator for social change there. On the evening of May 4, 1886, Parsons spoke at a meeting in Haymarket Square to protest police brutality. He and his family were in nearby Zepf's Hall when nearly 200 policemen marched into the square; an unknown person threw a bomb, and police began shooting wildly. Most of the seven police officers and seven members of the crowd who died apparently sustained wounds from police revolvers. Albert Parsons and seven others were tried for conspiracy to murder; he was among the four men who were eventually hanged for the crime. Six years later, Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned the three defendants who remained in prison and condemned the convictions as a miscarriage of justice.