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SHEPARD, BEULAH ANN

SHEPARD, BEULAH ANN (1921–2010). Beulah Ann Shepard, political icon and community activist, was the fourth of seven children born on June 14, 1921, to Emmitt and Queen Raleigh in Plain Dealing, Louisiana. She only received a formal education through the seventh grade and was largely self-taught.

In 1948 Shepard left Louisiana to care for a sister with a new baby who was living in the rural and largely African-American Acres Homes community of Houston, Texas. During that year she managed to pay $1.50 for her first poll tax in order to vote. She decided to reside in Acres Homes permanently and first gained employment as a store clerk. She married Lee Shepard in 1954, and the couple raised ten children.

Shepard’s first exposure to politics was as a volunteer with Lyndon B. Johnson's 1948 U.S. senate campaign. The experience taught her to attend rallies while studying candidates and their platforms. She also realized the effect of the ballot on her life. From that point on, she worked with many Democratic city, county, state, and national campaigns for more than fifty years and never missed the opportunity to vote in an election. In between rallies, she worked as a cook, waitress, maid, and furniture salesperson and spearheaded countless voter registration drives. Her persistence for political and civic equality for blacks earned the respect and admiration of local and national politicians who sought her endorsement and gave her twenty-four-hour access to them. She even received invitations from the White House and met presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, and Clinton.

In 1974 Shepard became a constituent liaison for veteran Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner, E. A. “Squatty” Lyons. She got the job after Lyons heard of her political activism as a community aide. The job was perfect for Shepard, who did not mind assisting those requesting help, and she spent many hours (sometimes very late ones) doing so. She soon earned a reputation as “the person to call to get things done.” Often called the unofficial “Mayor of Acres Homes,” Shepard was instrumental in lobbying and securing a swimming pool, library, better roads and parks, and many other infrastructure improvements for the underserved community. She was also a charter member of Acres Homes Chamber of Commerce and helped organize the Acres Homes Health Council. She successfully petitioned two mayors to change two streets in Acres Homes to honor a former pastor and a deacon at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, of which she was a member for fifty years.

Shepard retired in 1991 after many years of dedicated service to her community but still managed (along with other residents) to successfully push for the construction of a police station in the Acres Homes community in 1996. She also ran, unsuccessfully, for an at-large position in the Houston city council in 2003. She was honored by the Congressional Black Caucus in 1987. Shepard was a member of the Harris County Council of Organizations and a board member on the Acres Homes Charter Schools and the Acres Home Citizens Chamber of Commerce. She was chosen Acres Homes Community "Woman of the Year," and given the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats' "Texas Living Legend Award" in 1987.

In 2004 the Acres Homes Center for Business and Economic Development was named in her honor. Beulah Ann Shepard died on September 11, 2010, after suffering a stroke in 2007. Her funeral was held at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Acres Homes, and she was buried in Houston National Cemetery. Shepard left behind a distinguished legacy. In 2012 the city of Houston officially named the Beulah Shepard-Acres Homes Neighborhood Library in her honor.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

“Celebration of Life for Beulah Shepard,” Obituary, September 17, 2010, Galilee Missionary Baptist Church, Houston, Texas. Houston Chronicle, May 5, 1994; August 4, 1996; November 8, 2001; December 13, 2001; June 6, 2002; August 12, 2004; September 12, 2010.

Debra Blacklock-Sloan

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Debra Blacklock-Sloan, "SHEPARD, BEULAH ANN ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fsh82), accessed December 22, 2014. Uploaded on July 24, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.