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STRICKLAND, HENRY

STRICKLAND, HENRY (1874–1942). Henry "Pop" Strickland, owner of the Dallas Express and founder of the Excelsior Life Insurance Company of Dallas, was born in Athens, Georgia, on January 10, 1874. Although he would become the wealthiest and most prominent African-American citizen in Dallas, Strickland obtained only a fifth grade education. He moved from Georgia to Smithfield, Texas, in 1907 to work for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad. He brought his wife, Demrus Strickland, whom he married in 1906 in Athens with him. The couple had one son, Ray. Soon after arriving in Texas, Strickland moved his family to Fort Worth, where he accepted a position with the Stone and Webster Railway Company. He then became an agent with the American Mutual Life Insurance company in Fort Worth. The company shortly promoted Strickland, transferring him to Dallas to be the superintendent of the company's office there. By 1911 Strickland felt ready to open his own insurance firm, the Excelsior Mutual Benefit Association, which became the Excelsior Mutual Life Insurance Company. He also diversified his business interests by becoming part owner in the Red Line Taxi Company of Dallas. Strickland's interest in the Dallas Express, emerged when he, and several other prominent businessmen, decided to return the paper to African-American control by purchasing it the from the white owner, Travis Campbell, who had purchased it when the original black owners had faced financial problems in 1930. Before that Campbell had been the printer for them; he had purchased it to keep the paper going. By 1938 Strickland and his partners successfully arranged to buy the paper, facilitated by Strickland's position as treasurer of the Southwestern Negro Press (1938–40), which enabled him to draw together influential and financially able Dallas citizens also desirous of purchasing the paper. Once Strickland's group bought him out Campbell continued to work on the paper. Actively concerned with the welfare of his Dallas community, "Pop" Strickland donated large sums of money to the YMCA, YWCA, and the Dickson Colored Orphanage (see STATE COLORED ORPHANS' HOME) in Gilmer, Texas. He also donated time and money to the Dunbar Social Club, the Idle Wile Social Club, and the New Hope Baptist Church, where he and his second wife, the former Blanche Barnes, were members. Strickland was also active in the Dallas NAACP, the Texas Voter's League, and the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce.

In 1940, two years before his death, Strickland and his partners in the Express purchase decided to form a corporation. Strickland, the wealthiest of the group, paid each partner one dollar for their share of the paper's stock. That transaction complete, Strickland remained as sole owner of the Express for three weeks, long enough to satisfy the legal requirement that the paper did, in fact, have a sole owner and could be incorporated. These obligations met, on April 13, 1940, the state's leading black newspaper corporation, the Informer Publishing Company, purchased the Express corporation. Strickland was divorced from his first wife on March 5, 1935. He married Blanch Barnes on December 31, 1935. They separated and divorced in 1941 but were remarried in September 1941. Strickland retired from newspaper involvement but continued active in civic organizations and Excelsior until his death. Suffering a stroke on January 22, 1942, Strickland died at Dallas's St. Paul's Hospital on March 15, 1942. After funeral services at New Hope Baptist Church, Strickland was buried in Woodland Cemetery. He was survived by his son, and his wife to whom he, through his will, granted sole executorship of Excelsior and his other business holdings.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Express, March 21, 1942.

Peggy Hardman

Citation

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

Peggy Hardman, "STRICKLAND, HENRY," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fstnb), accessed December 22, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.