Bellinger, Charles (1875–1937)

By: Alwyn Barr

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: September 8, 2020

Charles Bellinger, Black political leader, was born in Caldwell County, Texas, on April 15, 1875. He grew up in a farming family and in his teens became an employee of a saloon owned by Jeff Howard in Lockhart. With his savings and with loans from Howard and the Pearl Brewing Company, 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. Black 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, a move that led to court decisions in the 1930s and 1940s declaring such voter exclusion unconstitutional.

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 at the request of San Antonio city government leaders and Bellinger's son, Valmo.

Charles Bellinger and his first wife, Celestine (Pelliman), had twelve sons and daughters, but only two boys and three girls survived childhood. After his divorce, he married Addie Scott. He was a Methodist and Mason. He died on June 14, 1937, and was buried at East View Cemetery, San Antonio.

Audrey Granneberg, "Maury Maverick's San Antonio," Survey Graphic, July 1939. Houston Informer, June 16, 1937. Andrew Webster Jackson, A Sure Foundation and a Sketch of Negro Life in Texas (Houston, 1940). Owen P. White, "Machine Made," Collier's, September 18, 1937.

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Politics and Government

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

Alwyn Barr, “Bellinger, Charles,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

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November 1, 1994
September 8, 2020

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