Covington, Jennie Belle Murphy (1881–1966)

By: Mary M. Standifer

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: April 18, 2021

Jennie Belle (Ladybelle) Murphy Covington, African-American civic leader, was born on September 21, 1881, in Clinton, DeWitt County, Texas, the daughter of Rachel Thomas. She was raised in Dement by her aunt and uncle, Jane and Will Jones. As a girl she developed a great love of gardening and frequently ordered seeds from New Orleans. She attended Guadalupe College in Seguin, where she worked as a seamstress for the wife of the college president, David Abner, Jr. She married Dr. Benjamin Jesse Covington on September 30, 1902, at the Second Baptist Church in Seguin. After living for a short period in Yoakum the Covingtons moved to Houston in 1903.

Jennie Covington was a founder of the Blue Triangle Branch of the Young Women's Christian Association and served as the first chairwoman of its committee on administration. She was also a cofounder and first head of the Houston Commission on Interracial Cooperation and served for more than a decade as chairman of the Texas Commission on Interracial Cooperation. She was a member of the executive board of the Texas Commission on Race Relations in the mid-1950s, a member of the first board of the Negro Child Center, and a member and first chairman of the Houston Settlement Association. Mrs. Covington also served with the Women in Yellow and with the Ladies in Gray, groups that assisted Jefferson Davis Hospital and the Houston Negro Hospital (later Riverside General Hospital), respectively.

She was a charter member of the YWCA Garden Club and won numerous blue ribbons at garden shows. She also belonged to the Married Ladies Social, Art, and Charity Club; the Ada Miller Band; and the Court of Calanthe. She was an ardent member of the Antioch Baptist Church on Robin Street.

Because Houston hotels were segregated, the Covingtons hosted many prominent black Americans who visited the city, including Marian Anderson, Booker T. Washington, Roland Hayes, William Pickens, and Anne Brown. Jennie Covington was among the first group of women honored by the YWCA with an Award of Distinction "for outstanding community leadership and service." She received recognition as an Ideal Mother from Antioch Baptist Church and as Woman of the Year from the Gamma Omega chapter of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. In her honor the Women's Auxiliary of the Houston Medical Forum established the Jennie B. Covington Award, an award for nursing students. The Covingtons had one daughter, Ernestine Jesse Covington Dent. Jennie Covington died on October 8, 1966, survived by her daughter, one brother, and two sisters. She was buried in Paradise Cemetery (North) in Houston. In 1990 her daughter and grandchildren dedicated electronic chimes at Antioch Baptist Church in honor of her and her husband. In 1994 a Texas historical marker was placed at the site of the Covington home at 2219 Dowling Street.

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Howard H. Bell, "Benjamin Jesse Covington, M.D., 1869–1961," Journal of the National Medical Association 55 (September 1963). Benjamin Covington Collection, Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library. Albert Walter and Jessie Covington Dent Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University. Houston Post, October 10, 1966. Fred Nahas, ed., Houston: City of Destiny (New York: Macmillan, 1980). Ruthe Winegarten, Finder's Guide to the`Texas Women: A Celebration of History' Exhibit Archives (Denton: Texas Woman's University Library, 1984).

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Civic Leaders
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s
  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Mary M. Standifer, “Covington, Jennie Belle Murphy,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 13, 2022,

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December 1, 1994
April 18, 2021

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