Mary Lou Hazelrigg, black community leader in Amarillo, daughter of John and Carrie Harris, was born at Mount Pleasant, Texas, on March 23, 1900. She worked on her grandfather's Titus County farm near Mount Pleasant, chopping and picking cotton and driving a mule around a cane mill. She walked three miles to school during the rare times the family could spare her from chores on the farm, so she had little formal education. Left soon with the full responsibility for her daughter, Ethel, Mary Lou worked as a cook and lived in servants' quarters so that she could afford to send her daughter to a Catholic boarding school through high school. In Dallas Mary Lou married her second husband, Alexander Hazelrigg. They moved to Pampa and then in 1940 to Amarillo, and both worked as janitors for the city of Amarillo until their retirement in 1960. The Hazelriggs also did domestic work for private families after their work day for the city was over.
In 1965 they recognized that many of the underprivileged children in the North Heights area of Amarillo would have little or no Christmas celebration and began having Christmas parties in their home. The first party drew ten or twelve children for Christmas treats, entirely provided by the Hazelriggs. As the years passed, news of the parties spread and hundreds of children came to the Hazelrigg home, confident that Santa Claus would be there to provide toys, goodies to eat, and, perhaps, shoes and jeans. Businesses, churches, clubs, and individuals began contributing to the project, so the children were never disappointed. The number of children attending grew to more than 700 while the parties were still being held at Mrs. Hazelrigg's home. Later, the party grew to include children from the whole Panhandle. In 1984 the tradition was continued in the North Heights School by the Gamma Tau Sigma Fraternity. As further expressions of her love for children in the neighborhood, Mrs. Hazelrigg held annual Easter Egg hunts and Juneteenth picnics for them. In the late 1960s she worked successfully to establish a neighborhood community center, where she worked as an unpaid volunteer for a time. Recognizing the need for a park in the area, she prevailed upon the Amarillo Parks and Recreation Board to lease a vacant half block, plant trees, and install playground equipment. From 1972 to 1982 she worked each summer as a recreational leader in the park, which was named for her.
Among her many awards were the Texas Governor's Award in 1984 and the Distinguished Service Award for Women from West Texas State University in 1979 and 1985. In 1982 Mary Lou Hazelrigg was named Amarillo's Woman of the Year and Woman of the Year in missionary work by Zeta Phi Beta sorority. In 1974 Mr. and Mrs. Hazelrigg were presented with a plaque and a gift certificate in appreciation of their Christmas parties by the Amarillo Police Department and Northwest Texas Hospital. Alexander Hazelrigg died on February 6, 1975. His wife was a member of Jenkins Chapel Baptist Church, where she worked in the Women's Mission Society and served as president of the Deaconess Board. She died in an Amarillo convalescent center on May 16, 1990, and was buried in Llano Cemetery on May 22, 1990.
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Amarillo Daily News, January 2, 1983, May 18, 1990. Amarillo Sunday News-Globe, January 2, 1983.
Activism and Social Reform
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Claire R. Kuehn,
“Hazelrigg, Mary Lou Harris,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 13, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
February 1, 1995
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: