Hester, Julia Catherine Thomas (ca. 1881–1940)

By: Stephanie Spacek Tower

Type: Biography

Published: November 22, 2016

Updated: April 1, 2021

Julia Catherine Thomas Hester, teacher and community activist in Houston’s Fifth Ward, was born in Dublin, Laurens County, Georgia, to James A. and Nettie (McCall) Thomas. Sources vary regarding the exact year of her birth. Her death certificate gives the date of December 18, 1881, but census records list several different and conflicting ages: thirty-three years old (1900 census), thirty-five years old (1910 census), forty-four years old (1920 census), and forty-eight years old (1930 census). Julia Thomas married Alexander Z. Hester on December 28, 1892, in Laurens County, Georgia. They had no children.

By the 1900 census the Hesters were residing in Houston, and Julia was listed as a school teacher and Alex as a cotton sampler. Hester devoted her career to teaching and helping others. During her life in Houston, she served on several committees, including state leader of Heroines of Jericho, a woman’s auxiliary to the Negro Free and Accepted Masons of Texas; chairwoman of the Advisory Committee in Colored Girls’ Work during World War I; and member of the Emancipation Park advisory committee. During their more than forty years living in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Hester and her husband were leaders in the community and provided their home as a safe environment for adolescents to keep them off the streets. She and her husband were active in Payne Chapel African Methodists Episcopal Church in Houston.

Hester died on December 20, 1940, at her residence of forty-seven years. She was buried at Paradise Cemetery in Houston. In 1943 the Houston Community Chest and Council established a neighborhood community center in the Fifth Ward, and a bi-racial board selected the name, “Julia C. Hester House,” to honor the contributions Hester made to the community.

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Baines, Mrs. W. M., ed., Houston’s Part in the Word War (Houston: n.p., 1919). Houston Chronicle, March 3, 2016. Houston Post, July 14, 1915; August 12, 1915. Julia C. Hester House (http://juliachesterhouse.org/), accessed November 21, 2016.

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

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

Stephanie Spacek Tower, “Hester, Julia Catherine Thomas,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hester-julia-catherine-thomas.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 22, 2016
April 1, 2021

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: