Houston, Samuel Walker (1864–1945)

By: Paul M. Lucko

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Samuel Walker Houston, black school founder and administrator, son of Joshua Houston and Sylvester Lee, was born into slavery at Huntsville, Texas, on February 12, 1864. His father, Joshua, was owned by Sam Houston. Perhaps inspired by his father's career as a Walker County commissioner during the years after emancipation, Houston attended Hampton Institute in Virginia, Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. He worked in Washington as a government clerk at the War, State, and Navy departments in the Ford's Theatre Building for five years. He returned to Texas around 1900 and founded the Huntsville Times, which he edited from about 1902 until 1907. During this time he taught in the public school of Red Hill in Grimes County.

In 1907 Houston founded the Galilee Community School, later known as Houstonian Normal and Industrial Institute, near Galilee in Walker County. His school, which enrolled students in grades one through eleven, was probably the first county training school for black children in Texas. The Houston school received financial support from the state government, private citizens, and such philanthropic organizations as John D. Rockefeller's General Education Board, the Jeanes Fund, the Rosenwald Fund, and the Slater Fund. Influenced by the curriculum at colleges he had attended, Houston emphasized a vocational and mechanical academic program with course offerings in cooking and sewing, woodwork, carpentry, and agriculture. However, because he also believed that black children should learn music, the humanities, and science, his school offered instruction in traditional academic areas. The Houstonian Normal Institute began with a single teacher; when its enrollment peaked around 1928 the school employed nine teachers and enrolled over 400 students, who came from various parts of the state and lived in dormitories on the campus. In 1930 Houston's school was consolidated with the Huntsville Independent School District; he became the supervising principal for nine of the Walker County Schools, including Galilee, Colony, Cotton Creek, Cumberland, Ollie Hill, Smither's Farm, Phelps, Sand Hill, and Mount Prairie. Houston also accepted the position of principal at the new Samuel W. Houston High School for black students.

He was a Baptist and a Republican. He served on the advisory committee for the National Republican Organization in 1928 and attended the national Republican convention. He also served as field secretary for the Texas Commission on Inter-Racial Cooperation and was vice president of the Teachers State Association of Texas. Houston was a member of the Southern Sociological Congress, the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools, the National Association of Applied Psychology, and the National Travel Club. He also served on the state executive committee of the Young Men's Christian Association and was a director for the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas in 1936. He married Hope Harville on April 28, 1915, and they had three children. Houston died on November 19, 1945.

Naomi Williams Lede, Samuel W. Houston and His Contemporaries (Houston: Pha Green Printing, 1981?). Who's Who in Colored America, 1941–44.


  • Education
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • School Founders
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Educators

Time Periods:

  • Great Depression

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

Paul M. Lucko, “Houston, Samuel Walker,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/houston-samuel-walker.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: