Andrew Jackson Hurdle, African-American reverend, president of the Northeast Texas Christian Missionary Convention, and founder of the Northeast Texas Christian Theological and Industrial College, was born into slavery in North Carolina on December 25, 1847. In 1858 he was sold off from his family and sent to Daingerfield, Texas, to work on the plantation of T. H. Turner. However, during the Civil War he managed to escape, and while eluding his pursuers, he came upon a detachment of Union soldiers. He served as the unit’s horse groom and remained with them until the conclusion of the war.
After the war, Hurdle settled outside of Greenville, Texas, near the freedmen’s community of Center Point. A self-educated man, he worked at various times as a horse trader, cobbler, bottler, and as the manager of a sorghum syrup mill, and eventually he came to own 500 acres. In 1868 Hurdle married Viney James Sanders, the biracial daughter of a white man, and together they had seventeen children—nine boys and eight girls.
A devout Christian and leading member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Hurdle was ordained as a deacon in 1874 and became a minister in 1880. He went on to help organize the Clark Street Church in Greenville as well as the Center Point Christian Church, where he pastored for many years. He also led congregations in Caddo Mills, Rockwall, Cedar Grove, Mount Vernon, Campbell, and Terrell, Texas. In 1900 he helped found the Northeast Texas Christian Missionary Convention of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Daingerfield, Texas, and in 1901 he was elected president of that organization; he held that position for twelve years. As head of the convention, he organized the Northeast Texas Christian Theological and Industrial College, an all-black college near Palestine. The school opened in January 1912 and was led first by D. T. Cleaver and then by Hurdle’s son, Isaiah Q. Hurdle. However, in 1920 the school mysteriously burned down and was never rebuilt.
Following the death of his first wife in 1904, Hurdle married twice. In 1906 he married a woman who abandoned him shortly thereafter and died in 1912. In 1915 Hurdle, well into his sixties, married twenty-five-year-old Jessie Catherine Bailey, a school teacher from Big Sandy, Texas. She bore him eight more children before his death in 1935. This made Hurdle the father of twenty-five children in total—many of whom became teachers, ministers, and civil servants. Several achieved notability in their own right, such as I. Q. Hurdle, a leader of African-American education in Austin; as well as Timothy and Chester Hurdle, A. J. Hurdle’s oldest surviving sons, who filed a $1.4 trillion reparations lawsuit in a California court in 2002. As of 2013 it was the largest such lawsuit ever attempted.