Joseph Edwin Lockridge, Texas state legislator, son of Reverend L. R. Lockridge and Demover (Gregory) Lockridge, was born in Waco on July 15, 1932. He moved to Dallas at age five and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1949. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1954 and a law degree from Howard University in Washington, D. C., in 1960. He served in the United States Army during the Korean War and passed the exam for admission to the Texas State Bar in 1960. That same year, he began a private practice and later became a partner at the Finch, Lockridge, and Cunningham firm in Dallas.
Lockridge, a Democrat, was elected to the House in the Texas legislature in 1966, which made him Dallas’s first black state representative since Reconstruction. In 1967 during the Sixtieth legislative session, his colleagues elected him “Rookie of the Year.” During his legislative tenure, Lockridge served on the Education, House State Affairs, Federal Relations, Mental Retardation, and Penitentiary committees. He was responsible for the passage of legislation authorizing community halfway houses for recovering mental health patients.
Lockridge also stayed active within his community. He served on the board of the Dallas Urban League, the policy council of the Dallas Civil Defense and Disaster Commission, and the Dallas County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Study Committee. He was also a State Vocational Rehabilitation Program advisor, chairman of the Goals for Dallas Task Force on Public Safety, and a participant in the Boy Scouts of America, the YMCA, the Shriners, and the Masons.
Despite his legislative success, Lockridge was unable to finish his term. On May 3, 1968, his life came to an end in a plane crash that killed more than eighty passengers near Dawson, Texas. He was returning to Dallas from Houston after making a speech at Prairie View A&M College (now Prairie View A&M University). The week of his death, Texas governor John Connally and Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes made public tributes to Lockridge. Connally described Lockridge as “a dedicated and popular young leader, one of the most effective freshman legislators in my memory.” Barnes said Lockridge’s death was “a great loss for the people of his district and for all citizens of Texas.” He also stated, “I know of no man who has done more to promote equality and mutual understanding among his fellow men than Joe Lockridge.”
One month after his death, Golden Gate Baptist Church, the church where Lockridge was a member, dedicated their library to him. The library was located in the building named for his father, who served as the church’s pastor for twenty years. Two years after his death, Golden Gate established a scholarship in the late legislator’s name. In 1973 the church’s youth choir released their first album entitled, Fill My Cup and dedicated it to Lockridge. Sales from the album were donated to the church’s scholarship fund.
Democratic leaders encouraged Lockridge’s wife, Eva, to serve in his seat during the remainder of his term. She declined and explained that she preferred to continue her work as a school teacher and as a mother to her son Doak (Lockridge’s stepson).
Dallas citizens paid tribute to Lockridge by having a memorial vote in his honor. During the primary election, which was held a few weeks after Lockridge’s death, Dallas voters gave Lockridge a posthumous vote of 74,696, a total of 8,000 more votes than he received at the time he was elected to the legislature.