Zollie Scales, political and community activist and civil rights leader, was born on January 29, 1923, in Washington County, Texas, to Zollie Scales, Sr., and Mattie (Reese) Scales. He attended rural schools as a child but never completed high school. He married Daisy Lee Jackson on September 8, 1946, and to this union five children were born: Zollie III, Luella, twins Bobby and Billy, and Victor.
Scales was the second eldest of ten siblings and thus shared the responsibility of contributing to the family income. He moved to Houston and began his work as a driver at the local Kraft Inc., where he worked for thirty-six years. In 1947 Scales and his wife became members of Jordan Grove Missionary Baptist Church, where he served faithfully as a Sunday school teacher, president of the Jubilee Chorus, and chairperson of the Civic Action committee. He was also a Thirty-second degree Mason.
Scale’s interest in politics began on a Friday evening at his local barbershop. While sitting in the barber’s chair he witnessed the owner of the barbershop accept a bribe from a local politician. Deeply disturbed by the incident, Scales decided that he would not only become a community activist, but would never accept payment for his community involvement. Over the years he was approached several times to run for political office but declined, saying he could help more people through his community activism.
Scales joined the Harris County Council of Organizations, an African-American federation of civic, fraternal, labor, and religious groups of the county. The organization, which was formed on January 19, 1949, later became a major Black political force in the community. Though Scales was not a charter member, he was very active in the organization and served as parliamentarian, first vice-president, chairman, and liaison between many political candidates and the Black community. He also tackled injustices against Blacks and served as vice-president of his community’s civic club, the South Union Civic Association. Scales was best-known for personally escorting local Democratic candidates on Black church tours on early Sunday mornings.
Scales received awards from the NAACP Houston Branch, South Central YMCA, and Metropolitan Transit Authority. On May 22, 1973, the Houston City Council passed a resolution to rename Institute Park to Zollie Scales Park in his honor.
Political candidates such as Mayor Jim McConn, Fred Hofheinz, and Kathy Whitmire, Governor Ann Richards, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee, State Senator Rodney Ellis, and U.S. Congressman George Thomas “Mickey” Leland were endorsed by Scales and the HCCO.
Scales died in his sleep on August 3, 1994, integrity intact and with a long track record of community and political service to the Houston community. He was buried in Paradise South Cemetery near Pearland.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Dallas Morning News, September 23, 1994; March 6, 1995; July 2, 1997.
Activism and Social Reform
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Scales, Zollie, Jr.,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 13, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
January 5, 2022
Most Recent Revision Date:
January 5, 2022
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: