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Simpson, Lee Haywood (1884–1967)

Douglas Hales Biography

Lee Haywood (L. H.) Simpson, black minister and political leader, was born in Calvert, Texas, in 1884, moved to Houston in the early 1900s, and worked for a short time in a sawmill before entering the ministry. He married a woman named Julie. As pastor of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Simpson oversaw the rapid growth of the congregation from six members to 3,000. In 1939, he became president of the Houston Colored Baptist Ministers Association, a position he held for almost thirty years. His organization represented approximately 80 percent of Houston's African-American population. He was elected president of the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1944 and served until the mid-1950s. During this period the NAACP became the target of increased hostility because of its active desegregation policies. Internally the Houston branch split on how best to pursue the aims of the national office. With the goal of reestablishing African Americans as viable candidates for public office, in October 1946 Simpson announced his candidacy for the Houston City Council, thus becoming the first black candidate for public office in Houston since Reconstruction. Supported by the NAACP and endorsed by Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, Simpson gained widespread black support. Running as an independent for a "council at large seat," he sought to represent whites as well as blacks. Even though he received support from numerous ministers, civic groups, and labor organizations, a split developed when the black-owned Houston Informer refused to endorse his candidacy. Arguing that an NAACP candidate "did not uphold the best interest of the black community," the newspaper urged blacks to withhold their support. Simpson also faced challenges from white candidates, some of whom refused to appear in public with a "Negro politician." He responded, "If they are worried about eating luncheons with me, I can eat at home. If they are worried about riding in an auto I can ride in a private car." Simpson lost the election, but his nonpartisan campaign received widespread attention and respect. Later, as a friend and supporter of Mayor Roy Hofheinz, he was appointed to the Houston Housing Commission. Simpson died under suspicious circumstances of carbon-monoxide poisoning on November 8, 1967, in Houston.

Alwyn Barr, Black Texans: A History of Negroes in Texas, 1528–1971 (Austin: Jenkins, 1973). Michael L. Gillette, The NAACP in Texas, 1937–1957 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, 1984). Houston Post, November 10, 1967, June 16, 1985. Julie Simpson, The Clever Leader: Dr. L. H. Simpson, D.D. (Houston, 1963).


  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Politics and Government
  • Religion
  • Baptist

Time Periods:

  • Great Depression
  • Texas Post World War II


  • Houston

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

Douglas Hales, “Simpson, Lee Haywood,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 22, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: