Wade, Melvin (1842–1903)

By: Alwyn Barr

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: September 29, 2020

Melvin Wade, Black political and labor leader, was born in Tennessee in February 1842. Soon after the Civil War, in 1865 or 1866, he married a woman named Frances, who was also from Tennessee. They had eleven children, all born in Texas, of whom six survived. Wade spent most of his life as a skilled laborer. Although he worked as a salesman for the Free Man's Press in 1868, a night clerk in the Dallas post office in 1881, and a brickyard worker in 1884, he was primarily a carpenter. His political career began with his appointment, by the military commander for Texas during Reconstruction, as a member of the board to register voters in Dallas County. He became a leader because of his speaking ability and rose to prominence in state Republican conventions. In 1884 he was one of three vice presidents and a member of the platform committee at the meeting of "Straight-Out" Republicans, who opposed any coalition with independent or Greenback party candidates. He was again on the platform committee of the state Republican convention in 1892. When Texas labor leaders met in July 1889 at Dallas in the Eight Hour Convention, which established the Texas Federation of Labor, Wade apparently was the only Black member of the platform and state executive committees. On the local level he participated in the Central Labor League of Dallas, formed in November 1889 to promote the eight-hour work day. He remained active in meetings of the Dallas Eight Hour League during the early 1890s. Thus he became one of the earliest spokesmen for Blacks in state labor unions. In an effort to advance the fortunes of laborers, he joined the People's party, or Populists, in the mid-1890s and was one of its most prominent Black leaders. Wade died on July 30, 1903, in Dallas.

Dallas Morning News, July 31, 1903. E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).


  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Politics and Government


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

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

Alwyn Barr, “Wade, Melvin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 24, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wade-melvin.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995
September 29, 2020

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