FITZGERALD, OTIS E.
FITZGERALD, OTIS E. (1900–1953). Otis E. (O. E.) Fitzgerald, veteran, politician, deacon, and business and civic leader, was born on June 3, 1900, in La Vernia, Texas, to Charlie Fitzgerald and Louise (Manson) Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald moved to San Antonio when he was young and graduated from Riverside High School. After graduation, he served in World War I. In 1919, through Fitzgerald’s involvement with the Legionnaires, he became a world traveler, completing nine world tours. Local news reports stated that Fitzgerald visited Paris, France; Gibraltar; Cairo and Port Said; Egypt; Spain; Hamburg, Germany; China; and Japan.
Fitzgerald married Franklena Bumbrey on December 29, 1923. She was a teacher and taught in the San Antonio school system for many years. The couple had one daughter, Constance.
Fitzgerald was involved in many different businesses. In San Antonio he owned and operated Fitzgerald Auto Service for twenty-seven years and was the owner of a Texaco gas station located on Pine and Fredonia streets. He also ran a real estate business. Fitzgerald served as two-term president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was also a truant officer and helped persuade children to stay in school.
As a veteran, Fitzgerald spent the majority of his life actively serving in Fred Brock Post No. 828 of the American Legion. He was honored as “No. 1 Negro Legionnaire of Texas” in 1948. In 1950 the San Antonio Register reported that Fitzgerald set the state record for most members recruited, 187 in total, which gained him entry into the organization’s One Hundred Member Club. Through his work with the American Legion, he traveled to state and national conventions in Dallas and New York City. He served various positions in the American Legion, such as chairman of the public relations committee and later service officer at the time of his death.
A tireless volunteer, Fitzgerald served as commander of Camp No. 5 of the American Woodmen for fourteen years. Under his leadership, this organization increased in membership and financial strength. He served as a board member of the Alamo City Branch Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and the Ella Austin orphanage. He was president of the Council of Parents and Friends of Mentally Retarded Children and served as chairman of the Sycamore Street United Service Organizations (USO). He was also a charter member of the San Antonio Negro Chamber of Commerce. He served as an active member and deacon of the Second Baptist Church in San Antonio.
In 1951 Fitzgerald was the first African-American candidate to run for the San Antonio city council. Although he was defeated in the election, he received 4,000 votes. His political affiliation was independent, but he had the support of the Citizens Committee for a Democratic council. It was the opinion of this council that an African American would be the best representative of the east side of the city and that Fitzgerald was an ideal candidate. Fitzgerald continued his bid for election in the city council race in 1953 but did not receive enough votes to make the runoff election between Ralph V. Easley and Mike A. Cassidy, the incumbent.
Fitzgerald died of a sudden heart attack at his home at 1013 South Pine Street in San Antonio while discussing business with a local contractor on May 7, 1953. He was buried at United Brothers of Friendship Cemetery in San Antonio.
Yvonne M. Armstrong, Black Trailblazers of San Antonio Texas: Their Businesses, Communities, Institutions, and Organizations (San Antonio: Inkibiyvonne Publishing, 2006). San Antonio Register, July 2, 1943; October 18, 1946; September 8, 1950; October 26, 1951; August 8, 1952; March 13, 1953; April 10, 1953; May 8, 15, 1953.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Jackie Roberts , "Fitzgerald, Otis E. ," accessed December 07, 2016, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffi61.
Uploaded on January 25, 2013. Modified on May 21, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.