Education Grant to the 100 Black Men of Greater Beaumont from the Nisby Foundation in memory of Cleveland Nisby
CLEVELAND NISBY, CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER
July 24, 1919 – December 23, 2011
CLEVELAND NISBY committed his life to unselfish service to the people of Beaumont and Southeast Texas in many different areas and walks of life. He fought to eliminate discrimination in all areas of life. He fought and won many legal battles that resulted in opportunities for many disenfranchised people. He had a long history of putting his neck on the line for the well being of others and building bridges to better relationships among peoples of all races. He planted seeds of freedom, justice, equality, and Christian principles in the minds and hearts of every citizen no matter what their race, creed or color. He did not give up even when death threats were made on his own life. His contributions included:
Labor and Workforce : 1943-1965: Since Blacks could not join the CIO Labor Union, he organized a labor union for Black workers at the Magnolia Refinery (now Exxon Mobil), Ideco, Bethlehem Steel, and Darling Valve, which resulted in Blacks having better wages, better working conditions and union representation.
He helped many Blacks pass a mandatory discriminating test required for on-the-job promotions in many plants.
He filed and won a discrimination suit with the National Labor Relations Board which eliminated dual lines of promotion within all plants.
Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Equality: 1960-1984: In the midst of hostile resistance, but with persistence, and negotiating with county official to hire people of color beyond janitors and cooks he was successful and Jefferson County Tax-Collector, Only Greer, hired the first Black clerk, Barbara Mouton, in the County. This victory resulted in many Blacks becoming the first Black to be hired in many different positions.
As president of the NAACP Beaumont Branch and through his negotiating skills with the appropriate authorities, he helped to rectify many civil rights, social and racial injustices that were encountered by many individuals throughout the area which helped many individuals to become elevated in their employment.
He worked with local ministers and helped organize youth sit-ins at lunch counters which led to opening access of public facilities to all citizens.
He filed and won a federal court case against the State of Texas and Jefferson County’s multi-member legislative districts in which voting records proved that a Black candidate could not be elected under that system. The case was won in the court of Judge William Wayne Justice with a ruling that Jefferson County must have one majority-minority district. As a result of his victory, the first African American, Albert Price, was elected as state representative in 1976.
He ran two unsuccessful campaigns for Precinct 4 Jefferson County Commissioner. With voting history results from those campaigns, he filed and won a federal court case against Jefferson County and Jefferson County Commissioner’s Court for violation of the Voting Rights Act. Judge Robert Parker ruled in plaintiff Nisby’s favor which required Jefferson County Commissioner’s Court to approved a majority-minority district for Jefferson County, Precinct 4. After winning the case for the people, Nisby decided not to run which would split the Black vote. As a result Edward Moore was elected as the first Black Jefferson County Commissioner.
He made several requests to Jefferson County Commissioner’s Court that one precinct be designated as a majority-minority precinct and that would allow for the election of a Black Justice of Peace and a Black Constable in Beaumont. The Jefferson County Commissioner’s Court agreed to make the designation and it was approved which avoided having another case filed in federal court for violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Housing: 1974-1995: Since Beaumont had no laws governing “slum lords” Nisby awakening city official to the desperate housing needs in North and South parts of the City by conducting bus tours through slums areas where residents were paying rent to live in houses with dirt floors and out-houses. He became a founding steering committee member for the elimination of sub-standard housing in the City which was successful in convincing the City to adopt building code standards thereby eliminating some blight and some sub-standard living conditions for Black citizens.
He served on a committee for the revitalization of the Charlton-Pollard Community and on the CDBG Advisory Board which helped to provide affordable houses for low-to-moderate income families..
He served on the Planning and Zoning Commission which helped to rectify discrimination in housing and business development for minorities.
Education and Mentoring: 1955-1988: Realizing a need for Black representation on the school board, he organized the campaign which succeeded in the election of William Taft as the first Black trustee in the Beaumont ISD.
He served as member of the bi-racial committee for the South Park ISD which helped students and parents adjust to the multi-racial school population and problems.
He became one of the first mentors in the Ben Rogers/Lamar University/BISD ” I Have a Dream Program” which motivated and tutored students from deprived educational background to become achievers and enter college with a scholarship. He worked tirelessly with the program through its entire twenty (20) years of operation.
He served as a major contributor of local oral history for Lamar University History Department which he continued during his years of declining health.
Social Services and Youth Development: He served on the Board of Directors for the L.L. Melton YMCA , its forerunner, the Neches Street YMCA, the Metropolitan YMCA and work in many capacities including Board president and Executive Director. In recognition of his outstanding, long-term contributions to the YMCA , an annex to the L.L. Melton YMCA building was named in his honor.
He worked as a founding steering committeeman along with the Junior League of Beaumont for the establishment of the Family Resource Center on Irving Street.
Senior Citizens Services: He worked as advocate for the rights and welfare of all senior citizens. He spent much time helping those who needed legal or financial advice or assistance with daily necessities.
Employment: He was the first African American Wharf Supervisor for Mobil Oil Corporation (now Exxon Mobil). He retired in 1982 after 41 years of service and was presented the Award of Meritorious Service and Special Service Emblem.
Church Affiliation: He was a deacon of the Starlight Baptist Church for 68 years where he served a Chairman and Superintendent and/or Architect of building projects.
Awards and Recognitions: Cleveland Nisby received numerous awards and honors from a variety of governmental, civic, social and religious organizations for his life-time of outstanding, faithful and dedicated service to all mankind.
“Only one life
‘Twill soon be passed.
Only what’s done for Christ