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Residents, Community Leaders Celebrate Victory In Southmore Post Office Fight

US Postal Service decides to keep the Southmore branch open.

Community leaders and Third Ward residents gathered outside the Southmore Station post office to proclaim victory. 

The building sits on the site of Houston’s first sit-in against segregation in 1960 at what was then Weingarten’s Supermarket. About six months ago, the U.S. Postal Service had announced that it intended to close the post office.

historical_marker_weingarten.JPG A historical marker remembers Houston’s first sit-in at Weingarten’s Supermarket at the site of today’s Southmore Station post office.

Led by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, residents wrote letters to USPS protesting the move. Jackson Lee organized several rallies and news conferences to demonstrate the community’s opposition to the closure.

Dr. Assata Richards with Project Row Houses helped organize the protest.

“On that last day, they (students) came to Project Row Houses, they got their marching orders, they went out, they got letters,” Richards said. “We stood in the post office in the final moments, in the final minutes, gathering petitions. We did it collectively as a community.”

sheila_jackson.JPG Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee speaks at a news conference celebrating USPS’s decision to keep the post office open.

In a letter to Mayor Annise Parker, the Postal Service indicated that it changed its decision on the Southmore post office relocation partly because of the many requests it had gotten, including some that pointed out anticipated growth in the area surrounding the post office.

Five other branches in Houston will still likely be closed.

Jackson Lee said the fight for the Southmore post office had to do with both the historical site as well as the need of the community for it.

“We were so horrified, so insulted, that a post office of recent structure would be taken away so quickly and without little fanfare,” she said. “Then we added to it the enormous history. So I think if they were two people walking along a highway, both would be walking together – the history and the need.”

Had the Postal Service closed the Southmore branch, the historical marker that remembers the 1960 sit-in would have remained. But Jackson Lee said as a federal institution, a post office symbolizes the people, and that’s why having a different type of development on the site wouldn’t be right.

third_ward_residents.JPGThird Ward residents and community leaders gather outside the Southmore Station post office to celebrate their successful efforts to keep the post office open.

“The state was discriminating on the basis of race – the state of Texas,” she said. “But in 1964 was when we passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which meant that they could come to that Weingarten’s and eat. And this is the site of that Weingarten’s. What more appropriate entity than a federal representation? And that’s why the U.S. Postal Service was the right answer, and we didn’t want that answer to be taken away.”

It was black students from Texas Southern University who marched to Weingarten’s from their campus and sat down at the white-only lunch counter.

It was the beginning of the end of segregation in public places in Houston.

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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