This article is over 3 years old


Future Of Sugar Land 95 Uncertain As Texas Lawmakers Weigh Options

A Texas law doesn’t allow a county the size of Fort Bend to maintain a cemetery.

Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
Archaeologists work at the discovered grave sites in Sugar Land.

Two Texas State Representatives are taking action to preserve the remains of 95 individuals who were found last year in an unmarked cemetery in Fort Bend County. Experts have determined they were likely African-American convicts leased by the state to provide labor to a local plantation in the 19th century. The group has been dubbed the Sugar Land 95.

The Fort Bend Independent School District is building a career and technical center on the site where the remains were found. In February, Fort Bend County and the school district began negotiating to reinter the remains and build a memorial on the site.

But the Texas Health and Safety Code doesn't allow for a county of that size to maintain a cemetery. Currently, the code says that only counties with a population of 8,200 or less can own, operate and maintain a cemetery. Fort Bend County has approximately 765,000 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

State Representatives Ron Reynolds and D.F. ‘Rick' Miller have filed House Bill 4179 to change that part of the code. The bill says the change would only impact Fort Bend County and Reynolds is optimistic it will pass.

"It has bipartisan support. Obviously, Rick Miller is a Republican, I’m a Democrat. We have talked to other members who are supportive of the bill," he told News 88.7 on Wednesday.

Reynolds expects the bill to get a hearing in the House County Affairs Committee in the coming weeks. If lawmakers pass the legislation, he hopes it could be sent to Governor Greg Abbott in late April or May.

Fort Bend County and FBISD are in favor of the bill, which is crucial for the two parties to be able to resume negotiations about plans for the site.

Fort Bend County Commissioners approved a resolution of support and Jason Burdine, the school board president, said in a recent statement they appreciate the county's efforts "to partner with us to find a legal way to reinter the remains on site and memorialize the 95 people lost to history."

If the bill doesn’t pass, Reynolds says there would an alternative for the county and the City of Sugar Land to negotiate an agreement so that the city operates and maintains the cemetery.

Today in Houston Newsletter Signup
We're in the process of transitioning services for our Today in Houston newsletter. If you'd like to sign up now, fill out the form below and we will add you as soon as we finish the transition. **Please note** If you are already signed up for the newsletter, you do not need to sign up again. Your subscription will be migrated over.