Houston

UPDATE: Memorial Services For Houston Civil Rights Leader Ovide Duncantell

Mr. Duncantell, who passed away on October 25, founded Houston’s Black Heritage Society and also made news in 2012 when he chained himself to the oak tree planted on MLK Boulevard.

Ovide Duncantell was the founder of Houston’s Black Heritage Society.

UPDATE: Memorial services for Houston civil rights leader Ovide Duncantell are scheduled for tonight, Friday November 9, and tomorrow, Saturday November 10.

The memorial services will be held at the Shape Center, 3903 Almeda Rd, Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. A viewing and funeral service will be held Saturday at the Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church, 3826 Wheeler Ave. The viewing is scheduled to start at 8:45 a.m. and the funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m., with a repass at 12:30 p.m.

Sylvester Brown, Chief Operating Officer of the Black Heritage Society –which Duncantell founded– said in a statement Mr. Duncantell’s family and the organization ask that their wishes for privacy and time to grieve are respected.

Duncantell died on October 25, 2018, at the age of 82 leaving a legacy of hard work, commitment and persistence to help Houston’s underserved and underprivileged communities, as well as the creation of the Black Heritage Society and its MLK Parade.

According to a biography on the website of Houston’s Black Heritage Society, Duncantell was born on August 7, 1936 in the parish seat of Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana.

In 1955, he entered the United States Air Force and was honorably discharged in 1959. It was around that time when he settled in Houston.

Duncantell’s involvement in local politics and civil rights began when he successfully filed a lawsuit because of the stringent requirements the City of Houston used for residents to run for office. One of those requirements was a $500 fee.

Food stamps

With support from Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Duncantell was also instrumental in making the City of Houston provide food stamps for impoverished communities, mainly African-American and Hispanic.

Duncantell’s contribution to improving the living conditions of underserved communities happened also in the health care realm, for he paved the way for the opening of Sunnyside Health Clinic (now known as Quentin Mease Health Clinic).

In 1969, he started working for the Anti-Poverty Program-Houston Community Action Association, where he organized youth, adults and senior citizens to ban together and improve their communities from 1970 to 1973.

Later on, Duncantell founded The Central Committee for the Protection of Poor People.

His work also helped to create the Harris County Justice of the Peace (Pct. 7, Place 2) office and Duncantell also worked for newly Harris County Commissioner Tom Bass from 1973 to 1977.

He was also accomplished in the academic field, earning a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Sociology from Texas Southern University.

Founding the Black Heritage Society

In 1974, Ovide Duncantell created and became Founder and Executive Director of the Black Heritage Society. He was one of the people who advocated for renaming of a major Houston thoroughfare that ran through a predominantly African-American neighborhood as Martin Luther King, Jr., Boulevard.

Impressed by the work of the Black Heritage Society’s, the Reverend Martin Luther (“Daddy”) King, Sr. made a personal appearance at the event to rename the street and also served as the Grand Marshal of the organization’s first MLK Parade on January 21, 1978.

Years later, in 2012, Duncantell’s fervent defense of Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy was clearly expressed when he chained himself to an oak tree that was planted on Houston’s MLK Boulevard to honor the civil rights icon. As reported by the Houston Chronicle and other local news outlets, the tree was in the way of one of METRO’s light rail lines and Duncantell wanted assurances from the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) about its plans to relocate the tree to MacGregor Park.

Mayor Turner praises Duncantell’s work

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner released a statement that underscored Duncantell’s “commitment to the community” and encouraged Houstonians to make the 2019 MLK Parade “extra special” to thank Duncantell “for living a rich life of service.”

A representative of the Houston Black Heritage Society told News 88.7 that, at this time, no funeral arrangements have been made.

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