Rev. Bettie Engram Kennedy Meeting Hall Collection
Scope and Contents
There are three distinct components to this collection. First, there are materials from three African American Masonic organizations (Dawn of Light Lodge no.79, Heroines of Jericho, White Swan Court no.148, and Order of the Eastern Star, Annie Jones Chapter no.114) and Camp no.71 of the American Woodmen of the World. Check receipt books, relief receipts, membership ledgers, minute books, dues payments, member correspondence, photographs, several broadsides, and other documents describe each group’s finances, governance and membership. All four fraternal organization used the same meetinghouse in Lufkin, Texas. Four blueprints in the collection show the building’s architecture and design.
Possibly the most significant subset of the collection are the one hundred issues of newsletters published by the state chapters of each of the three African American Masonic organizations. There are fifty-seven issues of the Texas Prince Hall “Masonic Quarterly” (1927-1996), thirty-six issues of the Texas Prince Hall “Heroines Quarterly” (1940-1989, bulk 1978-1989), and seven issues of the “Eastern Star” newsletter (1955-1961, 1972). These publications offer a unique perspective on black fraternal organizations in the mid-twentieth century. Many of the earlier newsletters are newsprint and not in very good condition.
The collection also has articles, biographical information, correspondence, and photographs articles about Reverend Bettie Kennedy and her ex-husband Oscar Kennedy. Most of these materials pertain to Bettie Kennedy’s community service and volunteer projects.
Researchers investigating African American history, fraternal organizations and Freemasonry may find this collection useful. Scholars interested in the intersection of politics and race in Texas politics may want to look at Box 4, Folder 21, Items 3-6. This set of documents come from Harry M. Wurzbach’s campaign against R. B. Creager for control of the Texas Republican Party in 1928.
Written by Kyle Ainsworth
- 1843, 1893-2012
Language of Materials
The collection is in English.
Conditions Governing Access
Open for research.
Biographical or Historical Information
The Texas Prince Hall Masons chartered the Dawn of Light Lodge no.79 in Lufkin, Texas in 1893. Rev. Bettie Kennedy’s father, William Engram, was a founding father. The lodge was the first African American Freemason lodge in Lufkin. Rev. Bettie Kennedy’s ex-husband, Oscar Kennedy, was an executive secretary of the lodge. A number of other organizations met at the meetinghouse built by the Dawn of Light lodge, including the American Woodmen no.71, the Order of the Eastern Star Annie Jones Chapter no.114, Heroines of Jericho, White Swan Court no.48.
Bettie Kennedy was born May 19, 1931 to Willie Mae Engram, a single parent, in Broaddus, Texas. She was legally adopted by her great Uncle and Aunt, Will and Evie Bell Engram of Lufkin in 1934. Kennedy went to Lufkin public schools, graduating from Dunbar High School in 1949. Following high school, she attended college at Prairie View A and M University where she earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1953. Kennedy attended post-graduate courses at Stephen F. Austin and Texas Southern University and completed a certification in Special Education. She also received special training and certification from the Texas Deaf Blind and Orphan School in Austin, Texas.
Rev. Kennedy taught at the Deaf, Blind and Orphan School in Austin for a number of years. She subsequently taught in Lufkin Public for over twenty-five years. After teaching, she became an ordained minister and was pastor of Collins Chapel CME Church for over twenty years. She continued as an affiliate pastor of Long Chapel CME Church until her death.
Rev. Kennedy received numerous awards and honors including: the Yellow Rose of Texas, Texas Community Service Award, Angelina Award Award Lifetime Achievement Community Service Award, Cultural Diversity Award, Paul Harris Fellow Rotary International Award Award and Fellow, Citizen Chamber Pinnacle Award, Civil Rights Award, Diboll History Center Award, U.S. Forestry Award, Outstanding Citizen Award, Black History Award, Jewel Award, Preservation Award, Concerned Citizen Award, TPO Ladies of Distinction, Delta Theta Sorority, American Cancer Society Presidents Award, Dunbar Hall of Fame Honor inductee, Salvation Army Award, AmeriCorps of Texas Award, and the Angelina Award.
Rev. Kennedy’s ministry to others began when she was a small child. During the throes of the Great Depression, she saw her mother, Evie Bell, feeding, clothing and taking care of those in the community. Bettie would ride her bicycle far beyond her home on N. Chestnut, Laden with food and clothes to give to people in need. She continued this love for people throughout her life. Kennedy started a Thanksgiving Community Food Drive and with the support of churches, friends, family and others, it grew to feed more than 1600 families in the Lufkin and surrounding communities.
Reve. Bettie Ruth Engram Kennedy passed away July 25, 2015. She is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Lufkin.
Source: "Rev. Bettie Ruth Kennedy," Obituary, online at Colonial Mortuary and Cremation Services, https://www.colonialmortuarylufkin.com/obituaries/bettie-kennedy-2/ (accessed 20 February 2020).
9.00 Cubic Feet
The bulk of this collection is described in 164 folders and housed in five banker's boxes. There are also two oversize boxes (84 items) and two oversize bundles (14 items).
The collection is broken down into eight series: (1) Dawn of Light Lodge no.79; (2) American Woodmen Camp no.71; (3) Order of the Eastern Star, Annie Jones Chapter no.114; (4) Heroines of Jericho, White Swan Court no.148; (5) Oscar Kennedy; (6) Rev. Bettie Engram Kennedy; (7) Addendum to the collection; and (8) Oversize materials.
- Rev. Bettie Engram Kennedy Meeting Hall Collection
- Jared McNeely
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