(Orange, Texas)

November 25, 2012

Museum to honor pioneers of Orange

Dawn Burleigh
The Orange Leader

ORANGE — A young man in Orange was shot at before he could vote in the 1950s.

“I do not recall which civil rights law was passed that day,” Henry Lowe, more commonly known as Jitterbug, said. “Being a young man at the time, I didn’t pay much attention to those things and went out that night anyway.”

Jitterbug and a neighbor would put their key into their respective front doors and wait so they could each enter their own house at the same time. That particular night, Jitterbug saw a car approaching just as he opened his door.

“A bullet glazed my head and I dove into the house,” Jitterbug said.

Another man stopped by shortly to check on Jitterbug and told him he should not have been out that night because of a civil rights law that had been passed.

“That is when I told my mother I was leaving Orange,” Jitterbug said.

It was several years before he returned to the area for a visit and now once again lives in Orange.

As part of giving back to the community, he is now organizing a non-profit organization to establish The Orange African American Museum.

“Teenagers today know the name Martin Luther King, but they do not know what he did,” Jitterbug said. “They do not know civil right leaders.”

The organization, while still in the early stages, is hoping to create a place to honor ancestors and pioneers of early Orange.

“We struggled to make our own way in Orange,” Jitterbug said. “Black history is an everyday thing not just for February.”

Denton County in Texas has an African American Museum.

“If that small area can have one, then we can too” Jitterbug said. “They showed us it can be done.”

The organization has established a board of directors, by laws and a constitution. They are also looking for a volunteer grant writer.

The organization is open to the public.

“There is so much that our young children need to know,” Jitterbug said. “So many great people came from this area and we should honor them.”

One such man, Elzie D. Odom, while not originally from Orange, was the first black elected official in Orange County in 1965 and the fifth black Postal Inspector in the nation in 1967.

Musician and singer Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, originally of Orange, was known throughout music circles as a talented player. He had a music career spanning 57 years. He won a Grammy Award in 1982 for traditional blues for the record, “Alright Again.”

“Many people have told me about or shown me items they have collected,” Jitterbug said.

Hopefully, one day in the new future, the group will have a building to showcase the history.