Angel ChappleHOU—On January 11, 2016, Living legend Ovide Duncantell sat with me and discussed politics, community
HOU—On January 11, 2016, Living legend Ovide Duncantell sat with me and discussed politics, community activism and leadership.
Ovide Duncantell, born August 7, 1936 in Natchitoches, LA, moved to Houston, Texas and became active by creating opportunities for African Americans through community leadership and organization. He earned his Bachelors and Master’s Degree in Sociology and Minor in Government from Texas Southern University and created th
e Black Heritage Society, Inc., as Founder and Executive Director.
Many have come to recognize Duncantell for his driving forces behind the renaming of a major street to Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd and the establishment of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Statue. But there are several other contributions in addition to the above mentioned that make him an Icon within the black community.
In the early 60s, he recalled the time during which barriers were set up against Black Houstonians to prevent them from running in elections, such as property ownership and a large filing fee. Duncantell took it upon himself to challenge what was proposed as law, overcome and it was declared unconstitutional. Because of his assertiveness, he opened the door for other blacks to come behind him and become councilmembers without grief. He stated, “Someone had to do it. I had to test the waters.”
After that, Duncantell ran for city council and gained 22,000 district votes but lost because his incumbent had 80,000 total votes. He too was responsible for the change which applies today that the votes from the district are what counts for the running candidate within that district. He also collaborated with Harris County Commissioner Tom Bass whom he instructed on creating a black district for the city of Houston, where only a black person could win.
One night after leaving a campaign rally, Duncantell was pulled over by police and was beaten by nearly 40 policeofficers. He stated that the only thing that saved him that night was a Presbyterian preacher who witnessed the incident and threatened to identify those involved if he ended up dead. He was bloodied and beaten, but he survived and continued his fight for equality and justice.
Duncantell was involved in an organization in which one of his young men had been shot in the back by police. He was outraged and stood fearless before City Hall and threatened to kill ten pigs if another one of his men were shot and killed. No one else was murdered by police within his organization, after that.
His mentors were Mose LeRoy and George T. Nelson. Duncantell stated, “These men didn’t just talk politics 24/7 but they made moves.” (City of Houston parks have been named in honor of both men). He worked alongside and with them in order to bring change of policy in regards to the betterment of the black community. Establishing food stamps was one of them at a time when people were only receiving commodities for 250 people, leaving 750 without and unfed.
Duncantell’s fearlessness, intelligence, dedication and service for the equality of the black community is immeasurable. The sacrifices that he made years ago would never enter the mind of today’s leaders as a thought. “I believe anything that you want, you have to fight for it,” he stated. His life contributions are equal to the things in which he not only spoke about, but also stood for. Herein, is why he has been selected as a feature for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issue because his legacy as Dr. King’s is an example for all to recognize and follow.
Angel Chapple is a Houston Sun intern from Prairie View A&M University.