A friend mentioned Mr. John Lloyd's mother, Gertrude, used the name of a former slave and poet for the first all-black school in Robstown.
It was the Phyllis Wheatley School, 1918-65. It is now the B.T. Cherry Christian Activity Center.
Phyllis Wheatley lived from 1753 to 1784. She was the first published African American poet.
Her work enabled creation of the African American literature genre. Phyllis Wheatley was a slave by age 7 in Boston. Subsequent to learning to read and write, she started writing poetry.
George Washington praised her work. Her book of poems was published in 1773; "Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral."
I read some of her poetry because of my own interest as an undiscovered poet.
Her second book was lost and never published. She married a free man after she was herself set free because of her fame as a poet.
Many white people of her time could not believe a black woman could be so intelligent to create poetry.
She had to defend her writing skills and abilities in court. She successfully proved in court 10 years before her death that she did author those poems.
One summer I worked at the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center as a teenager. I was working close to living history and I was oblivious to it.
I remember the Upshaw brothers would be playing dominos with the other kids. This was before Eugene and Marvin went on to become rich and famous playing professional football.
Before the new Robstown centennial sign touting the home of the Greatest Junior Livestock Show, there was a "Welcome to Robstown, Home of Eugene & Marvin Upshaw" sign.
Marvin is part-owner of two businesses in Oakland, Calif. He was also a top draft pick for the Cleveland Browns, for whom he played two years.
He also played with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1970-75.
He was considered one of the best football defensive ends in the NFL.
Gene is the older brother. He played for Texas A&I University (Texas A&M Kingsville).
In 1999, Gene was ranked No. 62 on Sporting News' list of the 100 greatest football players. He was a guard for the Oakland Raiders.
He stands out as the only player to play in a Super Bowl in three different decades, 1967, 1976 and 1980.
Gene Upshaw has been the NFL Players Association executive director for almost 20 years now. Gene was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate fraternity established for African Americans.
There is a Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year award in NCAA Division II Football awarded by the Manheim, Pa. Touchdown Club, which began in 2004.
I was fortunate to have worked as a teen close to these two great men. I had no idea how far their influence would reach. We need to be aware of our surroundings. Who is working harder than we are in our neighborhoods? Others have brought a shine to Robstown. I will write about them, too.