- Memories of H. T. Lockard
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Born on June 24, 1920, Hosea T. “H. T.” Lockard attended LeMoyne College in Memphis, Tennessee, from 1940 to 1942. In 1942, Lockard put his education on hold to serve in the Army Medical Corps in World War II, which included three and a half years in North Africa, Italy, France, and Germany. Following his discharge from the Army in 1945, Lockard studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and finished his bachelor’s degree at LeMoyne in 1947. In June 1950, he graduated from Lincoln University Law School in St. Louis, Missouri. He moved back to Memphis later that year to practice law and became active in the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He assumed its presidency in 1955 and remained in that position until 1958, heading the NAACP’s legal committee and contributing to national efforts. Local Civil Rights activist Vasco Smith remembers that when Lockard began working for the Memphis branch most of the cadre of individuals who led the local Civil Rights Movement had not yet arrived. “For a while, Lockard was pretty much the whole show,” said Smith. “He did an outstanding job, and he probably laid the foundation for a lot of things that happened later on.” Lockard also had an illustrious political career. In 1964, he became the first African American to hold elective office in Shelby County (home to Memphis) since Reconstruction when he won a seat on what later became the County Commission. He was a leader in local African American political clubs, and these efforts paved the way for his tenure as the first African American cabinet member in Tennessee as assistant to Governor Buford Ellington from 1967 until 1971. Afterward, he returned to his law practice in Memphis and served as a judge from 1975 until he suffered a stroke in 1994.
Elizabeth Gritter interviewed Judge Lockard at his law office on October 10, 2000, in Memphis, where he continues to reside. The following excerpts focus on his legal activism. The full transcript and tape recording are housed in the Southern Oral History Program Collection of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, with copies at the Memphis and Shelby County Public Library and Information System.
In H. T. Lockard’s Words
My involvement in the NAACP actually started in St. Louis while I was in law school. The economic situation was very bad, and I just didn’t have a lot of activity on Sunday afternoons. The pastor of the church that I attended was the president of the NAACP. He periodically made an announcement to come to the NAACP meeting. They served a little repast and I found it to my liking since I was so strapped for cash other than necessities to make the NAACP meeting. From that, I would get some inspiration, as well as some food and fellowship and that sort of thing. So I really got my introduction as to what it was like, what they were doing, and so forth in St. Louis. [End Page 107]
From that exposure or experience, I came to Memphis to set up practice. Little did I know that conditions were as bad as they really were. Having spent my younger years at LeMoyne, which is away from downtown, and working at odd jobs at night, it wasn’t a real opportunity to get a feel of really what the conditions were. Being a student and strapped for time and studying, I just spent most of my time in...