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Benham / Growing Up in Lufkin, Part One

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Interviewer: What is your full name? Benham: My name is Betell Louis (Lewis) Benham. Interviewer: Okay, and what is your current and/or former occupation? Benham: I am self employed. I have a home based business. I used.. I was a flight attendant for American Airlines. I took early retirement and, uh, I was an agent for New York Life Insurance Company for a while. And I, uh, one more thing, retailing. Store manager for a company called (uncertain), worked for J.C. Penney, and Ross. Interviewer: Mhmm. And you said you were a model? Benham: I did some modeling and here in Texas, in Dallas, and uh, New York. Interviewer: Cool, cool, cool. And so where are we located right now? I mean the town. Benham: I'm in Lufkin, Texas. Interviewer: Um. So when and where were you born? Benham: Well, I was born right here in Lufkin, Texas. Do I need to give you my birthday? Interviewer: No. You can say- well some people have been putting in their birthday. You can say the year if you want. Benham: I was born in 1954. Interviewer: Okay, and who were your parents? Benham: My mother was the late (inaudible) Betty Ingram Kennedy and my father was the late Stanley Tortoise Louis, S.T. Louis (Lewis). Interviewer: Okay, and what did they do for a living? Benham: My. Um, my dad was a entrepreneur, business owner, he owned Louis (Lewis) Hotel, and his main occupation before all of that- he was a postal worker. Interviewer: Oh. Benham: And my mother - educator, civil right activist, and minister, ordained minister for C.M.E. Church. Interviewer: Oh, so do you have any siblings? Benham: I come from a large family. My mother had seven children. I am the oldest. But then I half stepbrothers and siblings and half brothers and sisters. Interviewer: So a very big family. Benham: Big family. Interviewer: Yes, yes. So what was it like growing up? So what kind of neighborhood did you grow up in? Benham: Okay, um. Growing up in Lufkin, at the time I was growing up in the fifties, everything was segregated. Um, I grew up in a community.. uh.. neighborhood. Not too far from downtown Lufkin on Chestnut, north Chestnut. Uh, that is where my grandmother lived, my mother's mother was with her, and then uh, when I was with my parents, S.T. Louis (Lewis) and Betty Kenedy I lived on Kelter Street, which is in the heart of north Lufkin. Um, my father was a postal worker at the time, in the time of segregation. The African Americans, blacks at the time had to come to, um, his post office area to get their mail because it wasn't delivered. Interviewer: Wow. So they had to come to him. Benham: Had to come to, yeah, the post office, yeah, on Kelter Street to get their mail. Interviewer: But people in the white neighborhoods got their mail delivered.. or? Benham: I think.. I believe so. Interviewer: Wow, wow. And so, was- did you live in a segregated neighborhood? Benham: Yes, um Kelter Street it is very segregated. On Chestnut, with my grandma, there were, uh, there were whites two blocks from where I lived with my grandmother. And then, when I was living with my stepdad and mother, uh, that was on Paul. Plus, I did have a stepfather. His name was Oscar Kennedy and he was an educator. Interviewer: Uh. What, what- where did he teach or? Benham: He taught school at Dunbar, and I believe that he was principal at a school in Cedar Grove, I don't remember the name. And then he, uh, coached football for the great Dunbar High School. They went to state. They put Lufkin on, Dunbar Tigers put Lufkin on the map, because it was- that was before integration. Interviewer: Oh-a lot of history. Uh- End of video.

Interview Interview with Betell Benham
Subjects Family › Extended Family Networks
Family › Childhood Experiences
Work › Occupations
Work › Black-Owned Businesses
Housing › Neighborhoods
Housing › Neighborhoods › Residential Segregation
Race Relations › Black-White Race Relations
Discrimination or Segregation › Discrimination or Segregation of Public Accommodations
Discrimination or Segregation › Discrimination or Segregation and Neighborhoods
Geography › Places (Cities, Towns, Neighborhoods, and Intersections)
Geography › Spatial and Residential Segregation
Education › Education and Integration
Education › Extracurricular Activities
Historic Periods › 1950s [Exact Date Unknown]
Historic Periods › 1951-1955
Family › Parents
Family › Siblings
Tags American Airlines
New York Life Insurance Company
Rainbow Company
Louis, Stanley (ST)
Louis Hotel
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME)
Kennedy, Bettie
Kennedy, Oscar
Dunbar High School, Lufkin, TX
J.C. Penney
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Interview date 2016-06-27
Interview source CRBB Summer 2016
Interviewees Benham, Betell
Locations Dallas, TX
Lufkin, TX
New York, NY
Cedar Grove, TX
Duration 00:04:34
Citation "Growing Up in Lufkin, Part One," from Betell Benham oral history interview with ,  June 27, 2016, Lufkin, TX, Civil Rights in Black and Brown Interview Database,, accessed April 20, 2024