Aug 7, 2023 - News

New exhibit spotlights Texas civil rights leader L.E. Bennett

L.E. Bennett's typewriter, Old Faithful, on display at the Bullock Museum. Photo: Courtesy of the Bullock Texas State History Museum

A new collection telling the story of San Antonio Civil Rights leader the Rev. L.E. Bennett and his work to desegregate Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. is on display at the Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Driving the news: Visitors can find the exhibit in the third-floor equal rights gallery, on loan from Bennett's daughter, Sharon Bennett.

Flashback: Bennett joined the telephone company, now a subsidiary of AT&T, as a janitor in 1956. It was one of the only jobs at Southwestern Bell open to people of color at the time.

  • He became the chapter president of the Communication Workers of America Colored People's Union in 1961 and pushed the company to open better-paying positions to people of color, writing hundreds of letters.
  • Southwestern Bell eventually made the change.
  • Bennett became the first Black line worker in Texas before moving up the ranks and retiring as a manager of a five-state district in 1986.

Details: The Bullock Museum now displays his typewriter, which he nicknamed Old Faithful and used to pen his letters to the company and to national Civil Rights leaders.

  • The museum also features a copy of the speech Bennett gave during a 1986 Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

What they're saying: "I know my father would be so pleased and appreciative that the museum felt his actions were worthy of an exhibit to honor him," Bennett's daughter, Sharon, said in a statement.

  • "Our family is proud, and our hearts are deeply touched."

If you go: The Bullock Museum is open from 10am-5pm, Tuesday-Sunday, and the artifacts will be on display until May 2024.


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