DENTON — For more than 80 years, the city of Denton has controlled the historic Independent Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery.
It came as a shock to some Council members when they recently learned that language on the original deed for the property on South Carroll Boulevard says its burial plots are only for white people.
"Oh, I was stunned," said Council member Gregory Dalton, who grew up in Denton.
The issue surfaced at a recent Council meeting when longtime civil rights activist and local NACCP president Willie Hudspeth brought it up.
"It was actually a white guy that told me," Hudspeth said. "I didn't believe it at first. Surely, there would be someone here that is not white!"
Dalton said there are African-Americans and people from other races buried on the historic grounds. He said the language on the deed has long been illegal, but actually removing or changing it may prove difficult.
"You have to have so many of the property owners within that restricted area agreeing to change it... well, this is a cemetery," Dalton noted.
He is backing this ordinance to be considered on Tuesday night:
Consider adoption of an ordinance of the City of Denton finding and declaring a restriction contained in the 1933 deed between the IOOF and the City of Denton convening the said cemetery to the City of Denton prohibiting the use of the said cemetery for the burial of non-white persons to be illegal, unenforceable, unconscionable, contrary and repugnant to the philosophy, principals and beliefs of the City of Denton and that the said restrictive language shall not be enforced or recognized on any city-owned or managed property and providing an effective date.
"We have to live with that history, learn from that history, and we gotta acknowledge it," Dalton said.
According to the proposed ordinance, the racial restrictions haven't been imposed since before 1950.
Hudspeth said he appreciates that the city moved so quickly, and that it helps turn the page on an unfortunate chapter in the city's history.
"I've been doing this since 1985, demonstrating and such, and this is the first City Council to really listen," he said.
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