Art Hall, registers to Vote in Houston County
Monday, October 6th, was the final day to register to vote. It was also the day that Art Hall, a former San Antonio City Council member and former Democratic candidate for Texas Railroad Commissioner, filed to register to vote in Crockett, Texas, Houston County. Hall had previously been registered to vote in Bexar County.
“The presidential election is an historic election for our country, and I wanted to vote in an historic place for me personally,” said Hall, whose great great grandfather, Arthur Hall, was said to have come to Texas on a slave boat up the Trinity River, most likely from Alabama, and eventually settled in a small area in Southeast Houston County formerly known as “Little Africa” and known today as the Vistula Community. “When I was running for Texas Railroad Commissioner, I remember looking at Governor Rick Perry’s website and seeing that he was a ‘fifth generation Texan.’ I thought to myself, ‘You know, I’m a fifth generation Texan, too! My family just came here differently than his!’ This election is historic no matter which party wins, but with regard to race, it shows that we have come a long way as a nation, going from slave ships to having an African American as a presidential nominee for a major U.S. party, who could be the first African American President of the United States. And, for this historic election, I wanted to vote in the place where my family’s Texas history started.”
Like many African Americans, Hall’s family has had difficulty assembling historic records and genealogy. Thus far, on his paternal grandfather’s side of the family, Hall knows only that his great great grandparents were Arthur and Mariah Hall, his great grandparents were Robert H. Sr. and Mary Etta Nixon Hall, his grandparents were Robert M. Jr. and Cambra Palm Hall, and his parents are Archie Lee and Clarita Alcausin Hall. While the family knows that Mariah was born on Christmas Day in 1847 and died July 20, 1906, her birth location is unknown and no additional information has been found on Arthur Hall. Mary Etta Nixon Hall’s parents were Seth and Melissa Nixon, born in 1859 and 1860, respectively, but death dates and other information are not currently known. On his grandmother’s side, Hall’s great great grandparents were Tom and Hester Broomfield Palm and Harry and Mary Smith, and his great grandparents were Turner and Mary Synthia Smith Palm. Hester Broomfield Palm is said to have been a full-blooded Indian, though the tribe is unclear. Also, a few years ago, Hall participated in a cheek swab DNA study to determine the location of his African roots. The results showed that his paternal roots are from the Ewondo people in Cameroon. Hall says, “It’s great to know where part of my family history started in Africa, and we have knowledge of history in the U.S. as far back as 1847. But, filling the gap from Africa to the U.S. has been difficult and continues to be a work in progress.”
While his great grandparents acquired several hundred acres of land in Houston County, Hall has seen some of the younger generation lose interest and knowledge of the property and its history. Hall and his wife Stephanie McClain Hall, of Lufkin, Texas, have begun to acquire family and other property in Vistula, closing on their first 70 acres in July. Hall hopes to build a family lodge on the property in addition to establishing some form of a self-sustaining farm or ranch operation on the property. “My great grandparents and grandparents worked hard to acquire this land, and I don’t want to see it lost or forgotten or neglected. Many Black families are losing property due to tax lien sales, lack of interest, knowledge of where family property is, and a disregard for history and historic struggle. I want to do my part to change that and to build, on a legacy that was built for us, something that will continue to be enjoyed and treasured for generations to come.”
Hall, like Barack Obama, has an Ivy League background. He grew up in Lubbock, Texas and was the only student from his Lubbock High School graduating class to be accepted into Harvard University, where he graduated in 1993. He then attended Texas Tech Law and Business Schools on a full law school scholarship. After law and business schools, Hall spent a full year from 1996-1997 in Ecuador, teaching international law and international business, and then spent a year studying at the University of Wales in the United Kingdom and earning an LLM degree in International Business Law. Hall came to San Antonio in 1998, hired as an administrator at St. Mary’s Law School in San Antonio by Hall’s former Texas Tech Law School professor who had become the Dean at St. Mary’s School of Law.
Hall, who also like Barack Obama is bi-racial, Hall’s mother being Filipino, began his political career by running for Mayor in San Antonio in 2001. He did well, placing 3rd of 11 candidates behind two sitting City Council members. Hall later ran for City Council in 2003, becoming the first African American to be elected outside of the City’s East side, the first person of Asian descent to be elected to City Council, at 32 the youngest person elected to his district, and though City Council is non-partisan, one of a few Democrats statewide elected to predominantly Republican areas with Hall’s district being generally 60-40 Republican. Hall was re-elected in 2005 and term-limited out of office in July 2007. Hall then ran this last March 2008 for the Democratic nomination for Texas Railroad Commissioner. While he was unsuccessful in this race, he did receive endorsements from the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, the Austin American Statesman, and the San Antonio Express-News, among others.
Hall, who had been considering a run for Mayor in San Antonio in May 2009, may have given up that opportunity by registering to vote in Houston County, since San Antonio has a “preceding six month residency requirement” to run in City Council races. Hall says, “The symbolism of voting where my great great grandfather came as a slave, where my great grandparents and grandparents had accumulated property, where my father grew up, and where I enjoyed coming as a child and still enjoy coming to this day, and the personal gratification of knowing that my voting in this historic election is fulfilling a part of the hopes and dreams of those who endured personal and historic struggle, far outweigh for me the risk of not being able to run for any political office. Our generation would not have been able to run for office or even vote were it not for those who struggled and died to give us that right and opportunity. I just want to honor that and say ‘thank you,’ and I wanted to do so where it all started for my family in Texas on a slave boat five or more generations ago!”
Hall plans to go to Crockett, Texas, Houston County, to cast his vote on election day.