Equal Opportunity Hero
T. J. Patterson’s Service to West Texas
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
- Published: October 2017
On April 7, 1984, T. J. Patterson became the first African American elected to the Lubbock City Council, winning handily over his four opponents. It was a position he would go on to hold for more than twenty years, and his natural leadership would lead him to state and national recognition. Patterson grew up during a time of American social unrest, protest, and upheaval, and he recounts memorable instances of segregation and integration in West Texas. As a two-year-old, he survived polio when African Americans were excluded from "whites only" hospitals. When he attempted to enroll at Texas Tech after graduating from all-black Bishop College, he was not allowed even to enter the administration building--the president would speak with him only outside, and then only to say Patterson could not be enrolled. Two years later, his aunt would become the first African American to attend Texas Tech. Patterson spent his whole adult life as a grassroots activist, and as a city councilman he understood how important it was to work in solid partnership with representatives from the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of the city. Over the years, Patterson took every opportunity to join African American and Hispanic forces, but with a few exceptions, the traditional geographic divide of the minority population limited his efforts--and yet Patterson never gave up. His brave public marches to homes of known drug dealers brought attention to their undesirable activities. Patterson also supported city investment in Lubbock history and culture, plus new development activity, from annexation to paved roads to water mains to fire stations. During his long career he truly was an equal-opportunity hero for all of Lubbock's citizens.