Famous African-American Galvestonians
World Heavyweight Champion, 1908-1915
John Arthur "Jack" Johnson was born in Galveston on March 31, 1879. He lived at 808 Broadway and several other locations in the city. He attended Galveston Public school and in later years worked as a stevedore on the wharf. His boxing career started in Galveston with 113 fights, of which he only lost six. He left Galveston, traveled the world and amidst much controversy became the heavyweight champion of the world. He was a talented, clever, astute and proud gentleman who was not afraid to date white women in a time when such scandal put an African American man's very life in jeopardy. Jack Johnson died in a car accident in July of 1946.
Barry White was born in Galveston, Texas, on September 12, 1944, but raised in Los Angeles, California. His mother gave him piano lessons and taught him how to harmonize when he was four years old. He made his first record at 16 years of age with a group called the Upfronts. During the peak of his career he received gold and platinum records for worldwide sales. In 1990 he won a Grammy Award for the Quincy Jones song, "Secret Garden." Barry White died on July 4, 2003.
Frederick C. Tillis
Frederick C. Tillis is a Galveston-born African American composer, who expresses himself in the forms of the European classical music tradition, at the same time infusing them with the spirit of black vernacular music. Tillis matured as a composer in the 1960s. In 1968, he deliberately adopted a compositional style rooted in the thematic and harmonic materials of the spiritual. His chamber work uses the spiritual in intimate settings for chorus, string quartet, and solo song with piano.
The Reverend James B. Thomas
James B. Thomas was born in Galveston in 1924, has five children, seven grandchildren and five great grandchildren. He retired in 1980 from a 31-year career with the U. S. Post Office. This full family and work life did not get in the way of a passion for serving his community. He was the pastor of the Market Street Baptist Church, a member of the Housing Authority Board, a Galveston city councilman for 17 years, a president of Galveston NAACP, and founder of Operation Safe Play, among many other services to Galveston.