Throughout the late 1950’s and 1960’s, Rev. Black would led and organize marches throughout the state. He challenged the establishment for their unfair treatment of minorities in the city. He became an associate of such leaders as Dr. Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall and many others. As a local ally to President Lyndon B. Johnson, Black was present for the White House Conference on Civil Rights in 1966. He endured many threats to himself, his family and even his church. A drive-by shooting occurred on his home as well as his church was burned in 1974 with no suspects ever being charged.
He served four terms of the San Antonio City Council 1973-1978 and became the city’s First Black Mayor Pro Tem. Black has founded several community groups as well as the city’s first black credit union.
Black served as pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church in San Antonio for 1949-1998 and as pastor emeritus since.
Claude Black Jr. chronology
November 28, 1916: Born in San Antonio to C.W. and Cora Black.
1933: Graduates from Douglass High School. Enrolls at St. Philip’s College and transfers two years later to Morehouse College in Atlanta.
1937: Earns bachelor’s degree from Morehouse. After graduation, sells insurance for three years in Marshall and San Antonio.
1940: Begins studies at Andover Newton Theological Seminary in Massachusetts.
1943: Earns master’s degree in divinity from Andover Newton and returns to San Antonio, where he begins Sunday services in the Cameo Theater.
1945: Founds the San Antonio Mother’s Service Organization, the first black group of Christian women to receive a Texas state charter for a local club. Moves to Corpus Christi to serve as pastor of St. Matthew’s Baptist Church.
1949: Begins ministry at Mount Zion First Baptist Church.
1950s: Begins work in the civil rights movement
March 13, 1960: Addresses an anti-segregation rally, along with the president of San Antonio’s NAACP branch, and gives the city an ultimatum: integrate lunch counters by the 17th or prepare for sit-down protests. With the help of a group of local leaders, the counters are integrated by the 16th, and San Antonio becomes the first major city in the South to do so without demonstrations.
1963 and 1965: Runs unsuccessfully for a seat on the City Council.
1973: Gains the backing of the Good Government League and is elected to the City Council, where he serves until 1977. Supports independent Charles Becker for mayor. In return, Becker appoints him the city’s first black mayor pro-tem
1984: Starts New Community Builders, a corporation to help East Side families find suitable housing and assist them with financing.
1989: Chosen to chair San Antonio’s annual Martin Luther King celebration.
1993: City Council votes to rename the Eastside Multi-Service Center at 2805 E. Commerce St. in his honor.
1995: Appointed a delegate to the 1995 White House Conference on Aging by President Bill Clinton.
1998: Retires from ministry at Mount Zion First Baptist Church on May 1.
Born in Muskogee, Okla., ZerNona was living in New York when she accepted a three-month transfer in 1943 to the San Antonio YWCA-USO for Black Military, a group formed to help morale for African American service members and their families.
A graduate of Emerson College in Boston, she taught communication, drama, speech, radio and physical education at Langston College in Oklahoma.
After she and Black married, she continued teaching at St. Philip’s College.
She was executive director of the Eastside Senior Citizens Project and of Health Inc., a day care for the elderly.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Ms. Black served alongside her husband in the Civil Rights Movement.
“Mrs. Black was Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune and Queen Esther all rolled into one,” said the Rev. Kenneth Allen, pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church.
Avance, which serves low-income families, recognized her as an Outstanding Mother of the Year in 1993. The YWCA honored her in 1994 as one of its Rising Stars.