Women I Admire | In Honor of Mrs. Doris Hollis Pemberton

by Jackie Robinson
17 views 5 mins read

In 1986, I was the Executive Assistant to the Executive Director of the Houston Area Urban League, or HAUL. Mrs. Doris Hollis Pemberton’s house was a couple of blocks away from the HAUL headquarters. Not sure exactly how she and I met, but she befriended me and allowed me to have lunch in her massive home. The house was filled with books, and more books, and old historic photos on every wall. There were vintage, ball gowns, jewelry and furs in her private suite. 

Her stories were amazing to listen to, especially the one about her being the first black reporter to cover a state Democratic convention in Texas, writing for the Dallas Express in 1944. She was married to Dr. Charles Pemberton, Honorary Consul to Liberia, whom she loved very much.

I am blessed to have met Mrs. Pemberton and, honored to call her friend and ancestor!

She was 69 years young when I met her, and 73 years young when she transitioned. Doris Hollis Pemberton (November 1917 to May, 1990)

Doris Hollis Pemberton

Doris Hollis was born in Nacogdoches, Texas, the daughter of John Henry and Della Mae (Powdrill) Hollis. She spent her childhood in Limestone County near Comanche Crossing, Webb Chapel, Rocky Crossing, and Groesbeck, Texas. She enrolled at Texas College in Tyler when she was 16 years old and she graduated from Texas Southern University at Houston in 1955.

She attracted national attention in 1944 when she became the first Black reporter to cover a state Democratic convention in Texas, writing for the Dallas Express.  Pemberton found a racially offensive placard situated near her seat at the convention and hurled the placard away.  About 4,000 spectators both cheered and booed as newsreel cameras filmed the incident. She later moved to Houston, where during the 1950s she helped develop classes in arts, crafts, and science for Black children at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Singer Sewing Center, and the United Gas Cooking School.

Eventually, she received a law degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, but she never practiced.  Hollis was married to Charles Pemberton and had four children. She was a member of the Newspaper Institute of America, the National Council of Negro Women, the Auxiliary to the Houston Medical Forum, the Houston Council on Human Relations, the 4-H Club, the Blue Triangle YWCA, the National Association for Financial Assistance to Minority Students, the Women of Achievement, and a number of other organizations.

She wrote a book, “Juneteenth at Comanche Crossing,” in 1983, a history and reminiscences of people and places in her native Limestone County. Doris Pemberton died in Houston in May 1990 and was buried at the Paradise Cemetery.

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