Community leader Quentin Mease has died

February 24, 2009 1:11:25 PM PST
Houston legend, community leader and civil rights pioneer Quentin R. Mease passed away in his sleep Tuesday morning at Memorial Hermann Hospital. The 100 year-old former YMCA leader had suffered a broken hip from a weekend fall. When admitted to the hospital, it was also discovered that Mease had pneumonia.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Mease helped establish and build the South Central YMCA on Wheeler Avenue in Houston's Third Ward in 1955 -- a YMCA for blacks in the city of Houston during a time when segregation was still law.

"Quentin Mease was a legend among us," said Clark Baker, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Houston. "He was never one to take a back seat. He marched up front. He led up front. He leaves us with a legacy of service and Houston, the world is a better place because he was here."

When Quentin Mease was just three years old, his father was a board member of the YMCA in Buxton, Iowa, and started taking his son to YMCA meetings. Years later, with the YMCA is in his blood, Mease, at the urging of the National YMCA office, came to Houston in 1948 motivated to start a building project for a YMCA for blacks. At the time, Houston's population was 600,000 with 175,000 people making up the black community. The doors to the South Central YMCA opened on April 24, 1955.

Mease just celebrated his 100th birthday in October. He was able to attend the groundbreaking of the Houston Texans YMCA, which will replace the South Central YMCA facility. The Houston Texans YMCA will be located at the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Griggs and will serve the greater Third Ward community. The new facility will be home to a heritage center dedicated to Mr. Mease and his legacy.

Mease also played a key role in the peaceful desegregation of the city of Houston, meeting with city leaders behind closed doors. Mease also helped launch a council on human relations and the local chapter of the Urban League.

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