Friday, October 6, 2017


Genre: Biography / African American Leaders
Date of Publication: November 20, 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.

 My Review:
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Equal Opportunity Hero: T.J. Patterson's Service to West Texas by Phil Price is a poignant story about Thomas James "T.J." Patterson and his lifetime of service to the United States and his legacy as the first African American city council member in Lubbock, Texas. I truly believe we all have a story to tell, no matter how seemingly ordinary, but the life Mr. Patterson led and the story the author relayed was simply extraordinary. 

Price did an excellent job of retelling the historical events that occurred during Patterson's lifetime by laying the foundation of a dynamic national landscape and weaving the local, personal stories as Patterson experienced them. It was as if Patterson's life in Lubbock was a microcosm of what was going on in the United States at large. No stranger to adversity, Patterson survived polio as a toddler when African Americans were denied proper treatment in "whites only" hospitals. This was somewhat of a portent of what was to come in his life - many challenges of social unrest and injustice that Patterson was able to overcome. 

As the book opens, we quickly learn that Mr. Patterson is an igniter, fanning the flames of justice, belonging, and community. He was passionate about issues of safety, education, and economic development in Lubbock. He was also a true patriot, serving his country in the Vietnam War. This dedication led him to accomplish many great things in addition to serving on the city council. In the book's foreword, penned by Patterson, we learn about that his teacher impressed upon him at an early age the importance of making a positive contribution to society by bringing "kindlin" to the fire. 

I enjoyed Price's varied storytelling style. With biographies, it can be easy to fall into a rhythm of telling a story in chronological order; however, the author shared vignettes of Patterson's life thematically. He didn't get bogged down in the what but rather illustrated the why, making the book much more engaging for the reader. I think he was able to accomplish this because of his long-standing friendship with Patterson. Their long-term friendship clearly has resulted in a meaningful memorialization of Mr. Patterson's life. 

It's amazing how much the U.S. culture has changed over one lifetime. In reading this memoir, I am reminded of my uncle who is just a bit younger than Mr. Patterson. When my uncle was born in south Texas, African American babies were not allowed in the nursery. They were kept in the room with the mother at the foot of the bed. My uncle now works as an administrator at Texas Tech University. It's amazing how ordinary people are a part of extraordinary changes. And what's more is, if we have come so far over Mr. Patterson's lifetime, just think how much further we could go in yours or mine? 

This book is a perfect example of an individual's passion that sparked societal growth. It's not always a straight line, but the end result is a fact-based, creatively-written story about a man who was a catalyst for forward, positive change and progress. Please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Price's book today

Until next time ... Read on!
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 About the Author
Phil Price has been friends with T. J. Patterson for more than twenty years. Now retired, Price was President and CEO of a marketing and design agency. Over the years he has served the Lubbock Independent School District, the Lubbock Better Business Bureau, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce, and other city agencies. He lives in Lubbock USA, with his wife, Victoria. 

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