Land 'baron'; pioneer black patriarch
H.A. Sessions was an architect by profession, but his business savvy turned him into one of the most powerful and successful professionals in Lubbock’s history.
He and his wife, Barbara, were early participants in the Amway Corp., one of the nation’s largest direct-sales businesses, plowing their profits into real estate, mostly on the west side of Lubbock.
Sessions and Henry Huneke formed Lubbock Development Inc. and operated it for 20 years. Sessions was also a partner at Westar Commercial Realty.
Although he’s retired now, at the peak of Sessions’ career he held enough land to make him one of the city’s largest taxpayers, Huneke said.
Sessions developed residential and commercial property across Lubbock including Kings Park, the Kingsgate subdivision, the Santa Fe Office Park, Spur 327 Business Park and West Trade Area Center, which is the site of Cinemark’s Movies 16.
Will “Papa” Sedberry, the patriarch of the family, first moved to Lubbock in 1911 without his family, but he found anti-black sentiment so high he returned to Waxahachie, researchers say.
He returned with his family in 1922 and became chief cook at the Merrill Hotel, according to a 1974 thesis by Robert L. Foster entitled, “Black Lubbock: A History of Negroes in Lubbock, Texas, 1948.”
He later became pastry cook at the Lubbock Hotel, which became the Pioneer Hotel.
Sedberry sought to foster a sense of community among black residents, including his seven children, six of which opened businesses or entered professions including a café, barber shop, schoolteachers, chefs and a beauty salon.
As the booming cotton industry brought more African Americans to Lubbock he saw the need for an education of the black children moving in.
He was one of the first five blacks to donate money for land to build a black school, which was eventually named Dunbar.
He and his wife helped found Messiah Presbyterian Church, often referred to as “Sedberry’s Church” although it took him and others six and half years to raise enough funds to complete it.
During his tenure he warned of an impending water shortage for Lubbock if it continued to rely on well fields. He also championed tourism, improved streets, better low-income housing and a sales tax to fund city improvements.
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