KWTX Salutes Judy Freeman Chambers

By  | 

MEXIA, Texas (KWTX) Judy Freeman Chambers of Mexia has made a commitment to serve the community.

"I don't do what I do for publicity I do what I do because I see it needs to be done," she said.

She was a student at Dunbar Douglas school for colored kids before a desegregation plan forced her to transfer to Mexia high in 1968.

It was a scary time for her and others in the black community.

She said she experienced racial tension similar to situations common in other school districts across the country during that time.

Chambers said, "When they integrated, they knocked the black schools down. They didn't use the facilities at all for anything. So all of our football trophies, band trophies were gone in the rubble."

Today her home was built on the site of the old school and every two years she said Dunbar Douglas alumni gather there to celebrate a homecoming.

Chambers was part of the first graduating class of black students to attend all four years at Mexia High School.

After graduating in 1972 she married her high school sweetheart, who joined the military.

They had two children and moved to Atlanta, Georgia.

She recalled a surprising moment with a white woman in the bathroom that opened her eyes to how the rest of the country was changing.

"Just simple but, the lady said 'girl let me use your comb or use your lipstick' and I said what, you don't do things like that in Mexia, you know. From then on I saw the world in a different way, you know I just saw the world and thought hey I can be anything that I wanted to be."

Chambers worked in the school system and wrote an editorial for the Atlanta Journal Constitution about the anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, drawing on her own arduous experiences.

She said she sent a copy of her writing to the superintendent of the Mexia Independent School District with a note saying she hoped things had changed in the district.

In 1997, Chambers moved back to Central Texas to be with her mother.

Unbeknownst to her, an active life in politics would give way to her next chapter.

"Politics gave me a voice that I didn't know I had."

She served on the Mexia City Council from 1999 to 2017 and participated in various municipal organizations such as the Texas Association of Black City Council Members.

Proud of her hometown, she said she brought a group of city leaders from around the state to Mexia for a conference.

They met at Fort Parker.

She was also a member of the Texas Municipal League and the Texas Association of Mayors, Council Members, and Commissioners.

During her time on council Chambers helped rename State Highway 14 as Martin Luther King Junior Highway, which wasn't an easy task.

"I didn't suggest a street that went through the black community. My eyes are bigger than that because this is a state highway that runs from Dallas to Houston and when somebody enters this city of Mexia from either end, they're going to see that Mexia represents everybody."

Chambers also helped the city build a new fire station and started a project to restore Memorial Cemetery, an old predominantly African American burial site that had fallen into ruin.

She supported the first Latina to serve on the council, Blanca Rivera.

"I guess I just open doors."

According to Chambers, she was the first African American woman to work as an office manager for KYCX, a country music radio station.

Currently, she serves as Mexia's municipal judge and she works with the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children.

Her focus is on people in rural communities.

"I don't know just bringing awareness to the community that they have a voice."

She is a mother, activist, and a leader.

Judy Freeman Chambers is one of the many reasons KWTX Salutes Black History Month.