Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont Public Library System

Finding Aid for the Elmo Willard, III, Papers, 1887-1991

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Willard, Elmo, III, 1930-1991
Title: Elmo Willard, III, Papers
Dates: 1887-1991
Abstract: Elmo Willard, III, was a leader of Beaumont's civil rights movement. He and his law partner, Theodore Johns, won cases for the desegregation of Beaumont's public parks and Lamar University. These papers include correspondence, legal documents, news clippings, and photographs.
Identification: AC-109
Extent: 6 boxes, 5 cubic feet
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont Public Libraries,  695 Pearl St,  Beaumont, TX 77701

Biographical Note

Elmo Willard, III, was born on September 14, 1930, in Beaumont, Texas. His parents were Elmo Willard, Jr., a local mortician, and Faye Durden Willard, a schoolteacher. His grandfather was Elmo Willard, Sr., who was born on the Old Calder Plantation at Eleventh Street on August 19, 1867. Elmo, Sr.,’s parents, Riley and Margaret, were former slaves.

Elmo, Sr., started working various jobs at age eight, after his father died, and eventually was employed at the Old Long and Company Shingle Mill. He also opened up his own barber shop, bought real estate, built rental houses, and invested in business. He sat on juries in Beaumont, and was one of the earliest donors to the fund that founded the South Texas State Fair. He married Sarah J. Adams, daughter of Captain Elisha Adams, at age 31, and they had eight children.

Elmo Willard, III, graduated from Charlton-Pollard High School in 1947, and then entered Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and Business Administration in 1951, with minors in History and Psychology. He then attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Howard University Law School played a crucial role in the desegregation law cases of the 1950s. Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter would test their civil rights cases in the mock courts held by students at Howard. Indeed, Marshall tested his Brown v. Board of Education (1954) arguments at Howard during Willard’s final year there. Willard was chief of the Student Critique Team which analyzed Marshall’s case. Willard graduated third in his class from Howard in 1954.

Returning to Beaumont, he began to practice law with Theodore R. Johns, and they helped lead Beaumont’s civil rights movement. They achieved their first major victory with the case Fayson v. Beard (1955), which desegregated Beaumont’s public parks. They followed this success by winning another major case, Jackson v. McDonald (1956), which desegregated Lamar State College of Technology (today, Lamar University). Lamar’s admission of its first black students sparked two weeks of picketing by whites in favor of segregation, and Willard’s and John’s offices were vandalized.

Willard and Johns also freed and represented blacks who had been arrested for conducting sit-ins at whites-only restaurants and lunch counters in Beaumont. Willard considered these to be his “most gratifying experiences.”

In 1981, Willard and Clayton Mayfield, arguing on behalf of the black Citizens Action Committee, won their case on the question of desegregation of the South Park Independent School District.

Willard also filed successful cases to prevent employment discrimination against black men, who often were placed in the lowest-paying jobs in a company. Such cases were filed against Jefferson Chemical Company, Goodrich and Goodyear Chemical Companies, Gulf States Utilities, Pure Oil, Temple-Eastex, and Bethlehem Steel.

Willard died on April 5, 1991. He is buried in Live Oak Memorial Park in Beaumont.

Scope and Content Note

The Elmo Willard, III Papers primarily hold papers related to Willard’s legal career. Correspondence and court documents from Willard’s civil rights cases make up a large portion of the collection. Also included are early twentieth century land records and warranty deeds from the Beaumont area.

As a prominent civil rights lawyer, Willard received many awards and commendations during his career, which are held in the collection. His papers also include invitations to the presidential inaugurations of Presidents John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. The collections also holds biographical information and photographs.


Organization of Collection

This collection is organized into six boxes. The first three boxes contain documents related to Willard's legal career, while the last three boxes hold awards and commendations received by Willard.


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions may apply.


The Tyrrell Historical Library holds copyright for papers created by Willard. Exceptions include published works, for which copyright is retained by the creators and/or publishers. The researcher must secure permission to publish. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to the Tyrrell Historical Library. The researcher assumes full responsibility for complying with copyright, literary property rights, and libel laws.

Index Terms

Personal Names
Johns, Theodore, 1927-2010
Willard, Elmo, III, 1930-1991
Lamar University (Beaumont, Tex.)
Howard University (Washington, D.C.)
Civil rights movement
Beaumont (Jefferson county, Texas : inhabited place)
Black and white photographs
Clippings (information artifacts)
Legal documents

Related Material

Theodore and Lamar Johns Collection, AC-278, Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont, Texas.

Separated Material


Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], [folder], [box], Elmo Willard, III, Papers, 1887-1991, AC-109, Tyrrell Historical Library, Beaumont, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Patricia Willard, 1991 August.

Processing Information

Processed by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 1991.

Finding aid revised and encoded by Tyrrell Historical Library staff, 2014 June.

Detailed Description of the Collection


Elmo Willard, III, Papers, 1887-1991

Box Folder
1A 1 Warranty deeds, 1887-1900
2 Warranty deeds, 1900-1906
3 Warranty deeds, 1906-1912
4 Legal document, insurance, 1912
5 Warranty deeds, liens, 1912-1914
6 Warranty deeds, liens, 1912-1914
7 Warranty deeds, 1920-1922
8 Warranty deed, 1925
9 Oil and Gas Lease; Bank draft, 1926
10 Willard and Willard, Inc., tax receipt, 1929
11 Willard and Willard, Inc., stock amendment, 1931
12 Business records (share certificates), 1929-1962
13 Meeting - Willard & Willard, IHN, circa 1937; and legal document, quit claim, 1935
14 Business records, rent book, 1947
15 Business incorporation, 1959
16 Legal document judgment/deed, 1941
17 Willard and Willard, Inc., legal note, 1948
18 Legal document - divorce decree, 1951
19 Warranty deed, Smith to Elmo Willard, III, 1960
20 Will of Dora Smith Jefferson, 1960
21 Texas v. Joe Singleton, 1962
22 Property tax record, 1964, 1965
23 Correspondence. Letters include: Letter from Lawhon's Law Firm, 1920; Letter from L.E. Fler's Law Firm, 1932; Letter from Willard's Treasurer, 1937; Letter from Lipscomb's Law Firm, 1942; Letter from President Lyndon B. Johnson to Willard, 1965; Letter from Daisy Lipscomb to Willard Family, 1982
24 Correspondence. Letters include: Letters to Rev. Hatch, 1988; Letter to Ben Shinn, 1989; Letter to Reverend Ellis; Letter to Ramada Inn; Letter to C. A. Ellis
25 Legal correspondence, Beaumont Independent School District (BISD), 1984 May - December
26 Court Documents, BISD, Texas Education Agency
27 Court Documents, BISD, Texas Education Agency
28 Court Documents, BISD, Texas Education Agency
29 Court Documents, BISD, Texas Education Agency
30 Court Documents, BISD, Texas Education Agency vs. U.S.
31 Court Documents, BISD, Motion for Final Order
32 Court Documents, BISD, Texas Education Agency Motion
33 Court Documents, BISD, U.S. vs. Texas Education Agency
Box Folder
1B 34 Legal Documents, South Park Independent School District, 1984
35 Legal Documents, BISD, Motions
36 Court Copies, Trial Dates, BISD, 1990
37 Legal Documents, Seniguar vs. BISD
38 Legal Documents, Seniguar vs. BISD, 1990
39 Court Documents, BISD, Court of Appeals
40 Legal Documents, BISD, 1990
41 Legal Documents, BISD Case, 1990
42 BISD Re-Districting Map
43 Naturalization Ceremony Speech from U.S. Judge Robert Parker, 1980 November 12
44 Certificates, Memberships, Awards, 1949-1989
45 Recognition of Black History, Port Arthur, 1989
46 Proclamation, Elmo Willard, III, Day, Port Arthur, Texas
47 Resolutions of the House of Representatives; Resolutions of the U.S. Senate
48 Invitations to presidential inaugurations: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, 1961; Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey, 1965
49a Presidential Inaugural Address; State of the Union Message
49b Newsletter, Senator Carl Parker, to Elmo Willard, 1990; See original photo A-20, dated 1989
50 News Articles, Beaumont Magazine, Texas Bar Journal, Jet Magazine
51 Newspaper articles, clippings, photocopies
52 Biographical, media, special features
53 Biographical references, Elmo Willard III
54 Miscellaneous
55 Photographs, 1800s-1991
56 Willard Family Addresses
Box Folder
2 1 Framed certificate from the National Bar Association, Inc., 1971
2 Plaque honoring Willard for civil rights work, from The Ministers Conference of Port Arthur, Texas and Vicinity, 1989
3 Jefferson County Bar Association certificate honoring Willard's service as director, 1970
4 Framed newspaper clipping, "Willard first black bar fellow," 1977 May 5
Box Folder
3 1 Typed biography of Elmo Willard
2 Handwritten biography of Elmo Willard III
3 Framed newspaper clipping, "Profiles '83: Elmo Willard"
4 Photo signed by Jimmy Carter, given to Elmo Willard
5 Framed photo portrait collage, "Class of 1954, School of Law, Howard University"
6 Certificate authorizing Willard to practice as attorney and counselor at law, given by the Supreme Court of Texas, 1954
Box Folder
4 1 Certificate admitting Willard as attorney and counselor, solicitor, advocate, and proctor of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, 1957
2 Certificate admitting Willard as attorney and counselor of U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 1965
3 Fisk University Bachelor of Arts diploma, 1951
4 Service plaque from the Beaumont Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), undated
5 East Texas Legal Services appreciation plaque, 1977-1979
6 Jefferson County Black Lawyers Association commendation plaque, 1983
7 Golden Triangle Chapter of the National Bar Association commendation plaque, undated
Box Folder
5 1 Texas Peace Officers Association, Port Arthur Branch, commendation plaque, undated
2 Two certificates for Willard's election as charter member of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, 1971
6 Souvenir Styrofoam hat