Houston
Downtown Houston view from Buffalo Bayou Park ©Author Adventures

Yates, a Family Legacy of Education and Literacy

Rutherford B.H. Yates, an influencing printer from Houston, learned to appreciate the written word from his father, the Reverend Jack Yates, the first pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, founder of Houston Academy, and namesake of Houston’s Jack Yates High School. Both of their homes, originally located on the same street in the Fourth Ward, are open to the public in Houston in the Fourth and Third Wards, respectively, south of Buffalo Bayou Park.

Rutherford B.H. Yates

Rutherford B.H. Yates (1878-1944) trained to be a printer at Bishop College before establishing his lifelong career in the printing business. According to https://printingmuseum.org/event/yates-field-trip: “Yates was employed as a printer for Western Star Publishing, Webster Printing, and McKinney & Burke. He and his brother, Paul established the Yates Printing Company, one of Houston’s first Black-owned printing businesses. Together, they published ‘The Life and Efforts of Jack Yates,’ a book about their father. Rutherford contributed significantly to the printing industry by training a number of Houston printers, including many of the printers who worked in the pressrooms of the Houston Post and the Houston Chronicle.”

Born late in life to Jack Yates, Rutherford B.H. Yates’ significant literary achievements occurred after his father passed away.

Reverend John Henry (Jack) Yates

Reverend Jack Yates (1828-1897) was born an enslaved person who learned to read and later became the first pastor of Houston’s first African-American church: Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. He also began Houston Academy in 1894. Approximately a hundred years later, his 19th century two-story home was moved to Sam Houston Park. It is now open to the public, along with other historic homes that were relocated there.

Read about the Jack Yates House here: https://www.heritagesociety.org/yates-house. According to this link: “Construction of this house a mere five years after Emancipation illustrates the indomitable spirit of a formerly enslaved population that was transitioning into a free society in Houston. Donated by the Yates family to The Heritage Society, the house was moved to Sam Houston Park in 1994. It is furnished to represent the family’s lifestyle in the late 19th century, and includes some of the furniture that was in the house when the family still lived there.”

Jack Yates Senior High School in Houston’s Third Ward was named for this pioneering educator. Its notable alumni include Debbie Allen, Phylicia Rashad, and numerous professional athletes.

RBHY Museum

Today the Rutherford B.H. Yates Museum (RBHY) stands as a testament to the dedication of two knowledgeable and visionary people who worked to share the legacy of Rutherford B.H. Yates through the renovation and restoration of his home. It is now an historical house museum open to the public, located at 1314 Andrews Street in Houston’s Fourth Ward. (The site of Jack Yates’ original house, where Rutherford B.H. Yates grew up, was 1318 Andrews Street.) The story of the journey from dilapidated house to state-recognized educational institution is here: https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/rutherford-b-h-yates-museum-inc. Read about its current offerings here: https://www.rbhy.org/yateshouse.

The Fourth Ward

The Fourth Ward is located west of Houston’s Civic Center, inside the 610 loop, immediately southwest of Buffalo Bayou Park. Historically, it is known for Freedmen’s Town, an African-American community settled by Black individuals and families following emancipation from slavery. In the late 20th century, its proximity to Downtown Houston was seen by developers as advantageous for prospective higher income residents, and new construction began replacing older homes. This created and stirred controversies between longtime residents and developers in the geographically appealing location.

The Yates houses in Houston are the second and third stops of Texas Author Adventures Trail, Part II.

Patricia Smart