Eldrewey Stearnes, an island native who dedicated his life fighting for civil rights in Texas and across the nation, died from complications of septic shock Dec. 23 in Texas City. He was 89.
Before serving two years in the U.S. Army, Stearnes attended Central High School in Galveston. He graduated with the Class of 1951 and gave the senior address. He was honorably discharged in 1953 and attended Michigan State University, where he majored in political science, and later attended the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in Houston.
In 1959, Stearnes was beaten by Houston police during a traffic stop and taken to jail, and soon after was known for leading sit-ins and demonstrations to desegregate Houston during the civil rights movement, said his younger brother, Rudolph Stearnes, of Houston.
“He never forgot his Galveston roots and often brought colleagues to our home in Galveston to taste our mother’s delicious crab gumbo,” Rudolph Stearnes said. “My brother was known for his pleas for equal human rights, cries for justice and his achievements. His dedication to civil rights is known and recognized nationally and locally.”
Recollections of Eldrewey Stearnes can be found in the book “No Color is My Kind” by Thomas R. Cole and in the movie/documentary “The Strange Demise of Jim Crow,” which are in the archives at Rosenberg Library and the University of Texas Medical Branch press, Rudolph Stearnes said.
“He remains an unsung pioneer of racial justice,” Rudolph Stearnes said. “He was loved and will be dearly missed by myself and all who knew him.”
Funeral arrangements were pending as of Friday afternooon.