Norris Wright Cuney

Norris Wright Cuney (1846-1898) was a politician. He was one of eight children born to a white planter and a slave mother near Hempstead, Texas. He attended George B. Vashon’s Wylie Street School for blacks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania from 1859 to the beginning of the Civil War. After school, he worked odd jobs and settled in Galveston. There he met George T. Ruby, president of the Union League. Cuney studied law and by July 1871, he was appointed president of the Galveston Union League.

In 1873, Cuney was appointed secretary of the Republican State Executive Committee. He was defeated in the race for mayor of Galveston in 1875 and for the state House in 1876 and Senate in 1882. Despite the losses, Cuney was a powerful leader. He was appointed as the first assistant to the sergeant-at-arms of the Twelfth Legislature in 1870. He served as a delegate at every national Republican convention from 1872 to 1892. In 1873, he presided at the state convention of black leaders at Brenham. He became inspector of customs of the port of Galveston, revenue inspector at Sabine Pass in 1872, special inspector of customs at Galveston in 1882, and collector of customs of the port of Galveston in 1889.

In 1883, Cuney was elected alderman on the Galveston City Council from the Twelfth District. At the same time, he worked as a leader of the Republican party and a contracting stevedore (a person who worked at a dock loading and unloading cargo from ships). In 1886, he became Texas national committee member of the Republican Party.

In order to lead Texas blacks to increased prosperity, in 1883, Cuney bought $2,500 worth of tools, called together a group of black dockworkers, and created the Screwmen’s Benevolent Association. He was also committed to education and was appointed a school director of Galveston County in 1871. He supported the black state college at Prairie View.

Source: Norris Wright Cuney
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