Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

February 21, 2014

Cherokee County couple publishes newspaper for black community

RUSK — By its very mission, the Texas Informer is a celebration of black history every month.

Founded in 1995 as the Cherokee County Informer, Walter and Maxine Session were inspired by a black-owned bookstore in Dallas, which carried The Dallas Post Tribune and Minority Opportunity News, newspapers that covered the local black community.

“We decided then and there, that we needed a newspaper like those here in East Texas,” Maxine recalled. “By March of 1995 we had setup the Cherokee County Informer and printed the first issue in May of that year.”

Through the years, the monthly periodical has filled a particular niche by documenting local black history, or, “as the old generation use to say, 'straight from the horse's mouth,' through cover stories based on personal interviews. It offers a format for local black people to tell their side of the story and it brings positive news about local people that helps to build self-esteem and racial understanding,” Maxine said.

“The Informer is a celebration of black history every month because African Americans do have much to celebrate,” she added. “We can't keep newspapers in the racks because everybody reads it.”

Graduates of G.W. Bradford High School, Rusk's historic black high school, she and her husband recall growing up in a segregated society in the 1950s and 1960s.

“Growing up in a segregated society and facing raw racism even after serving my country in the Army has greatly  inspired my beliefs,” Walter said. “I believe in racial equality: Equal pay for equal work; job promotion based on performance, not race; fair housing; equal treatment by banks and law enforcement.”

He cites Martin Luther King Jr. as his favorite black historical figure, adding that he draws inspiration from the famed civil rights leader.

“His leadership and what he was able to do in the civil rights movement inspired me to do some of the things I have done,” Walter said, adding “I try to be a role model for young people by working hard, being a family man, a Christian and a good husband and father.”

His wife also finds Dr. King an inspirational figure who made huge contributions to black history.

“I have lived in two worlds, the abusive segregated society of the fifties and sixties and the life changing years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so I have to say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (made the greatest contribution),” Maxine said.

“Although our parents protected us to the best of their ability, nobody knows of the law-sanctioned mistreatment we lived through in that segregated society, except those committing the acts against us and God above,” she said.

In the 50 years since Dr. King first raised national awareness about civil rights and equality, strides have been made, though there is still room for improvement, the couple said.

“On a scale of one to 10, I would probably rate improvement a six based on economic statistics and what I observe just living life daily,” Walter said. “The very high level of unemployment and poverty in the African American race is an indicator, also. The black population is only about 13 percent of the US population with unemployment ranking as high as 35 percent for people of working age.  

“We've come a long way, but The Civil Rights Act only ended the laws that allowed segregated schools, public facilities and the workplace. It didn't change the heart of unfair thinking people. Often, we are still judged on skin color in racial profiling by law enforcement, the justice system, on the job,  loans for business, and building family homes,” he said.

“A clear example is after the settling of a long-standing law suit against the federal government, black farmers still report discrimination in the assistance and contracts that farmers of other races receive. Racism is still alive and well in this county and this country.”

In striving to make a difference in the world around her, Maxine said she draws on the example of her role models: The men and women she grew up with, who taught her to respond to others with kindness and respect.

“Through age 18, I lived in a segregated society; therefore, all of my role models were black. The men and women in my church, the teachers and coaches in my school and my family … my mother, aunts and my grandmother.  The women were caring and nurturing,” she said.

“Like most of the girls from my era, I learned good morals from them, how to treat others as you want to be treated, the proper way for a real lady to dress, sit, walk, talk and act.”

Her maternal grandmother, Lue Ella Denman, especially stands out in Maxine's mind.

“She was a licensed mid-wife who delivered more than 500 babies, in and around Cherokee County,” she recalled. “And tramps – or hobos, as they were called back in the '60s – sometimes camped near the train tracks not far from the community and her house.  Occasionally, they came looking for food and water, and my grandmother always shared whatever was available, from biscuits and syrup to beans and cornbread.”

It's those small lessons in caring for and respecting others that stand out all these years later for the Sessions, who are parents to three daughters and have eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

For those lessons are the bedrock of their personal response to keeping the dream of Martin Luther King alive so that others may share in it.

“It's very important to keep the dream alive and not let MLK and the many others who died in the wake of the civil rights movement, die in vain,” Walter said.

“The challenge we face is to be an example for young people to follow, and getting them to understand the importance of strong work ethics, the importance of getting a good education – be it  technical school or college – and all of the other characteristics that go with that, like respect and compassion, and being able to get along with others regardless of their race, creed or color.”

Along with running their newspaper, the couple is actively involved at Mount Pleasant Christian Methodist Church.

A retired clients rights investigator at Rusk State Hospital, Walter owns and manages Fast Action Bail Bonds, while Maxine is a retired public school teacher and administrator.

He also has served as mayor pro tem for the city of Rusk.

Living in a small community like Rusk, Walter – who has served nearly three decades as a local city council member and is presently mayor pro tem – sees the particular challenges for blacks.

“In small towns, the percentage of African American business ownership is very low, in part due to lack of financial backing and experience in know how,” he said.

Which, in turn, “black children rarely have the opportunity to grow up and work for or run a family business which makes it even more important to get a good education,” he said.


Text Only
Local News
  • Bullard group rallies behind alcohol petition

    A petition calling for a city-wide city election this November that would make all areas of Bullard wet, including those which fall in Cherokee County, has proven successful, as more than the required 221 signatures have been collected.

    July 19, 2014

  • mom and kids_6776.tif Jacksonville woman celebrates 100th birthday surrounded by family, friends

    Ethel Terry, a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, celebrated her 100th birthday with an open house on July 15 at the Twin Oaks Care Facility in Jacksonville.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cemetery grass.tif Extra rainfall produces more abundant lawns, extends hay season

    Steady periods of rain this summer have been a homeowner's dream, as lawns appear more lush than in previous years.
    But for city workers, that same growth has taken on nightmarish proportions.
    “It's a maintenance nightmare,” said Ben Briley, director of the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cherokee County arrests: July 8-14

    The Daily Progress will publish a list of arrests from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office on a weekly basis.

    July 19, 2014

  • Detective recovers nearly $7K in case

    When a Jacksonville woman became a victim of a scam, Jacksonville Police Detective Greg Compton stopped at nothing to solve the case.
    In early January, Compton said a neighbor of a 94-year-old woman reported that someone had “taken advantage of her.”

    July 17, 2014

  • Bullard ISD names interim leader

    During a meeting Monday night, the Bullard ISD Board of Trustees appointed Joe Dan Lee as Interim Superintendent.

    July 17, 2014

  • City to continue summer mosquito spraying schedule

    Next week, the City of Jacksonville will continue implementing its summer mosquito spraying program.

    July 17, 2014

  • 18wheelerWreck 0715.tif Double 18-wheeler wreck snarls morning traffic

    No injuries were reported Monday morning after an 18-wheel tractor-trailer bore the brunt of damage when it collided with a logging truck in front of it, according to Jacksonville Police officer Matthew Odom. The wreck occurred at the intersection of Jackson and Canada streets.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Heart transplant David.tif Jacksonville man recovering after life-saving transplant

    A Jacksonville man is on the road to recovery after a life-saving heart transplant, according to his wife.
    On July 2, David Woods received a new heart from an unknown donor. The surgery took about six hours, and he remained in the intensive care unit for four days afterwards, said his wife, Paula Woods.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • County changes speed on 4 roads

    Speed limits along four Cherokee County roads were set to 35 miles per hour following a public hearing Monday at the County Courthouse.
    Commissioners voted to lower the speed per request of residents living along CR 4910, CR 4911, CR 4912 and CR 4918, despite the fact that no one showed up for the public hearing, said County Judge Chris Davis.

    July 15, 2014