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Four Black Families Move into All-White Housing Project

January 13, 1994

VIDOR, Texas (AP) _ Under cover of darkness, housing officials moved four black families into an all-white public housing complex Thursday, less than a year after another integration effort failed.

Several Housing and Urban Development Department cars arrived at the complex about 5:30 a.m., an hour before daylight. A caravan of moving trucks passed a police checkpoint twenty minutes later. At least three carloads of black motorists followed the trucks.

By dawn, Vidor had 10 new residents.

″We’re all Americans. It should not be an issue,″ said Julia Ilene Pierce, a white resident who moved into the complex two weeks ago.

As furniture was unloaded from the moving trucks, the four families attended an early-morning orientation by HUD officials in the complex manager’s office.

Around lunchtime, about 20 families in the complex gathered to welcome the new residents. Reporters were barred from entering the complex.

Thursday’s move did not escape notice of town residents, who waved and honked their horns at police officers guarding the entrance to the complex. There are no blacks in this town of 6,000, about 100 miles east of Houston.

Last year, four black families were moved into Vidor’s only public housing complex, which has 74 units in more than a dozen one-story buildings. But all eventually left, saying racial harassment made life in the complex unbearable.

Bill Simpson, who left Sept. 1, was the last to go. Hours later, he was shot to death in what police described as a random street robbery in Beaumont, about 10 miles west of Vidor.

Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros promised last month that blacks would return to the town, a one-time Ku Klux Klan stronghold.

At a news conference Thursday in Washington, Cisneros promised that more black families will move to the complex in a matter of weeks or months.

And in an open letter to Vidor residents, he asked the community to reach out to the black families.

″I urge you to go beyond passive acceptance or mere tolerance to welcome these families and individuals to the community,″ Cisneros said.

The integration effort comes as the result of a 14-year suit filed by several black residents against HUD. The suit claims the existence of all- white and all-black public housing complexes in 36 East Texas counties is discriminatory.

By early February, HUD must present an integration plan that meets the satisfaction of U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice of Tyler.

Texas is not alone in discriminatory housing practices, Assistant Housing Secretary Roberta Achtenberg said. At least 15 lawsuits are pending by residents in Pittsburgh; San Francisco; Dade County, Fla.; and Minnesota.

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