By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.
Mack Henry Hannah Jr. was born into an enterprising family on February 8, 1904, and grew up in Brenham, TX. His father was known as “Daddy Mack,” and was involved in many business ventures like saloons, a barbershop, a drug store, poolhalls, and a restaurant. In 1920, his family opened the Hannah Funeral Home in Port Arthur, TX, which is still operational today.
Hannah graduated from Lincoln High School in 1922 and graduated from Bishop College in 1927. Even during his younger days, he made his mark on history by becoming the first All-American football player. He then returned to Lincoln High School where he taught physical education, and served as a coach for a short time. He later became the first black salesman to work at the Orange Casket Company.
It was during World War II when Hannah became employed by America’s first synthetic rubber plant, built in Port Neches. He oversaw food concession, housing, and took care of over 6,000 workers. After that venture, he moved to Houston, and started other business ventures. He was president of the Mack H. Hannah Life Insurance Company, was the founder of the Gulf Western Mortgage Company, and the Standard Savings and Loan Association, and was the director of the Homestead Bank. He also operated the Hannah Funeral Home. These business ventures made him a millionaire and one of the wealthiest black in Texas. To add to his success, he was a trustee of Bishop College for over 31 years, and held the office of Regent of University of Houston and Texas Southern University.
As a Democrat, he heavily encouraged black voters in Jefferson County, and helped state leaders Allan Shivers, and Lyndon Baines win votes for their elections. He married the love of his life, Reba Othelene Hicks in 1927, and in this union, they had three children.
Over the years, Hannah was appointed to prestigious positions, and received many honors. In 1940, he was appointed as Consul to the Republic of Liberia in 1940 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He held that position for over 42 years. He then attended the Subregional Meeting on Economic cooperation in Niamey, Nigeria, and was President Johnson’s personal representative. Hannah was awarded the honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Bishop College in 1968 and received the honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree in 1974 from Texas Southern University. He was also appointed to the White House Conference on Youth and Children to serve as a member.
Mack Hannah Jr. died on April 2, 1994. It was his determination, and his desire for success that made him into the successful businessman that he was.