September 24, 2023

Know Your History: Ovide Duncantell

Do you know who is responsible for the for the annual Black Heritage Society’s MLK Parade? Civil Rights ‘warrior’ Ovide Duncantell.

Duncantell was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana in 1936. After graduating from school in 1955, he entered the United States Air Force and was honorably discharged in 1959. After returning home, he got married and set out for Los Angeles, California. But after making a stop in Houston to visit with his new wife’s brothers, his plans changed, and he remained in Houston until his death.

In 1969, Duncantell began working for the Anti-Poverty Program-Houston Community Action Association.  He later created his own organization entitled “The Central Committee for the Protection of Poor People.” Duncantell went to work for then newly-elected Commissioner, Tom Bass, from 1973-1977. He also earned his Bachelor and Master degrees from Texas Southern University.

In 1974, Duncantell became Founder and Executive Director of the Black Heritage Society Inc., emerging as one of the driving forces behind the renaming of South Park Boulevard to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

The Reverend Martin Luther (“Daddy ”) King, Sr., was so impressed by the gesture of respect, he made a personal appearance at the street’s name change ceremony, and served as the BHS first MLK Parade “Grand Marshal,” on January 21, 1978. The BHS has conducted the annual MLK Parade in Houston ever since.

At age 75 years old, he chained himself the “MLK Tree of Life,” which the BHS planted in 1983, to stand in the way of the construction of Metro’s new Southeast light rail line.

He died in October 2018 at the age of 82.

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