October 20, 1921 ~ August 17, 2018
Clarence Roy McGowan born October 20, 1921 in Bryan, Texas to Elihu and Ollie Mae Jenkins McGowan.
Clarence accepted Christ at an early age in Bryan, Texas. Upon moving to San Antonio in 1945, he united with Second Baptist Church serving faithfully for 73 years until his death. He served as a Sunday School Teacher, Superintendent of BTU, church legal council and guest speaker at the 106th church anniversary.
He set his sights on success. Although he grew up a tenth of a mile from Texas A&M, blacks were only allowed to work there. He did work as a caddy until it was time to go to college. Prairie View A&M was the closet college to home so he made it his college home. Graduating in 1943 with plans and training to become a teacher, he worked on campus waiting for a job offer. Although the state of Texas did not allow blacks to attend their state-supported schools, Texas would pay for African Americans to attend school in sister states. Taking advantage of this opportunity, Clarence went to Iowa and received a Masters of Science in Industrial Engineering. He continued his education earning a Masters of Science in Guidance and Counseling from Our Lady of the Lake University and the University of Texas all before his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from St. Mary's University.
During the days of segregation, Black high school principals would call the Black colleges whenever there was a teaching opportunity. Clarence got his first call in 1945 to come to San Antonio. Douglas Junior High School had an opening for a math teacher and that opened the door. Shortly after, Clarence continued at Phyllis Wheatley High School as a teacher, counselor and vice principal. His final tenure with the San Antonio Independent School District ended with Vice Principal of Washington Irving Junior High School. He served as adjunct professor of mathematics at St. Phillip's College.
Clarence had a huge year in 1958. He married, became a Principal and began law school! In 1958, Clarence married the love of his life, Gloria H. Smith of Jackson, Mississippi. He loved his family and would often brag to his friends on their brilliance and expertise.
Clarence also decided to attend law school at St. Mary's Law School as the first male African American admitted. He attended four nights a week for three hours each night from 1958 to 1963. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights you would find Clarence and a classmate studying in the law offices of Pat Maloney. He was admitted to practice before all State and District Courts, all Federal District Courts and the Supreme Courts of Texas. Clarence practiced law from 1963 to 2005 specializing in criminal law, real estate, oil and gas and probate. He was a legal representative for the NAACP on civil rights cases nationwide. He fought segregation in the medical community, Brown vs Board of Education, integration in San Antonio schools, real estate, desegregation in San Antonio and voting rights.
As more opportunities were created for African American attorneys during and after the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's and early 70's, more attorneys were moving into San Antonio. They came from chapters of Black American Law Students Association (BALSA) to a city that did not have a chapter. Clarence was aware of the need for African American representation in politics, in community affairs and in professional organizations. Already he had a reputation for organizing and motivating, in 1978 the formation of a bar association addressing the needs and interest of African Americans was discussed. Clarence McGowan was elected Temporary Chair, a title he held for several months, until he was elected President of the San Antonio Black Lawyers Association, SABLA. Clarence led SABLA, promoted their practices, networked and encouraged members to apply for judicial and staff vacancies in the courthouse. Clarence, himself, was elected Justice of the Peace in Bexar County Precinct No. 4 and the first African American to be appointed as Municipal Judge for the City of San Antonio in 1974.
Since real estate law was his favorite, Clarence was a member of "Blockbusters", a group of blacks who purchased homes in white neighborhoods after the 1964 court decision prohibiting race-based restrictions in real estate transactions. When one white person sold a home to Blockbusters, a black family could move into the neighborhood.
After retirement, Clarence was a wealth of knowledge to various non-profits and to SABLA. With a quiet elegance he offered suggestions and advice.
Clarence held lifetime memberships in Optimist International, NAACP, San Antonio Bar Association, national Bar Association, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, a charter member of Gamma Phi Boule' of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. He also served on many boards including San Antonio City Water Board, San Antonio City Board of Adjustment, San Antonio Zoning Commission, the United Way, Texas State Teachers Association, Planned Parenthood, Trinity University Humanistic Review, Welcome Home for the Blind and Aged, Legal Regress Committee, Alamo Computer Society, St. Mary's Alumni Association and Star Tom Lodge #100. Accolades and awards were numerous, including the African American Business Achievement Award, the City of San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. Commission Distinguished Achievement Award, the NAACP Living Legends Award and the San Antonio Queen of Soul Robert Washington Pioneer Award.
Clarence and Gloria loved to travel. Often friends and family were invited, creating wonderful memories. When not traveling, Clarence loved fishing and went as often as he could. He also enjoyed gardening, golfing and computer science.
Clarence is survived by his beloved daughter, Valorie Thompson and granddaughter, Anitra Thompson along with numerous cousins and friends.
In lieu of floweres, the family requests donations to: NAACP Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 200225, San Antonio, Texas 78220 or Gamma Phi Boule' of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, The Boule' Foundation of San Antonio, Inc., P.O. Box 461547, San Antonio, Texas 78246 or the San Antonio Black Lawyers Association.
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