When Walter Beatrice Campbell Barbour was born in the 1920s, both women and African-Americans faced tall barricades.
But the Fort Worth native went to college, got a master’s degree and became an educator, community leader and business professional. Mrs. Barbour was the first African-American woman to serve on the Fort Worth City Council.
Mrs. Barbour, 93, died Sunday in the Houston area, where she had moved to be closer to family.
“She was one of the pioneers,” said Reby Cary, a contemporary and another civic leader.
Cary, who attended the segregated I.M. Terrell High School with Mrs. Barbour, said she was a friend and “set the standard for a while for all of us.”
Mrs. Barbour graduated from I.M. Terrell in 1937, according to Cary’s book A Step Up, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and a master’s from Atlanta University in Georgia.
“The leadership she gave helped the rest of us come along,” Cary said. “She was the first black woman on the City Council, and she helped me when I got on the school board.”
Mrs. Barbour served on the council from 1977 to 1979 and advocated for a health clinic in the Stop Six area, summer food programs for low-income children and recreational facilities for the community.
She helped conduct one of the first studies of medical needs in Stop Six. The Stop Six/Walter B. Barbour Health Center, built in 1994, is named for her.
When Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, the current District 5 representative, decided to run for office, her first donation came from the Barbours.
“I was so early into this role I didn’t even know how to ask for money, and they just sent it over,” Bivens said, adding that Mrs. Barbour was a role model and leader in the community.
“She was legendary, a trailblazer, someone who really charted her own course,” Bivens said. “What she said, she stood on. She was not in any way confused about who she was and what her destiny was to be.”
Bivens said one of Mrs. Barbour’s greatest accomplishments is the fire station at Ramey Avenue and Edgewood Terrace, the first to serve Stop Six. Barbour advocated for the station, and it was added to a city bond program, Bivens said.
Mrs. Barbour is also credited with bringing $6 million in street improvements to her district during her term, according to Cary’s book.
Mrs. Barbour spent part of her career as a guidance counselor at Eastern Hills High School and then worked for TXU Energy. She was appointed to an unexpired term as justice of the peace for Precinct 8 in 1989 and served until the next election.
“She was known for her no-nonsense approach in dealing with issues, and it didn’t matter whose turf those issues landed on,” Bivens said. “She did her homework, and she didn’t play around. You knew if you crossed her, you’d better have some homework ready, because more than likely she had already done hers.”
In 1992, Mrs. Barbour received the 41st annual Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.
Survivors include a daughter, Hollie Barbour, and a son, Robert B. Barbour Jr., as well as two grandchildren.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984
▪ 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Peter Presbyterian Church, 5801 Truman Drive, Fort Worth
▪ Burial: 1:15 p.m. in Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery