San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas
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March 3rd, 2008
City mourns loss of Calaboose African American History Museum creator

by AMANDA OSKEY
Reporter

The city is mourning the death of Johnnie Armstead, a long-time resident and founder of the Calaboose African American History Museum. Armstead died on Thursday of pneumonia at the age of 74.

“The museum was her passion. No one had more passion than she did,” said Ollie Giles, her cousin.

Giles said Armstead collected her artifacts over the course of several years, digging through people’s attics and sometimes even trash. She even had a traveling trunk full of history that she would take to schools to show children.

Armstead ambitiously founded the Calaboose African American History Museum nine years ago after digging up artifacts within the San Marcos African-American community. The 135-year-old building is the site of the former Hays County Jail and was later used as an annex for black prisoners.

“At the time she went to start the museum, the building was empty. The city helped her remodel it into a museum,” Giles said.

In addition to her work with the museum, Johnnie was an active member of the San Marcos community. Her influence helped to change Comal St. to what is MLK in San Marcos.

“All I can really say is that she will be missed,” Giles said.

The museum holds memories and artifacts of San Marcos’ African American past. Among the displays is a local black history exhibit and showcase on Buffalo Soldiers. The group assisted the settlement of the Texas frontier and fought in the Civil War.

Visitation services will be held at Pennington Funeral Home on Tuesday March 4. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will also be a viewing at the Activity Center at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 5. The funeral service is to follow at 11 a.m.

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0 thoughts on “City mourns loss of Calaboose African American History Museum creator

  1. In 2002, as a GOP precinct chair, I worked an election with Johnnie, my first time at that job. We were from different political parties, but nobody would know the difference, to talk to Johnnie.

    She and her “regulars” brought all kinds of food to nibble on and shared it with me, and she treated me like she’d known me all her life.

    She drove me to the Justice Center, where they were counting that year, so I could be with the ballot box. Boy, did she know all the back roads!–I get lost in that area even in the daytime.

    Johnnie was a sweet, hard-working, and lively lady and the kind of election judge that can make our voting process worthwhile and our country proud.

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