Willie Hudspeth was born in 1945 and attended segregated schools in Fort Worth. When he was a teenager, he became a member of the Black Panther party, and subsequently joined the Air Force where he served in Vietnam. Hudspeth served for approximately four years and was discharged at the rank of Sergeant. In 1969, Hudspeth returned to North Texas and attended North Texas State University (now University of North Texas) where he obtained his bachelors degree in business and a graduate degree in education. After graduation, Hudspeth taught middle school in Keller, Texas, for 16 years before ultimately moving back to Denton where he began doing home repair. Hudspeth is the President of the Denton County NAACP.
Hudspeth detailed his interest in St. John’s Cemetery and how the fact that the cemetery became uncared for affected him. Hudspeth was protesting in downtown Denton about the fact that there was a confederate monument on the square. It was at that time he became aware of the fact that there was even a St. John’s Cemetery in existence. “Then one day somebody came up and said to me what about the St. John’s Cemetery, and then, no they called it, the slave, the old slave cemetery is what they called it.” When he found it was in disrepair, “it’s very overgrown and covered with all kinds of vegetation and you can’t see it, you couldn’t see in there and so when we finally got in to all the thicket and the brush….here is where all the kids are buried” and this made him angry that these kids were treated so poorly in life and in death.
Willie Hudspeth, interviewed by David Lacy, April 16, 2018, University of North Texas Oral History Archive