Pioneer, former councilmember T.J. Patterson dies at age 85
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A Lubbock pioneer and prominent civic servant for decades has died. Thomas James (T.J.) Patterson died September 21, 2022, at age 85. He was Lubbock’s first Black council member, an activist, advocate, and leader.
He is the father to current Lubbock City Council member Sheila Patterson Harris.
“Lubbock lost a hero today,” said Mayor Tray Payne. “T.J. was a pioneer and a true public servant in the West Texas community. We are forever grateful for everything he did for Lubbock. Our thoughts and prayers go to the Patterson family during this difficult time.”
“T.J. Patterson embodied public service and dedication to the community,” said City Manager Jarrett Atkinson. “He is someone everyone at the city to this day admires and respects. T.J. was on the City Council when I was an intern at the City years ago. Watching him represent his constituents and work for the community was a tremendous lesson. He loved the people of Lubbock and he cared for this community. My thoughts and prayers are with the Patterson family.”
Funeral information for T.J. Patterson will be announced soon.
Mr. Patterson was elected to the Lubbock City Council from District 2 in 1984 and ended his service in 2004, 20 years later. He served as Mayor Pro Tem between 1991 and 1992. Since 1977, T.J. served as co-founder and co-publisher of the Southwest Digest, a community newspaper serving the African American community of West Texas. The last issue of the digest was printed in May 2022.
He was a veteran of the Vietnam conflict, and he served as a commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve and was Chairman of the RDAC program for Region 7.
T.J. was actively involved in the community, organizing marches against gangs, drugs, and violence in the city. He took on other issues including youth and education issues. The branch library named in his honor in Lubbock focuses on adult education programs as well as more traditional learning. At the Patterson Library, the entire family can participate in learning everything from computer software to job search skills.
T.J. held many distinguished positions including president of the Texas Municipal League, an organization representing over 1000 municipalities throughout Texas. In doing so, he became the first African-American to receive this honor. He served as a member of the board of directors for the National League of Cities. T.J. previously served on the Energy, Environment, and National Resources Committee of the National League of Cities. He was a founder and former President of the Texas Association of Black City Council Members, as well as a member of the NAACP. Also, T.J. was awarded the prestigious John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Award in September 1999.
According to the University Archives at Southwest Collection/Special Collections Library, “Thomas James (T.J.) Patterson began his new job as assistant to the Dean of the College of Business Administration starting in September of 1970. In that role, he served in the capacity of a teacher, freshman advisor, and student recruiter. The La Ventana choose him as their “Man of the Year” in honor of his contributions to the university and Lubbock and the African-American community. In addition to being a freshman advisor for BA, Patterson was also serving as co-sponsor of the Saddle Tramps organization.”
“Lubbock lost a hero today,” said Mayor Tray Payne. “T.J. Patterson was a pioneer and a true public servant in the West Texas community. We are forever grateful for everything he did for Lubbock. Our thoughts and prayers go to the Patterson family during this difficult time.”
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