Hearne Academy
Historically Black College




COMMENCING at the bottom in business, John M. Frierson, Undertaker and Embalmer, of Houston, Texas, has climbed steadily and persistently until he is the leader in his kind of business in the State of Texas. With no special training for his task and no very large bulk of capital, he enter a city where competition was sharp and rent high ; yet he has never moved, never failed. He has only expanded. The room which once held the business of his whole plant is now the store room for his caskets.

Mr. Frierson was born in Columbia, Tennessee, June 10th, 1865. He was born in a period which was fraught with great difficulties for the colored race, for it was passing through the transition from slavery to freedom and had to encounter the many problems which opened up in meeting this crucial test. Trials met him when a small lad and he had his turn at hard labor, scant food, scant clothing, and very meager facilities for education. He soon learned that the way of success in life was not a path of ease, but a way of thorns. He aspired to make something of his life and had an ambition to be an educated man. This he determined to be and he never took his eye from the goal until he had reached it. In order to earn the money to pursue his studies he toiled as a laborer, as a carpenter's helper to his father, as a teacher in country schools. Sometimes his earnings amounted to two dollars per week, but frequently fell below that amount and occasionally went above it. Frugality and perseverance won their reward and he was enabled to enter college.

Finally he was able to enter Roger Williams University, Nashville, Tenn. Graduating here in the spring of 1891, he went out and became principal of the colored school in Galletin, Tenn. in the fall of the same year. Texas at that time, as it is now, was a more attractive field in education than most of the Southern States. It paid better salaries, held longer school terms, had better schools and proved more respectable for a teacher. Hither in 1892, Mr. Frierson went to take charge of a school near Waxahatchie, in Ellis County. The next year he be came associate principal of Hearne Academy in Roberson County. For the next five years he taught in Hearne Academy and in the County schools.

Feeling that teaching was too itinerant and in many ways too restrictive in the opportunities for advancement, Mr. Frierson left the school room and began his present business of Undertaking in Houston, Texas He opened a shop at 203 San Felipe Street, where his shop still stands, though much expanded. His was the first Negro Undertaking business to open in the State of Texas. Hence for a number of years he had to overcome the obstacles common to all pioneers, to overcome prejudice and to establish confidence. This he had to do while buying his horses and equipment, learning those details of business which only experience can give The obstacles overcome, he rose rapidly, as a business man. Today his stock room, which as has been said, was his original establishment, is full of the best caskets available. He is accredited with having the finest outfit of horses of any Negro in Texas. These, however, he is now converting into automobile hearses. In addition to this business in Houston, he owns interests in businesses in Texarkana and in Brenham.

Mr. Frierson stands high in many of the leading organizations of his state. He is a member of the Baptist Church, of the the Masonic Lodge, of the Knights of Pythias, of the Odd Fellows, of the Knights and Daughters of Tabor and of the American Woodman. He is one of the leading members of the National Undertakers' Association and of the National Negro Business Men's League. He has attended every meeting of the two latter since their founding. He has traveled over practically the whole United States, on business and on pleasure.

Mr. Frierson was married to Miss Hattie Eskridge of Atlanta. Ga., December 23, 1906. They live in their own home on San Felipe Street in  Houston.

Sketch from The National Cyclopedia of the Colored Race
Published by: National Publishing Company, Inc. (1919)