Those who have recently driven in southeast Denton may have received a warm welcome by five monumental women. A colorful mural of Alice Alexander, Betty Kimble, Dorothy Minter, Alma Clark and Ruby Cole is painted on the underpass at Robertson Street and Bell Avenue. Most of these women are Denton residents who played a vital role in desegregating the city by promoting unity and love.
Denton artist Daniel Black painted a similar mural of the women a couple of years ago on Willie Hudspeth’s shop on West Oak Street. After his business relocated and the mural was taken down, the community was devastated to lose the colorful representation of their history. The city introduced the idea of another mural and tasked Black with repainting the original in a different location of southeast Denton.
When Black was given this project, he initially felt he wasn’t the right person to paint such an important mural, but he knew as a painter, he should be the artistic channel to present this history to the Denton community.
“I’m a big believer in the impact of local heroes and [that] nobody’s perfect,” Black said. “We always want to find this superhero that is perfect and they’re just not going to exist, but man, I believe there’s so many people around us in our daily lives [who] could be inspirations to us, [and] could give us hope when we’re struggling for hope, but there’s just so many ways that we need the stories of people around us.”
The women painted on the mural worked throughout the 20th century to serve the Denton community.
Alice Alexander, who Alexander Elementary School is named after, started teaching in Denton at 17 years old. She spent 45 years guiding children and changing the social norms of segregation in Denton ISD.
Betty Kimble, who graduated from UNT in 1949, worked at Texas Instruments as a group leader for 21 years. Now, she is retired and participates in volunteer work for several events and holds a seat in a number of committees in Denton. Kimble is a longtime member of the Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship which pushed to eliminate segregation in the city.
Dorothy Minter graduated from UNT in 1961. She is longtime educator for Denton public schools and an author of a series of children’s books. In 2019, Minter and several members of the Child Protective Service Board of Directors were recognized by the Denton County Commissioners for their years of commitment to serving underprivileged children.
Alma Clark, along wither her husband and children, moved to Denton in the summer of 1962 and lived in the Quakertown community where many African Americans lived in Denton, at the time. Clark, along with some women from a predominantly white church, formed a committee called Christian Women’s Fellowship that actively integrated the city.
Ruby Cole and her family moved to Denton when she was six. During the 1950s, she vigorously participated in the civil rights demonstrations in Dallas, and her sister was a member of the Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship in the 1960s. Cole has also been involved with Denton politics since the 1980s.
NAACP Denton Chapter President Willie Hudspeth, who originally presented the project to Black years ago, desperately wanted to maintain the legacy of the five women, especially since most of them are still alive and active in the community.
“What we want is discussion to take place,” Hudspeth said. “We want someone to ask questions about who that is, why they’re there and what’s the whole significance of the piece, and those who know them to say, ‘Why them, what’s the significance, why where it’s located?’ so we accomplished both. The painting is so well done.”
Black stepped into the art world 13 years ago when he began street graffiti. His artwork has evolved since then with figurative drawings, paintings and sculptures. Black has several murals painted among the city, but he said none of them compared to the pressure and time it took to perfect this mural.
“I just feel like it was given to me as a gift and I just felt honored to steward it,” Black said. “It was just kind of this awesome process that I was able to enter into. All the things that I think were great about it were kind of initiated by other people. I can paint, so I’m providing a service as a painter, but [I] was super stoked to be a part of it.”
In addition to the mural of the five women, Black has other murals displayed in various locations across Denton. Several Denton residents have encountered his work and interpreted them in many ways. Whether it’s the colorful mural on the Square 9 apartment building or the Denton All-Star Ball Players painting, viewers can’t help but admire his work.
Melissa Getty, UNT academic advisor and ceramic artist, said she is happy to see Dan’s mural located in other parts of Denton, and not just around the Denton Downtown Square.
“I thought it was beautiful,” Getty said. “For one, his choice of colors [was] great but his subject matter was what was important. I have a 5-year-old daughter, Amelia, and I think it’s really important for her to see women involved in art also women of color because that’s really rare these days.”
Individuals who would like to view this piece of Denton’s history can spot the mural on the bridge at Robertson Street and Bell Avenue.
Courtesy Daniel Black