Joseph Daniel Callis, Danny as he was known, didn’t live a long life, but in the short time he was alive he was able to be part of history in Edinburg.
When Callis started school he went to an all-black school because schools were still segregated in Edinburg but once he was ready to graduate in 1967 the Edinburg school district was integrated.
This year Callis will be honored at the 18th annual Juneteenth observance at Restlawn Cemetery that is being organized by Valerie Ramirez, a retired Edinburg school district teacher.
“This year the special thing is going to be a special tribute to Danny Callis from his high school class EHS 1967,” Ramirez said.
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.
Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation - which had become official January 1, 1863.
The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance.
This year Ramirez has organized for a sign to be unveiled for not only about Callis, but also a brief history about the neighborhood on the east side of Edinburg.
“We’ll be unveiling a new aluminum information sign,” Ramirez said. “It’s going to have his (Callis) high school picture and kind of a resume about him.”
Callis has 11 family members buried at Restlawn and the sign will also include a synopsis about his family including his uncle Jacob who died after sustaining injuries during World War II.
“His uncle Jacob who is mentioned on the historical marker because there was a black post number 884 in honor of Jacob,” Ramirez said. “He died at Walter Reed Army Hospital during WWII from injuries when a kamikaze hit his ship.”
The observance will take place on June 19 at Restlawn Cemetery in Edinburg at 9 a.m. and Martin Torres, producer of KATS will be the emcee.
“We’re tying it in with the centennial,” Ramirez said. “That’s why we’re focusing on Danny because when he started school the schools were segregated and Carver school was still in existence.”
This year marked the centennial for the Edinburg school district.
Click the link below for a dowloadable/printable map of the historic African-American community in Edinburg.