Fort Bend ISD, Fort Bend County leaders move forward with historic cemetery agreement (7/11/2019)
While negotiations continue, FBISD celebrates latest steps by county leaders and Texas Historical Commission
Fort Bend ISD (July 11, 2019) – On Tuesday, County Commissioners approved the principle terms of an Interlocal Agreement that will allow the remains of the 95 individuals discovered during FBISD’s construction of the James Reese Career and Technical Center to find a final resting place in a county-owned cemetery. The Commissioner’s action mirrored action by the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees approving the same principal terms in June. Archaeologists believe that the remains are those of convicts who were leased by the State to provide convict labor to a local plantation.
The principle terms of the agreement provide that FBISD will convey an area of the cemetery for reinterment of the individuals and an additional 10 acres for a memorial park. FBISD will also pay the county $1 million that will go toward future costs associated with reinterment and memorialization.
The parties agreement required passage of legislation that amended existing law to allow the county to take ownership of the cemetery. The bill was passed and became effective in June after it was signed by the Governor. With the revised statute, the parties were able to move forward with the District’s intention to convey property to the County and the County’s willingness to accept the responsibility for the care, operation and maintenance of the cemetery.
With agreement on the principal terms, the parties will now work out final details, including resolution of the existing court action. As Fort Bend ISD prepares to open the James Reese Career and Technical Center next month, District leaders remain optimistic that a final agreement will be reached that will provide the 95 individuals a final resting place.
“We are thankful and appreciative of the action taken by county leaders this week,” said FBISD Board President Jason Burdine. “With this action, the Board takes another step in fulfilling its commitment to honor and preserve these individuals, not just as 95 unmarked graves, but as 95 human beings whose stories deserve to be told. We have recognized the importance of this historical discovery, while also delivering an educational facility that will benefit the students of Fort Bend and our community.”
In another related development, the Texas Historical Commission, after receiving guidance from the Texas Attorney General, recognized its authority to permit extraction of genetic material from the remains of the 95 individuals for the purposes of future DNA testing. Materials necessary for DNA analysis have been collected and will be curated at the Texas Archaeological Research Laboratory at the University of Texas.
“We are looking forward to the next steps in this discovery, with hope that we will one day know more about who these individuals were,” said Burdine.