Savior to the Rescue in Black History Month for Irving Slave Cemetery

Shipping company FedEx promises quarterly clean-up visits

Volunteers have fought for decades to maintain an Irving slave cemetery and were thrilled to learn that shipping company FedEx has adopted it.

"FedEx is promising to come out quarterly and make sure that we assist with other volunteers in maintaining the grounds, forever. We're adopting this area," said FedEx Irving administrator Zelda Celestine.

About 200 slaves or their descendants are buried in the cemetery on the east side of State Highway 161-President George Bush Turnpike south of Airport Freeway.

"God has answered our prayers, a lot of people's prayers, not just mine," volunteer Anthony Bond said.

Bond said he has worked to maintain the burial ground ever since his first visit 1995.

"I heard the souls of these people saying 'Anthony, don't allow our final resting place to be denigrated in death,'" he said.

Bond received help from Cemetery historian Frances James, who many people call "The Cemetery Lady." Now age 95, James has spent many of her years dedicated to protecting North Texas burial grounds.

She was pleased to hear the news about FedEx.

"In February, Black History Month, it's a good time to pay attention to it," she said.

When they first tried to reach the cemetery it was surrounded by private property with no one willing to grant access.

"You'd drive all the way out there and try to get in and you couldn't get in," James said.

They negotiated with the state highway department, the federal government, the city of Irving and neighbors. James and Bond fought to keep the construction of Highway 161 from running right through the cemetery.

Now the road is on one side of the burial ground with the Chateau on Wildbriar Lake senior housing apartment community on two other sides. Single-family homes are under construction on the only undeveloped side of the cemetery.

Apartment manager Donyse Jadlowski said visitors are welcome to park and reach the cemetery from the apartment community on Hard Rock Road where the Texas historic marker for the cemetery is also located.

"We decided that it was very important for us as a community, all of us, our ownership as well," Jadlowski said.

Apartment tenants have volunteered to maintain the cemetery, but the seniors were no match for the hearty vegetation.

"We've been wanting a committed group," Jadlowski said.

That's what cemetery supporters have found in FedEx.

"Not only do we deliver to our local community, but we support our local community," Celestine said.

The first FedEx cleanup at the cemetery will be Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer and other dignitaries are expected to join in saying "thank you."

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