Close to 50 years ago, one young lady made history at El Campo High School as the first black student to be crowned Homecoming Queen.
“It doesn’t seem like 50 years,” Linda Aldridge Robertson said about being a senior at ECHS in 1970.
Robertson remembers Oct. 23, 1970 as if it was yesterday.
“My heart just dropped. They took us to the locker room. We were told beforehand,” she said before stepping out onto the football field for the announcement in front of the student body and spectators.
Robertson, happy just to be nominated, was surprised to actually be crowned queen, a selection made by the seniors that was primarily white.
“It came to my surprise,” she said of the nomination. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, what do I do now?’”
There was never a question of whether she would accept the nomination or not.
“I was brought up to take the challenge and never back down,” she said.
Her nomination came from an organization made up of predominately black students, which she was a member of, but white students also pledged their vote for Robertson.
Other contenders were Kay Birkner, Camille Dowden, Brenda Harris, Laura Martin and Janice Osina.
Perhaps she had a campaign, she doesn’t really recall, but votes were by “secret ballot,” she said. “The students voted during home room. They didn’t know (who won) until we went onto the field.”
As the first black ECHS Homecoming Queen, Robertson said fellow nominees were accepting, but not everyone approved the decision.
“I think a lot of people were shocked. That was my reality,” she said. “The mindset of the kids was they didn’t show it or pay any attention (to the negativity).”
Her parents, G.G. and Lillian Aldridge, were not in Ricebird Stadium that evening. Her father, however, was sitting in the stadium parking lot, so he could hear the announcement over the loud speaker, but her mother was at home because of ill health. Confined to a wheelchair after losing a leg to diabetes, she learned the news before her daughter had the chance to come home to share it with her.
“There were some problems,” Robertson said. “Mom got a call from a man who used some expletives. ‘Your dog has ‘blank blanked’ on the field.’ My mom said a prayer, ‘that no harm comes to my child,’” Robertson recalls. “I gave her a hug and a kiss and then we went to the community center for a dance. There were lots of congratulations there.”
She recalls shopping at a local grocery store afterwards and people pointing her out. “That’s the girl,” she recalls them saying. “After that week, my skin was tougher,” she said. “I received my accolades at Mt. Olive and Pilgrim Rest (Missionary Baptist Church). They made me feel really good ... boosted my morale.”
Robertson attended both of those churches where she loved to sing.
As a young child, she attended a private kindergarten ran by B.L. Anderson Hargrove and remembers a couple of lines she had memorized for a play.
“I was four or five years old. ‘Momma, Momma, look at me. I’m the queen, that’s what I will be.’ That was my little speech,” she said.
In the 70s, ECHS only crowned a queen, unlike today when a king and queen are selected. Nominees wore tailored dresses and were escorted by a fellow male student who wore a suit.
“Sam Gaskin was my escort. He was a friend of mine. He was nervous as a cat,” she said.
Escorts had to be a current student, therefore her boyfriend, who had graduated in 1969, wasn’t permitted to escort her.
Girls wore mums just like they do today, according to Robertson, who recalls her own attire.
“I wore a pencil skirt with a matching jacket,” she said. The hounds tooth patterned outfit included a matching wrap she wore around her neck to keep warm that cool evening.
She recalls receiving a special memento for the occasion.
“I received a gold charm bracelet that said ‘Homecoming’ on it,” she said. “I was 17 years old. It was from Gerberman’s (Jewelers). It was my first piece of real jewelry.”
Robertson has since lost the bracelet, but holds on to one special treasure from that evening.
“I still have the crown,” she said. “My oldest daughter wore it for her wedding. She was married 11 years ago. Saturday (Sept. 12) was her anniversary.”
Robertson, who lives in Rosenberg, has returned to attend a few homecoming games, one of which was when Brittany Porter, a black student who graduated from ECHS in 2005, was crowned Homecoming Queen the fall of 2004.
“It took 30 years for it to happen again,” Robertson said of Porter’s crowning moment.
Robertson, who is an only child, left El Campo after graduating in 1971 to pursue her education. She has been an educator for 40 plus years.
“I attended Wharton County Junior College and Texas Southern University,” she said. “In between, I went to Alvin (Community College) and received an associates degree in mental health.”
She also earned a degree in business administration and her teaching certificate.
Robertson has been working with students with disabilities in the Adult Transition Program at Lamar Consolidate ISD for the past 12 years.
She has three children, Stephaine Smith, Christopher Robertson and La-Wrence Robertson; and three grandchildren, two girls and a boy.