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Jefferson, Texas, history tour benefits old city cemetery

judy bedford standing.JPG
Riverport Ambassadors

Historical figures who lived in Jefferson, Texas, during the Civil War era will come to life during an annual walking tour of the city’s Old Oakwood Cemetery on Saturday. The Twilight Cemetery Stroll features community actors dressed in period costume. Surrounded by Victorian monuments and fading tombstones, they act out the lives of six notable townspeople. Jefferson schools superintendent Sharon Ross plays a freed slave.

"Where Judy Bedford actually walked from Arkansas to Texas with her daughter, I’ll sing 'Walk with me Lord, Walk with me.' That shows people that during this tedious journey, Judy Bedford had a long way to go," Ross said.

Organizer Rhenda Gray said the one-hour walking tour brings history into focus and builds respect for old cemeteries. For some, she said, it may be their first visit to Old Oakwood.

“If people never see the cemetery, they don’t know what could be lost if this area is not maintained. What we also see is a tremendous strain on all government resources," Gray said.

Ross draws inspiration from Judy Bedford. When she practiced her part in the cemetery, she said she was moved by the tangible reminders of a segregated past.

“I was actually sitting on the so-called Jewish wall. I had the realization that a lot of history in small towns is actually being left behind, and I think this is a great opportunity for me as an educational leader to share what I’m learning," Ross said.

The event is April 20 from 5 - 7 p.m. Proceeds go toward maintaining Jefferson’s historic cemeteries. The website is Jeffersoncemeterytour.org.