Arizona Fleming was born in Richmond, Texas, on March 23, 1884. She was the daughter of Beauregard (Bully) and Laura Fleming.
Fleming attended segregated schools through 12th grade and then moved to Seguin to attend Guadalupe College, an all-black school. After college, she worked at Seagul Laundry in Houston as a bookkeeper for four years, then returned to Richmond to establish the Fort Bend Fraternal Undertaking Company in 1927.
Fleming served as secretary and manager of the Fort Bend Fraternal Undertaking Company in Richmond and after a number of years became the sole proprietor. During the Great Depression, her uncle helped her establish a good credit rating, and she eventually owned her own home. In the 1950s, she became instrumental in reestablishing the African American vote in Fort Bend County. Her name regularly appeared in the records of civil rights efforts to end local voter discrimination. Fleming became secretary of the newly-formed Fort Bend Civic Club, which was organized to get out the black vote in the 1950 election. She went house to house to encourage voters; 80 percent of eligible black voters participated in the election. When black participation was challenged, Fleming helped fund the case that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court. Though they received funds from numerous Fort Bend black churches and business leaders from around the state, Fleming herself made substantial financial and emotional contributions to the cause. When the high court ruled in favor of the appellants on May 4, 1953, Fleming’s work had helped firmly secure Fort Bend County blacks’ right to vote.
It was said that Fleming’s personal finances were depleted in the fight to vote. “I’d do it all over again,” she was reported to say. She died penniless in Richmond on January 18, 1976 and is buried in Mount Carmel Baptist Church cemetery. In 1994, FBISD opened the Arizona Fleming Elementary School in her honor.
NOTE: This biography is currently on display at the Fort Bend Museum as part of the "Triumphs & Tribulations: African American History in Fort Bend County" exhibit. The exhibit will run through May 26, 2018.
Funding has been provided to the Fort Bend History Association from Humanities Texas and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
Fort Bend Museum Staff