HOUSTON (FOX 26) - On Tuesday, County Commissioners approved an 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 agreement provides 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.
“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.
“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.
Fort Bend ISD’s James Reese Career and Technical Center will open in August of 2019. For more background on the discovery, visit www.fortbendisd.com/historiccemetery.