Monday, September 15, 2014




Victoria man honored for genealogy work

By Keldy Ortiz
Nov. 8, 2012 at 5:08 a.m.
Updated Nov. 9, 2012 at 5:09 a.m.

With his wife, Judy Lucas, at his right side, James A Lucas, center, chats with guests during the VIP cocktail reception before the Chairman's Annual Awards Banquet at the Victoria Country Club on Thursday.

OTHERS WHO RECEIVED AWARDS

• Education Award: Kevin VanHook

As well as being on the Victoria school board since 2011, VanHook is also a pastor.

• Youth Award: Leo Butler Jr.

An admirer of former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Butler plans to enter the U.S. Air Force. Currently, Butler, who attends East High School, is a cadet major in the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

• Business Award: John Jones

Jones is Victoria's Caterpillar plant manager. Jones arrived in Victoria in 2010 from Illinois to start up the new excavator facility.

What was once a hobby for James Lucas has now turned into work that connects lost family members.

Since entering the field of genealogical research after retirement in 2001, Lucas, 65, has traced more than 32,000 African-Americans within Gonzales, DeWitt, Goliad, Lavaca, Refugio and Victoria counties through genealogy research.

Thursday, Lucas was honored with the Humanitarian Award from the African-American Chamber of Commerce for tracking lost loved ones.

"I'm definitely proud to be recognized for my efforts," Lucas said. "This information isn't out there."

Most of Lucas' records have been made available through the Regional History Center at the Victoria College/University of Houston-Victoria Library.

Special Collections Librarian Sheron Barnes accepted the online database with open arms when Lucas approached her with the idea last fall.

Barnes said tracing a family history may not be the easiest pathway, especially for a race.

"African-Americans have a tough time getting genealogical information," Barnes said. "For (James) to go to these cemeteries personally, as well as visiting funeral homes, that just represents a wealth of information."

Lucas' motivation to conduct the research came from the lack of African-American genealogical information that existed.

After retiring from Union Carbide Corporation at Seadrift, he said he needed something to do.

"When you retire, you want to do something different," said Lucas, who has a degree in industrial education. "I started over."

After talking with his wife, Lucas decided to look into his own family ancestry. Initially looking for history on his father's side, he realized that other families were married into his family, creating a larger family tree than he expected.

"It blew up," said Lucas, jokingly. "I thought it had a limitation."

To get information on individuals, Lucas conducted interviews with families, while also collecting funeral programs. He also went to cemeteries as far as Yoakum, but discovered some headstones didn't exist.

"I don't believe that family history is well known," Lucas said.

Chairman of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of Victoria Matthew Gaskin said Lucas' contribution for the work he had done made it fitting to receive the award.

"I thought he was well-deserving for putting together that information on his own," Gaskin said.

Lucas said he still updates the site, and will continue to do so until he can't anymore.

"My interest is to share information to enlighten people on their forefathers and families," Lucas said.

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