I am Robert Houston and this is my life. On November 13, 1935 in Baltimore, MD, a single, 21 year old African American female, “Verily Margaret Tucker”, gave birth to her first and only child. Rather than do something that would cause regrets later, and after much searching, my mother was able to find suitable foster parents to care for me. I was 5 months old when I was taken home by the Houston’s. My father, Samuel Houston, had come from Wilmington, NC, while my mother, Florine Dunlap, moved here from Badin, NC.
I was enrolled in Paul Laurence Dunbar Public School, kindergarten at the age of 4, and placed in accelerated classes, where I remained until graduating. Prior to attending kindergarten, my aunt gave me an old working Kodak camera instead of a pacifier, which would set the tone for my life. I learned at an early age that being family does not depend on your bloodline or pedigree, but more about having genuine, caring and loving people that love and respect one another. Love, like justice, is blind.
I did well in school, at this time I was introduced to a place that I became addicted to, the local branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. I grew up attracted to a big magazine called “Life” and would be amazed at the photographs it contained. My interests in reading seemed to be magnified, I found that I really enjoyed writing but enjoyed taking pictures more.
I was abruptly reminded that there was more to life than writing, Dunbar, reading and learning how to operate a camera. I needed a job, but my age would not allow me to seek gainful employment. I involved myself with another hobby. I began raising pigeons. Although I enjoyed every moment spent with my birds, I knew I had to move on. As the last bird flew into the sunset, I silently thought, “If I can love you enough to let you go, maybe you’ll love me enough to come back someday”. I had to grow up quickly, so my friend suggested I apply at the place where he worked. I was in for a shock when I realized it was “Johns Hopkins Hospital”. It didn’t occur to me until filling out the application, I was only twelve, so I listed my age as fifteen years old… but I got the job!
Upon graduating high school, I attended formerly, Maryland State College at Princess Anne, now University of Maryland Eastern Shore, majoring and graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. It was here in the summer of 1954, where life changed as I knew it. I met a fine young lady named Greta, from Berkley, Virginia outside of the dining hall. From then on, we were inseparable, despite the distance when Greta transferred to design school in Richmond, Virginia. I knew this was my soulmate, when I found myself regularly hitchhiking from the Eastern Shore to Norfolk, VA, over four years.
I knew I found the one when I sent the ring and letter by mail to her parents, asking for her hand in marriage all while stationed at Ft Jackson, SC with the US Army. Upon getting her parents’ blessings, the engagement started and the date of June 7, 1959 was set. From our union of 63 years we created four wonderful children. As a family living in various north eastern states, I was exposed to various jobs which led me to hone my skills as a photographer and ignited my civil rights advocacy, leading me back to my first true love … Photography.
I’ve lived a great life! I’ve had many amazing accomplishments: Husband, Father, film and movie projects that, if all were listed… would be various books. Oh wait… I’ve done that too. I have had 31,025 revolutions around the sun, which to you, would be 85 years of selfless service. I have lived to see all of my labors come to fruition, and I received my flowers while I was here. Through my eyes I have gained and given vision, opened doors that were closed to us for so long, the best being the National Museum of African History and Culture so come see me there and please know all is well with my soul
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