New state law will now allow property owners to remove racial deed restrictions through the courts

Outlawed decades ago, restrictions remain in deed records

SAN ANTONIO – Language from another era is still found in deed records that restrict “Negroes” and “Mexicans” from not only buying homes or property, and even where they were buried.

Although the restrictions are unenforceable, having been outlawed by the federal government, property owners who don’t want to see those racial restrictions in their property deeds, can have them removed through the courts under a new state law.

“Those prohibitions, even though declared unconstitutional, still remain of record,” said State Sen. Royce West of Dallas, a co-sponsor of what began as bill SB 30.

West said the reason for his legislation was “to clean up the records.”

To do that, Bexar County Clerk Lucy Adame-Clark said it must first be approved by a judge.

“You cannot just file directly with the county clerk and expect it to be removed,” she said.

Adame-Clark said it’s not up to her office to decide what should be altered or removed.

As the county clerk, Adame-Clark said her responsibility is to record every legal and historical document.

“It has to be recorded how it was written for us to learn what took place historically back when,” she said. “But now, because legislation has put in place for some changes, we have to follow the law.”

However, she said records at the Bexar County Clerk’s Office already have a trailer document attached that reads, “Any provision here in which restricts the sale of use or use of the described real property because of race is invalid and unenforceable under federal law.”

However, Adame-Clark said the legislation doesn’t specify how to physically remove the discriminatory language without damaging old deed records. She said she and other county clerks hope to get clarification at the upcoming legislative conference of the Texas Association of Counties, starting Sept. 1, when the law takes effect.

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.