Terry A. Francois in the 1960s. Public domain image.

Terry A. Francois was a civil rights lawyer who made history as chapter president for the NAACP and as the first African American man to be appointed to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1964. Although Francois earned a prominent place in the history of the Fillmore, he was originally from New Orleans. 

Francois was born in 1921 to Leona Keller and Terry Arthur Francois (Ancestry.com). Francois attended Xavier University of Louisiana to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1940. He then attended Atlanta University, graduating with a master’s degree in business administration before serving as a Platoon Sergeant for the United States Marine Corps during the Second World War (Schiller). Upon his return, he moved to Oakland where he married Marion Le Blanc. They went on to raise four sons and one daughter. One of their children, Gary Anthony Francois, grew up to be an influential San Francisco architect who worked on the Mayor’s quarters in City Hall and the international terminal in the San Francisco International Airport.

In 1949 Terry Francois moved to San Francisco and received a law degree from the University of California Hastings College of the Law (African American History in the West). After completing his studies, he established himself as a prestigious attorney and became a prominent defender of civil rights in the Western Addition. On September 15, 1963, he was arrested along with 10 others for participating in a sit-in protest against a local real estate agency for racial discrimination (Los Angeles Times). His dedication to the progression of civil rights and racial equality eventually would land him the position of president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP. Prior to inheriting this role, Francois was a valuable lawyer for the NAACP working alongside then-president Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett.

Terry Francois was a successful laywer for the NAACP, a leader in San Francisco civil rights, and the first African American member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

While acting as a lawyer for the NAACP, Francois filed lawsuits to combat discrimination against African Americans in housing, jobs, and education. He also advocated for the appointment of more black San Franciscans to public office positions (Los Angeles Times). In 1952, when Francois only had two years of legal experience, he sued the San Francisco Housing Authority over claims of racial bias in the application process for a new housing project in the case Banks v. Housing Authority of San Francisco.

Discrimination in the job market was an issue important to Francois. In frustration, he once remarked, “In San Francisco a Negro can eat almost anywhere, but will have trouble finding a job to enable him to pay for his meal” (Los Angeles Times). This dissatisfaction with the prejudice existing in the job market energized him to use his power as part of the NAACP legal team to create a fair employment practices ordinance for San Francisco in 1957 (Los Angeles Times).

One of Francois’ more celebrated achievements was his appointment by Mayor John Shelley as the very first black member of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors (Los Angeles Times). Francois served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for 14 years, from 1964 to 1978, when he resigned to return to his private law practice (SFGate).

Following a five-year struggle with cancer Francois passed away on June 9, 1989, in his San Francisco home (Halstuk). At the time he was survived by his wife of 42 years, Marion Le Blanc, as well as his five children and six grandchildren (Los Angeles Times). His legacy of living “a life of work for civil rights,” as stated in his obituary in the June 10, 1989, edition of the San Francisco Chronicle, continues to live on today. A one mile stretch of our shoreline, just south of AT&T Park (now Oracle Park) and McCovey Cove, was named Terry A. Francois Boulevard to memorialize this important community leader.

Sage Stefanick

Works Cited

“African American History in the West: Francois, Terry.” The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed. 2018.

Banks v. Housing Authority of San Francisco. 1952, p. 38.

Halstuk, Martin. “Ex-Supervisor Terry Francois Dies of Cancer.” SF Chronicle. 10 Jun 1989.

“T.A. Francois; Rights Lawyer, Ex-S.F. Supervisor.” Los Angeles Times. 11 Jun 1989.

“Terry Francois.” Ancestry.com. 2018. “Terry Francois.” FoundSF. 2018.

Schiller, Reuel. “Was Terry Francois Ahead of His Time?” Legal Blog Spot. 4 May 2015.

RootsWeb an Ancestry.com Community. “Terry Francois Ahnentafel.” Terry Francois Third Generation Cahn. 2018.

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