Learn the History
The New Frontier
Referred to by many as “The Queen City on the Rio Grande,” Del Rio was founded in 1868 and incorporated in November of 1911. The area grew quickly in the latter part of the 19th century. People were attracted to the wide open spaces, land and water in the region. To this day, over 90 million gallons of natural spring water flow through the area. The Black Seminoles were key members of the community, having stabilized the border town from opposing Natives, who were often involved in raids and battles before, during and shortly after the Civil War.
The Blanks/July Family
Before the Civil War ended in the 1850s and early 1860s, family patriarchs John Blanks and Sampson July migrated to Coahuila, Mexico, in search of employment and freedom from enslavement. John and his wife, Tracia, had moved to Coahuila from Central Texas in search of a better life, and Sampson had arrived in the area along with the Black Seminole Freedom Fighters. The two families’ children, Leona July and Roscoe Blanks, married in the early 1900s, and they began their married life in Del Rio, where they had 11 children and built a powerful legacy as influential early residents of this border town.
Black Seminole History
The Black Seminoles, based in Fort Clark and Camp Del Rio, were freed and runaway slaves who had served for several years with Civil War veteran John L. Bullis as their lieutenant. Their tenure in the US Military was decorated with countless battles won and lives saved from the violence that was taking place on the border through most of the 1870s. Details about these brave and courageous men and women have been passed down in oral and written history, so we know that, during their assignment, the Black Seminoles were known for their incredible tracking and survival skills under highly dangerous missions. It’s widely known that no Black Seminole lives were lost in battle during their time serving along the US border. The closeness of the family members was one of the main factors in their survival and in the successful protection of the region.
Del Rio Trailblazer
One of Leona and Roscoe’s 11 children, Sidney Blanks was the first African American to play football on a full scholarship at an integrated college or university. He would later go on to play professional football for eight years before retiring his jersey and building his own business as a sports agent, where his notable clients included his own youngest son, Lance. Sid is considered one of Del Rio's first community legends, and he credited growing up here for his success in life. His accomplishments in Texas helped pave the way for many people, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds, to follow in his footsteps.
Launchpad from the Border
Del Rio has long served as a launchpad for people who have been connected to the region and gone on to have significant impacts across the country and beyond, often in the most unlikely places under some of the most unique circumstances.