This time last week no one had entered the race for Orange City Council Dist. 3. That became a call to action for one notable member of the Orange community. When she realized no one had filed in her district Essie Bellfield decided to throw her hat in the ring. “Well, I know I can get in there and do something to help the community,” she said. Her goal is “to make Orange a better place to live in; in every respect.”

Former city councilwoman and former Orange Mayor, Bellfield felt compelled to enter the race since no one had signed up.

First she had to consult a map to make sure she lived in District 3. This is the first time the city council is made up of districts, formerly all seats were at large positions, but that was recently changed to ensure the black community had representation. It is a change that Bellfield was against. “I think that was wrong, wrong, wrong,” she said. “I don’t represent black people, I represent people, white and black and I don’t ever want to represent just the black people, that’s not important, you represent people.”

Bellfield will soon turn 80. In those 80 years, she has done everything she has wanted to do except one. She still wants to go to Moscow. This vibrant senior stays active, “Death is going to have to catch me, I’m not going to sit around and wait on him.”

Tuesday she was honored with the “Outstanding Black Woman Award” by West Orange-Stark High School during their Black History Month Celebration. It is just one of over 300 awards she has received in her lifetime. Sunday she received an award for 60 years of membership at Salem United Methodist Church in Orange.

Most notably, Bellfield was the first woman and first African-American to become mayor of Orange. Before that, she was the first black woman to join the Orange City Council. She is a founder of the Orange Community Action Association and Orange Christian Service and is a charter member of Project Care.

During her tenure as mayor, the playground was built a Lions Park. She also built the fire station located on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

She has worked with the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life’ and “Feed My Children” organizations.

“I was born May 6, 1932 at 3 o’clock in the morning,” said the former mayor. “I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., but I didn’t get a birth certificate until I was 12 and it’s got Jennings, La. on it.” She had to get a birth certificate to play basketball.

Her other specialty in school was orations. “Oh I used to could really, really speak, but now I don’t remember nothing.”The only thing I can remember was one little play we had called ‘The Button.’” She began to recite, “Oh is that a button which I see before me? Come, let me clutch thee.”

Bellfield has also been a member of the Orange Community Players, participating in the cast of “Raisin in the Sun” and “The Miracle Worker.” She also directed a play titled “Old Maids” as president of the PTA when her children were in school.

As a young woman, she attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA; Lamar University, Orange; University of Michigan and the University of Houston.

Her years in the workforce were spent in the office of executive housekeeping at UTMB in Galveston and Orange Memorial Hospital. She has employed over 300 people while in that position.

Recently she attended the International Housekeeping Association convention held in Las Vegas. She was honored as the longest member present with 51 years of membership. “I was the first black from the State of Texas,” she said. “I got a standing ovation from all those people.”

Bellfield still believes in old time ways of doing some things, such as setting a proper table. “If you come to a dinner at my house, you’re going to have three glasses, one for water, one for wine and one for tea.”

She also crosses her legs at the ankle and doesn’t wear pants except to exercise in. She doesn’t think there is anything wrong with a woman wearing pants; she just doesn’t think they suit her body style. Don’t let these gentile mannerisms fool you. Bellfield is very matter-of-fact and will tell you like it is.

“All my life I’ve been very independent.” Bellfield said she will run for the two-year term and if necessary, she will reapply after her term expires.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.