Fort Bend County, Texas is a county located in the United States with a rich and diverse history. It was founded in 1837 and organized the following year, and is named after a small fort on a bend in the Brazos River. The county seat is Richmond, and the largest city located entirely within the county limits is Sugar Land. Before European settlement, the area was inhabited by Karankawa Indians, and Fort Bend developed a plantation economy based on cotton as a staple crop.
The planters had numerous African-American slaves as workers. In the 1850s, Fort Bend was one of six majority-black counties in Texas. In 1860, the slave population totaled 4,127, more than double that of the 2,016 whites. Few free blacks lived there, as Texas denied them entry. While the area began to attract white immigrants in the late 19th century, it remained mostly black during and after Reconstruction. Whites strove to control freedmen and their descendants through violence and intimidation.
Freedmen and their supporters supported the Republican Party because of emancipation and chose their candidates for office. The state legislature was still predominantly white. In the 1880s, most white residents were members of the Democratic Party. Tensions between factions were fierce, as political elements were largely divided on racial grounds. The Jaybirds, who represented the majority of whites, fought to regain control of the Woodpeckers, which consisted of some whites who were consistently elected to public office by most African-Americans, since several had been Republican officials during Reconstruction.
Governor Lawrence Sullivan Ross sent militia and declared martial law. With their support, the Jaybirds ordered a list of certain Black and Woodpecker officials to leave the county, overthrowing the local government. The Jaybirds took over the county offices and established a whites-only primary school, depriving African-Americans of the county's only competitive elections. This device lasted until 1950, when Willie Melton and Arizona Fleming won a lawsuit against this practice in the United States District Court, although it was overturned on appeal. In 1953, they finally won their lawsuit when the U.
S. Supreme Court declared the Jaybird primary unconstitutional in Terry v. Adams, the last of the white primary cases. According to the United States Census Bureau, Fort Bend County has a total area of 885 square miles (2,290 km), of which 24 square miles (62 km) (2.7%) are covered by water. In terms of age distribution, 32% are under 18 years old; 7.6% are 18 to 24 years old; 32.3% are 25 to 44; 22.4% are 45 to 64; and 5.7% are 65 years or older.
The average age is 33 years old. For every 100 females there are 99.1 males; for every 100 females age 18 and over there are 96.3 males. County policy in Fort Bend County is managed by a Commissioners Court comprised of four county commissioners elected by district every ten years based on population, plus a county judge elected to represent the entire county. Other county officials include a sheriff, district attorney, assessor-tax collector, county clerk, district secretary, county treasurer and county prosecutor. The Fort Bend County Justice Center is located at 1422 Eugene Heimann Cir., with the Travis Building just east of it; there is also a Rosenberg Annex. The county's only publicly owned airport is Sugar Land Regional Airport in Sugar Land; for a complete list see Houston—The Woodlands—Sugar Land MSA. Fort Bend County Libraries manage many libraries in the county. In terms of voting patterns in recent presidential elections 54.6% voted for Democrats; 44% voted for Republicans; 1.4% voted for Independents.
Demographic expert Stephen Klinberg reports that Fort Bend County is 21% Asian; 22% African-American; 25% Latino; 33% Anglo-Saxon. Fort Bend County is also an important service area for the Houston Chronicle which provides separate local coverage for Sugar Land and Katy areas. By 1960 so few Republicans resided in Fort Bend County that their party president once received a letter addressed simply to 'Mr.'In the 1960s several communities were developed according to master plans that defined Fort Bend County's transformation from a mostly rural county dominated by railroad and oil & gas interests to a major suburban county dominated by service & manufacturing industries. With growing minority populations & more socially moderate suburban voters who tend to break Republicans on fiscal & economic issues Fort Bend County has become more competitive in recent years. After some murders were committed in 1889 political disputes culminated in a shootout at the courthouse which resulted in several deaths & expulsion of Woodpeckers from county seat. Fort Bend County also has highest percentage of Asian Americans in southern United States with largest groups being Vietnamese Chinese Indian & Filipino descent. For decades Fort Bend County was stronghold for Democratic Party having succeeded in disenfranchising blacks at county level following Jaybird-Woodpecker War. Unlike Houston metropolitan area in general Fort Bend County's economy is more diverse with numerous service sector jobs in health energy education hospitality & other sectors. Today Fort Bend County is an important political center with major issues on ballot that residents voted on Tuesday including State Rep John Zerwas' resignation as third Republican official from Fort Bend County in three weeks.