Stories by DCHS Board Members, Volunteers and Staff
© 2009 The Douglas County Historical Society



John Markoe, S.J.

  An All-American football player and graduate of West Point with Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley; a soldier who was jailed for drunkenness in a Mexican saloon and later drummed out of the Army; a lumberjack in Minnesota; a buck private in the Minnesota Guard who was called back for active duty during World War I; a Roman Catholic priest who had given up drinking and smoking but was kicked out of   St. Louis University for being a civil rights activist; a mathematics professor at Creighton University. All this describes Fr. John Markoe, S J.
  During his stay in St. Louis with his brother William, who was working with poor blacks, Fr. Markoe first realized the prejudice they faced. In Omaha he decided he could and should do something to combat the racism he saw all around. With the encouragement of a few courageous students, Fr. Markoe founded the De Porres Club in 1947. Named after a Peruvian saint of mixed ancestry, the stated purpose of the club was “to educate people to think along lines of charity and justice as regards inter-racial matters.”  After meeting the first year at Creighton, they were asked to move because they were too controversial. Several locations in North Omaha became their home.
  Although other cities in the nation became famous for racial activism, Omaha was really the first to have sit-ins at restaurants and bus boycotts. The fledgling group gained credibility when it eventually allied itself with the local chapter of the NAACP, the Omaha Urban League, and local black ministers. By the 1960s the De Porres Club was on its way out, its functions being assumed by the black power movement and the passage of civil rights laws.
Even after his retirement from teaching duties at Creighton, Father Markoe worked toward racial harmony and improved living conditions for Omaha blacks. He died July 26, 1967, but will long be remembered as a champion of social justice.

— Allen Hendricksen
DCHS Volunteer

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