This paper concerns the life of Norris Wright Cuney (1846-1898), a Negro who became contracting stevedore on the Galveston wharves, collector of customs, alderman on the Galveston City Council, and a principal leader of the Republican party in Texas from 1884 to 1896. His leadership of the party in Texas covered a period when the party was declining from its Reconstruction heights and it was largely controlled by Negroes. Cuney, through his leadership and organizational abilities welded the Negroes into a coherent force, making it possible for them to dominate the party after 1884. Although the Republican party was not able to win elections on the state level, the Negroes used it to give a political voice against racial prejudice and violations of civil rights -- a stronger voice than they would have had in the Democratic party. Cuney made his way up in Republican party ranks after the Civil War and during Radical Reconstruction in Texas under Governor Edmund J. Davis. He acquired more power in the party after Davis' death in 1883, when the whites were divided and the Negroes especially willing to follow a man of their own color. Cuney's power in the party reached its apogee when he was collector of customs between 1888 and 1892. In some ways, Cuney was a precursor of today's Negro leaders. He would not push for legislated social equality, but he did demand equal job opportunities for himself as well as other Negroes, equal educational opportunities, and equal social benefits for Negroes. Coney's life is an interesting study because he gained power when most other Negroes in the South had lost theirs. His life might be viewed as a transition between the relative freedom accorded Negroes during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow period of the early twentieth century. The Jim Crow laws of the 1890s in Texas, the increased violence toward Negroes, and the lily-white movement in the Texas Republican party were reflections of a trend throughout the South and the United States as a whole. The Negro was not to see a revival of political power on any significant scale until the Franklin Roosevelt era.