quiz: who was the first black city council member? If you said
Berl Handcox, you are not looking far enough into the past.
black city council member took office on February
1, 1871, when reconstructionist Governor E.J. Davis reorganized
the council and appointed shoemaker Henry Green Madison (1843-1912),
from Ward 5, as an alderman. Madison's occupations included
farm laborer, shoemaker, and policeman. The first
elected black city council member was William G.
Wilson, from Ward 10, who served as alderman from 1883 to 1884
and who was later the principal at East Austin Public School.
By the way, Berl L. Handcox was the first elected black city
council member under the Manager-Council form of government.
Photo of Henry Green Madison courtesy of the George Washington
Carver Museum and Cultural Center.
was 1948. A woman in Austin could vote, but she could not serve
on a jury; she could not enter into a contract; she could not
bring a suit in her own name. Despite this situation, in 1948
Emma Long became the first
woman city council member -- also the first woman
to be elected to any major city council in the state. She served
on the council for over 16 years; during her 1967-1969 term
she was Austin's first
woman Mayor Pro Tem. Personal adversities did not
thwart her desire to serve in public office: the first time
she ran for council, her youngest son was 6 weeks old; when
she filed for her race in 1963, she was confined to a wheelchair
with a broken hip.
"…the Establishment said [we like] to have Emma Long
[on the council] because she lets us know what is going on at
City Hall, and she keeps [the Council] honest, but we wouldn't
like to have 5 of her." Emma Long interview with Joe O'Neal,
June 10, 1974.
"To my knowledge she has always been completely honest,
and honesty means frankness which can sometimes be painful,
depending on where you are standing. But you always knew exactly
where Councilwoman Long stood…and sometimes it was on your
neck." Cactus Pryor, Austin American-Statesman,
April 13, 1969.
27 years old, John Trevino became the first
paid "anti-poverty" worker at Austin's
first neighborhood center, The East 1st Neighborhood Center.
In 1975, he became the first
Hispanic city council member. In 1978, by selection
of his fellow council members, he became the first
Hispanic Mayor Pro Tem. As if that weren't enough
firsts, he became the first
Hispanic mayor of Austin for three months after the
resignation of Carole Keeton Rylander in February of 1983. Trevino
served on the city council for 13 years.
decided to run for mayor because I've always had the feeling
that I really like to be where the action is." Carole Keeton
Rylander, the first
woman mayor of Austin, ran for office in 1977 against
nine male candidates. Besides that first, she was the first
woman to be President of the Austin School Board,
Austin mayor elected to three terms, and the first
Austin mayor to be the President of the Texas Municipal League.
Rylander's interest in public office may have begun when whe
was young and her father, Dean of the University of Texas Law
School for twenty-five years, would give her "bedtime cases"
instead of bedtime stories.