80 Over Eighty Honoree – Wilhelmina Delco
Wilhelmina Delco has been a fixture in the Austin community since she settled here over 60 years ago. She is a champion for education and credits her mother with instilling this in her, saying, “My mother felt that education was the only thing nobody could take away from you.” Wilhelmina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee where she met her husband of 66 years.
She started her involvement in education through her children’s PTA and soon was the first African American elected to public office in Austin, Texas as an at large member of the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees in 1968. She went on to influence higher education policy as Chair of the House Higher Education Committee and served 20 years in the Texas House of Representatives. Her election in 1974 was the first time an African American was elected at large in Travis County. She was also a founding board member of the Board of Trustees of Austin Community College and later taught as an adjunct professor of education at the University of Texas. She was inducted in to the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986.
In her portrait, Wilhelmina stands in front of the Texas African American History Memorial on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol that was sculpted by Ed Dwight and depicts Juneteenth. She is passionate about the symbolism the artist captured in this majestic piece of Texas art.
Wilhelmina remains active today, swimming every morning at the YMCA and traveling with her husband and family. For the last five years, they’ve enjoyed an annual Soul Train cruise tradition and have already booked their trip for 2020. She encourages all of us to actively participate in our community saying, “This grand American experiment with democracy is not immune to prevailing political pressures or the stresses of time. For it to stay intact we must each raise our voice together, be active in our communities, churches and halls of government. This is our democracy — and we must fight to make it work for each of us. For without liberty and justice for all, there is liberty and justice for none.”
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Photo by Annie Ray – annieraycreative.com; Instagram – @annieraydotnet