Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Eleanor Tinsley Thought Houston Was Important


It can be difficult to take Houston seriously. Our  people and elected leaders often do not seem to feel the place has much value. The population is transient—of course a lot of the transience has to do with the need to make a living—voter turnout in city elections is low, poverty is accepted as simply part of Houston’s natural condition, there’s little sense of history, and the few civic-minded citizens sometimes don’t seem to care about the place outside of the inner-core of the 610 loop.

For all these reasons, I read with some interest the obituary of former school board member and Houston city councilmember Eleanor Tinsley. Ms. Tinsley died on February 10 at age 82. This was a person who seemedto really believe  that Houston was important.

(Above–Ms. Tinsley watching a billboard being torn down in January of this year.  Ms. Tinsley despised billboards.) 

From her obituary in the Houston Chronicle–

“The former Houston school board chair and city councilwoman died of cancer…. at 82, a dozen days after she was honored at a fundraising luncheon for the local branch of Planned Parenthood. There, she told the audience why friends frequently brought her turtle-shaped objects from around the world. Turtles were her personal symbol, she said, because they only get things done when they stick out their necks.

The critics who portrayed Tinsley as the raging queen of liberal causes, government over-reaching and the “nanny state” were hardly the most venomous of her enemies. Unidentified people threw grease, garbage and black roses on her southwest Houston lawn during school integration in the early 1970s, friends and former aides recalled Tuesday. Death threats forced city officials to remove her name from a reserved City Hall parking space in the early 1980s as she pushed for fluoridization of the east side water supply.”

If Ms. Tinsley could risk all that harassment over integrating Houston’s schools, why do we accept our city leaders today who are silent on so many basic questions of quality of life and social justice?

However, since I can only control my actions, maybe the message of Ms. Tinsley’s life is that I should take Houston more seriously despite it’s many many flaws and absurdities.

I’ll think that issue over.

February 21, 2009 - Posted by | Houston, Politics | , ,


  1. I thought and thought about where I had heard the name Eleanor Tinsley before and I just got it–the Eleanor Tinsley park!

    Some of your posts are very informative. Now I know were the park gets its name from. And i’m glad it’s named after such a wonderful person.

    Comment by Saleema | February 22, 2009

  2. The funeral for CM Tinsley was very moving. She did so
    much–the rest of us should be challenged by her. It was an honor to know her.

    Comment by Melissa | February 22, 2009

  3. Sounds like she was a great woman. Thanks for giving me that snippet on her.

    Comment by Texas Employment Attorney | February 23, 2009

  4. Saleema & Melissa–Thanks for these comments. Ms. Tinsley did her best for Houston.

    Comment by Neil Aquino | February 26, 2009

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