Margaret Campbell Bamberger

A memorial service for a longtime environmental activist is set for Saturday in Austin. Margaret Campbell Bamberger, 70, who died this month, first made her mark in Central Texas in the late 1970s when she helped found Central Texas Lignite Watch, which helped to thwart coal mining plans in Bastrop and Fayette counties. The service will be at 1 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, 600 E. 50th St. Bamberger died after a 41/2-year battle with lung cancer, said her daughter Margie Crisp. In 1998, she married J. David Bamberger, who parlayed a fortune made from Church's Chicken into owning a ranch dedicated to conservation work near Johnson City. At the ranch, Margaret Bamberger created award-winning educational programs about water conservation and land management for schoolchildren and university students. But long before her Hill Country work, she caught the ear of policymakers intent on mining coal east of Austin. In the early 1980s, Bamberger came up with the effective emblem of a crying cow for the "Don't Buy It" campaign, which managed to prevent the City of Austin from investing in a coal plant with the Lower Colorado River Authority that would have relied on coal mined in Fayette County, said Bill Carter, who worked with her on the campaign and now works at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The river authority abandoned plans for the mine, he said. In another effort, Central Texas Lignite Watch managed to help stop mining by the river authority in Bastrop County. "She was a good strategist who came up with an awful lot of ideas for campaigns," Carter said. A level head and a calm demeanor made her especially persuasive, said Tom Dureka, executive director of the Pines and Prairies Land Trust in Bastrop. (Some of her ink illustrations of flowers and fauna hang in the land trust's offices, Dureka said.) "In an activist organization, it helps a lot to not get strident," he said. "She had a loving aura around her." Besides her husband and Crisp, she is survived by sister Mary Greene, daughter Frances Sharp, son Chris Campbell and numerous grandchildren.

Published in Austin American-Statesman from Mar. 26 to Apr. 7, 2009