Willie Mae KIRK

KIRK, Willie Mae

Mrs. Willie Mae "Ankie" Kirk was born in Manor, Texas February 4, 1921. She lived in Austin, Texas and died September 21, 2013 at the age of 92. Mrs. Kirk was a consummate humanitarian. Numerous awards, special honors, recognitions for lifetime achievements, and letters of commendation document her more than 50 years of philanthropy in the Austin community. Her expansive personal philosophy embraced two main visions for humanity; the first was her belief in "the worth and dignity of each individual," and the second was her firm commitment that "if you have anything at all, you have something to share." Arising from these bedrock values, Mrs. Kirk's leadership and civic service in Austin ensured her position as one of the most beloved elders in the community. Mrs. Kirk attended and graduated from the original/segregated "Old Anderson High School." In 1947 she earned a B.S. Degree in Social Science at Sam Huston College (now Huston-Tillotson University). She began her career as a certified public school teacher in 1947 and taught elementary education until her retirement in 1982. While attending Sam Huston, Willie Mae met and married Lee Andrew Kirk of San Antonio. They had four children. She accomplished graduate work in education at Prairie View College and the University of Texas at Austin. She encouraged her children to be involved in public service and was pleased that Saundra, Connie, and Lee each became involved in various civic capacities. She was especially proud of her son Ron, who accomplished a political career that has spanned being Governor Ann Richard's Texas Secretary of State, a two-term Dallas Mayor, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and President Barack Obama's appointee to his Cabinet as the United States Trade Representative. Willie Kirk frequently collaborated with other involved citizens and community leaders on many fronts to heal racial tensions, and to promote social justice and quality education in Austin. She was a co-founder of the 1963-1964 Mothers Action Council, a timely and controversial local civil rights movement. In 1968 the Austin City Council appointed Mrs. Kirk to its first Human Rights Commission. Representing this membership, she served on an ad hoc committee to deal with a race riot that resulted from attempts to desegregate businesses in the University of Texas area. Austin Mayor Jeffrey Friedman appointed her to the Library Commission in 1971. In recognition of the Carver Library as Austin's first branch library, Mrs. Kirk spearheaded a funding drive and supported a bond initiative that resulted in the victory that saved it from demolition. In March 1976, the City approved funding for the architectural design and building of a new 10,000 square foot library adjacent to the existing building, concurrent with the remodeling of the original building as a museum and historic landmark. Willie Mae was a passionate supporter of her beloved Alma Mater, Huston-Tillotson University, a lifelong member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an active member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and a founding member of the Town Lake Chapter of The Links, Inc. She was also a member of Jack & Jill of America, the National Council of Negro Women, Girl Scouts of America, W.H. Passon Historical Society, and organizer of the Washington Heights/Holy Cross Neighborhood Club. Through affiliations within these and other networks, she earned the respect of a wide spectrum of state and local leaders of political, educational, non-profit, and religious institutions. Her final honor came in October 2012 when the City of Austin recognized her collective achievements with the naming and dedication of the Willie Mae Kirk Library (formerly Oak Springs) in East Austin. Willie Mae was predeceased by her 13 siblings, her beloved husband, Lee Andrew Kirk, Sr. (1982) and a son, Lee Andrew, Jr. (2004). She is lovingly remembered and her legacy cherished by her surviving children: Victoria Saundra Kirk, Connie Jo Kirk, and Ronald Kirk (Matrice); four granddaughters, six great grandchildren, and a host of friends and former students. In lieu of flowers, you may donate in her name to: Huston-Tillotson University, or The Church of the New Testament, Austin, Texas.

Published in Austin American-Statesman from Oct. 3 to Oct. 4, 2013