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The Austin History Center Association was formed in a small group meeting convened by Sue McBee in September 1979, to establish a home for the Austin-Travis County Collection, which had been created beginning around 1954 by Katherine Drake Hart. The organization was incorporated with the Secretary of State of Texas on January 25, 1980 as the Austin History Center Guild (later Association) and received IRS tax exemption as a 501(c)(3) in January 1980. Its central objectives were to secure the retired, but architecturally significant, 1933 Austin Central Library building for the Austin-Travis County Collection and rename it the Austin History Center. This was achieved by resolution of the Austin City Council in 1980. The members of AHCA raised an estimated $6 million in 2020 dollars for initial renovations and furnishings that included a photo lab, library staff training in archival curation, and general fundraising for critical needs and staffing.


After extensive renovation, the building that had served as the site of Austin’s the first permanent library reopened in March 1983 as the Austin History Center. Since then, the AHC has remained at this site, and the support of AHCA has continued for the last four decades and expanded to include aggressive advocacy, when needed, to communicate the vital role AHC plays in the present and future of the city. Past archival directors of AHC have stated that without the work, financial support and advocacy of the AHCA on city budgets, bond initiatives and acquisition of important collections, the AHC might not have survived.


Below are key dates in the history of the AHC and the AHCA.

Sue Brandt McBee

Co-founder, AHCA

  • 1979—Meeting on the future of the 1933 Austin Library building called by Sue McBee. Austin City Council recognizes the creation of the Austin History Center Guild, later to become the AHCA.

  • 1980—Austin History Center Guild incorporated; City Council changes name of Old Main Library to Austin History Center.

  • 1981—IRS grants Austin History Center Guild 501(c) 3 status retroactive to January 1980.

  • 1982—Organization now known as AHCA honors Judge Trueman O’ Quinn for gift of O’Henry Collection to AHC; first AHCA Newsletter published.

  • 1983—Great Gold Gala held at Driskill Hotel by AHCA to mark the reopening of the Austin History Center after renovations and refurnishing funded by AHCA efforts; $33,000 raised and $5,000 dedicated to creating endowment at Austin Community Foundation.

  • 1984—AHCA funds restoration of decorative ceiling painting of 9th Street loggia & supports bond election for exterior restoration of AHC and in-house photo lab.

  • 1985—Evening with Tony Bennett fundraiser attracts 500 attendees, raising $20,000. AHCA hires part-time Executive Director Nancy Busbey.

  • 1986—Year-long fundraising drive led by Dealey Herndon and Charles Betts raises $100,000 to furnish in-house photo lab at AHC.

  • 1987—As part of photo lab fundraiser, AHCA hosts 100-person black tie gala, “Evening at the Center.”

  • 1988—Dedication ceremony for new AHC landscaping, provided by AHCA as a gift to mark the city’s 150th birthday.

  • 1989—AHCA acquires 25-year-old Waterloo Press from Library Foundation; co-sponsors Saltillo-Austin exhibit on roles people of two cities played in history of Texas and Austin; hosts exhibit on 150 years of music in Austin.

  • 1990—Efforts and funding for oral histories are enhanced by donations and workshop.

  • 1991—AHCA creates the Katherine Drake Hart History Preservation Award; Sue McBee first honoree; creates a Life Membership-Wilmot & Hallie Horton first Life Members.

  • 1992—AHCA backs $2.5M bond election to renovate AHC electrical, plumbing, HVAC and retrofit basement; membership rises to 34.

  • 1993—With leadership of AHCA, AHC receives designation on National Register of Historic Places and Texas Historic Register; AHCA creates $500 Corporate Membership.

  • 1994—Oral History Project documents Mexican American Business & Professional Women’s 20-year history.

  • 1995—AHC closes to allow work to bring the building up to city code.

  • 1996—AHCA partners with several UT professors on a 5-year oral history project focusing on Mexican American history, including Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church.

  • 1997—AHCA linkage with APL Foundation is formalized through acts by boards of directors.

  • 1998—AHCA supports plan to build new Central Library and converting John Henry Faulk building for AHC expansion; leads successful citizen campaign to PREVENT de-funding of AHC in city budget.

  • 1999—Audray Bateman Randle Lecture Series begins; Austin Community Foundation begins funding Oral History projects - 47 interviews transcribed; Waterloo Press publishes 5th book since 1990.

  • 2000—Assists AHC in adding a Neighborhood Liaison staff for Mexican America Outreach.

  • 2001— Sue McBee hosts 20th Anniversary Luncheon of AHCA at Headliners Club; Sharmyn Lilly hired as AHCA Executive Director; AHCA helps fund new shelf system for AHC; hosts fundraiser “Gifts of the Magi” at Paramount Theatre.

  • 2002—AHCA and Waterloo Press produce Travis County Slave Narrative, a documentary film, for community distribution; raise $485,000 for interactive digital DVD history, Austin Past and Present.

  • 2003—Waterloo Press DVD development of Austin Past and Present continues, becoming a 3-year project finished in 2004. 

  • 2004—Eberly Event begins as a small breakfast at the Chateau Bellevue.

  • 2005—AHCA begins active participation in the National Blue Belly Oral History Project. 

  • 2007—Mike Miller becomes City Archivist with APL and manager of AHC.

  • 2008— Jeff Cohen hired temporarily to assist AHCA in financial crisis of 2009-10.

  • 2009—AHCA raises $50,000 for AHC to purchase the Pease Papers Collection.

  • 2010—Waterloo Press publishes first book in years by Dr. Jeffrey Kerr; Eberly Luncheon is revived.

  • 2011—AHCA Founder Sue McBee dies; AHCA establishes the George Attal Memorial Exhibit Fund with $17,000.

  • 2012—AHCA launches website and supports Exhibit on the First Century of African-Americans in Travis County; advocates for successful bond election for AHC.

  • 2013—Waterloo Press publishes Faces of Philanthropy; vision begins to emerge of a campus combining the AHC and Faulk buildings after new Central Library opens in 2018. 

  • 2014—AHCA website redesigned for online processing of book sales and membership; first Spring Fling held.

  • 2015—AHCA hosts the “first-ever” meeting of the newly-elected 10-district, 1-mayor City Council and former Austin mayors, who share wisdom on what to expect in assuming the position on the City Council; Waterloo Press publishes first book by noted local historical reporter Michael Barnes.

  • 2016—AHCA collects the oral histories of all nine living former mayors; Eberly Brigade membership level created; new Emergency Fund Endowment created. 

  • 2017—AHCA assists AHC in securing a Digital Archivist.

  • 2018—AHCA successful advocates for $16.5M in November election for code upgrade and renovations of the Faulk and AHC respectively.

  • 2019—New membership record set at end of fiscal year: 531 members, including first 3 Life Members since 1991; record financial year in revenue; membership events at Dirty’s Hamburgers, the Castle, and Millet Opera House; AHCA helps AHC by serving as fiscal agent for grants of $25,000 and $180,000, part of which funded AHC intern.

  • 2020—Katherine Drake Hart Award revived after 13 years and awarded to Dr. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez; COVID 19 impacts all programs.


 18 Quick Facts about AHCA

  1. AHCA is not the Austin History Center (AHC).

  2. Austin History Center is a department of the Austin Public Library; AHC staff are city employees.

  3. AHCA had 515 members in good standing at May 31, 2020.

  4. The annual AHCA operational budget is in excess of $240,000.

  5. There are two staff supporting all the activities of AHCA along with college interns.

  6. The office of AHCA is open 10 am to 6 pm and is located in O’Henry Room of the AHC.

  7. The original members of AHCA were the FOUNDERS of the Austin History Center.

  8. AHCA owns Waterloo Press, which has published seven books since 2010.

  9. AHCA sponsors the annual Austin Angelina Eberly Luncheon.

  10. AHCA is the leading local organization contributing oral histories to AHC.

  11. AHCA operates a small book store in the O’Henry Room of AHC. 

  12. The IRS granted AHCA 501 (c) 3 tax exempt status in 1980.

  13. The two living founders of AHCA are Martha Hartzog and Bob Coffee.

  14. AHCA has a website where membership renewal is available 24/7 with any credit card.

  15. For members at the $100 level and above, AHCA offers a monthly payment option.

  16. AHCA has presence on social media through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

  17. A $100 Level member can list two people; $250 and above can list three people in AHCA.

  18. Membership fees and the Eberly Luncheon are the principle sources of revenue for AHCA.


1981  -  1982                               Dick and Sara Rathgeber
1982  -  1983                              Sue Brandt McBee
1983  -  1984                              Louis R. Brill
1984  -  1985                              Harvey R Herbst
1985  -  1986                              Dealey Herndon
1986  -  1987                              Stacie Nicholson
1987  -  1988                              Elizabeth Ann Morrow
1988  -  1989                              Edgar P. Van De Vort
1989  -  1990                              Binnie Hoffman
1990  -  1992                              Whit Hanks
1992  -  1993                              Valerie Violi Meddaugh
1993  -  1995                              Bruce D. Jensen
1995  -  1997                              Barbara Hankins
1997  -  1999                              Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza 
1999  -  2001                              Sharmyn Lilly
2001  -  2003                             Jon A. Mergele
2003  -  2005                            John-Michael Cortez
2005  -  2006                            Peter Flagg Maxson
2006  -  2008                            Chris Riley
2008  -  2009                            Dale Flatt
2009  -  2010                             Nancy Bowman
2010  -  2011                               Dale Flatt
2011  -  2012                               Lynn Cooksey
2012  -  2013                              Ann Dolce
2013  -  2014                              Evan Taniguchi
2014  -  2015                              Beth Fowler
2015  -  2019                              Charles Betts
2019  -  2021                              Lee Cooke

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