2019 - 2020 Oral histories

Dr. Pat Beckham is a proud graduate of Baylor University and Baylor Medical School. He practiced plastic and reconstructive surgery in Austin for more than 48 years but he is perhaps best known as one of the founders of Austin Smiles, a nonprofit organization, which has made over 100 trips to Mexico and Central America providing free cleft lip and palate surgery for more than 6000 children.

Sinclair Black, widely recognized expert in urban design, architecture, and community advocacy projects, added to his oral history interview by sharing his “private conspiracies” for making Austin a better place through his work. Projects and developments Black references include the Academy House, the Bicentennial Commission’s Austin Creeks book, the AMLI building (one of the first successful revitalization projects of downtown), the first Central Market, and the Seaholm project.

A sixth-generation Texan and running back for the University of Texas, Terry Boothe had the good fortune to grow up on a farm along Onion Creek with a view of McKinney Falls. His lifelong love for Texas began there. He collected Texas antiques from the time he was a young man, eventually purchasing five buildings on East Sixth St. He was an early participant in the effort to revitalize downtown Austin and helped establish the Texas Heritage Songwriter’s Association. Boothe now lives in Bee Cave on the land once owned by his great aunt. His interview was filmed in the "Lonesome Dove Saloon" on the property.

Carrielu Byram Christensen attended Austin High School, Hollins College, and completed her B.A. in English and French at UT. She began doing volunteer work for the Junior League by giving art lectures in public schools and has continued volunteering on boards of many organizations, including Friends of the Governor’s Mansion, the Texas Historical Commission, and the Austin Heritage Society. After years of advising friends on home décor, Christensen set up an interior design business in 1990.

Wilhelmina Delco, her husband, and four children settled in Austin in 1952. She remembers how segregationist customs complicated everyday life, including the seemingly simple act of buying her children’s shoes. Her desire to make life better for her children motivated her career in public service. Delco rose from PTA president, to school trustee as the first African American elected to office in Austin. She served 10 terms in the House of Representatives as the first African American elected at-large in Travis County. Since her retirement, she remains an active force in education.

Betty Dunkerley was in her late 40s when she came to Austin, but she quickly made her mark, first as finance director for the City of Austin, then later as a member of the Austin City Council. She was known as the go- to person, the “finagler” who could take what officials dreamed up and figure out a way to make it happen. In retirement now, Betty stays busy in her adopted home of Bastrop, gardening and volunteering in myriad organizations.

Growing up in the early days of school busing, Harrison Eppright developed a love for books that fed his life-long learning, which was enhanced through his career with the library. He has an amazing memory and recalls prolific details of his life, the history of East Austin, and the world from the 1950s to the present. For the past 27 years, Harrison has been the face of the Austin Visitor’s Center and Visit Austin. 

Whit Hanks comes from a family that’s been in Austin almost as long as it has existed. He recalls Sunday dinners (and sherry) at Sunny Ridge, a family home now the site of Hancock Center. He tells of his ancestors, childhood, being trained by his father in real estate investment, his days as a real estate developer, his architectural antique business, and his career evolving to the hospitality industry.

Mike Edgar spent his youth in the Deep Eddy neighborhood and Deep Eddy pool. He recalls watching Lorena Carver, dressed in a scarlet bathing suit, and her horses, Snow and Lightning, slide off a 40-foot tower into an 11-foot pool to the wonder and amusement of the crowds. Edgar shares memories of his career as a dentist, the wonders of golf, and his views on the changes affecting Austin.

Margaret Moore, former Travis County District Attorney, has deep Texas roots. She shares memories of childhood and family, especially of her late father, who inspired her distinguished career as a lawyer and public servant. Moore also describes her involvement in the Austin music scene, beginning in the late 1960s. She accompanied Janis Joplin to her 10-year high school reunion in Port Arthur only months before her untimely death, which is a fascinating story.

After finishing college and landing an advanced-technology job, Ronny Mack arrived in Austin in 1984. He went on to create a large portion of the city’s telecommunications infrastructure, the foundation for the major tech hub the city has become. Mack also was instrumental in creating the Austin Music Network and “The Live Music Capital of The World” brand that’s now recognized worldwide.

Ladd Pattillo grew up a country boy. He descended from German families that emigrated to the hill country in Texas during the mid-1800s and settled in the areas we now know as River Place, Avery Ranch, Spicewood Springs Road and Anderson Lane. Pattillo became involved in the military during the Vietnam era and rose to become deputy assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. With a distinguished military, public and community service career, he considers his most important job in life being a father.

Sam Sparks, judge of the U.S. District Court for Western District of Texas, is an Austin native and was an athlete, scholar, and campus leader at UT. On finishing law school, he moved to El Paso and successfully practiced law for many years, returning to Austin as a federal judge to cap his legal career. Well known for carrying heavy dockets of cases, Judge Sparks states, “God's first, family second, and the third is doing what you wanna do.”

Roy Spence is cofounder and chairman of GSD&M, a leading marketing communications and advertising company. Spence and three of his friends at UT started the agency, which has helped grow some of the world's most successful brands. GSD&M has evolved into a visionary company with core values that go beyond making money. Presently, “Reverend Roy” is also cofounder and CEO of the Purpose Institute, a consulting firm that helps people and organizations discover and live their purpose.

Growing up on New York Ave. in East Austin, Thomas Clifton Van Dyke was surrounded by family and neighbors that inspired his love of education and music. He remembers the many landmarks and favorite neighborhood spots, now gone, as well lessons he learned from his childhood mentors and role-models. He also movingly expresses his love for his wife, children and grandchildren. Van Dyke has a lifetime of distinguished service to the Austin community, including as the first African American to hold the positions of Travis County Deputy District Clerk and UT Assistant Director of Admissions.