Former Councilmember Eleanor Tinsley dies

February 10, 2009 5:00:48 PM PST
City leaders are saying their goodbyes to a woman many Houstonians recognize as a person who made this city a better place to live. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Eleanor Tinsley passed away Tuesday morning of natural causes. She leaves behind a long legacy of service to the public.

She was among the first generation of woman who were elected to citywide political office in the late 70's. There were Eleanor Tinsley, Christin Hartung and Kathy Whitmire, who would trade up from city controller to mayor.

Ms. Tinsley appeared mild-mannered but she was passionate about Houston's quality of life and women's issues. It was she who convinced the city to adopt the gender neutral term city council members.

In a world of men, she stood out despite her petite size and soft voice. But if you overlooked Eleanor Tinsley, you would lose.

"They cannot be sold, cigarettes to people under 18, and we're not enforcing that and we should," she said back in a Houston city council meeting years ago.

She first served on the HISD school board in the time of desegregation and creation of the Houston Community College, which has grown into a major gateway from junior college to four-year universities.

In 1979, Ms. Tinsley took a seat at the Houston city council table, elected city wide to an at-large council office. There, she launched the smoking ordinance for public places that stands today. There are fewer billboards on Houston roadways because of the visual pollution ordinance she wrote. And there are more places for children to play because of the spark parks she created.

"I would say to people and say in front of her because I meant it, 'As a political person, when I grow up, I want to be like Eleanor Tinsley,'" said friend Vince Ryan. "Because she did the most with the highest level of integrity, innovative, creative, tenaciousness and at all times still being gracious."

Ms. Tinsely stayed engaged with the issues she cared about until the end, leaving behind an imprint on the city and the people she loved, who today are grieving.

"She gave to green space and to better quality of life and I want us to take a moment of silence and remember her and her family and to dedicate this meeting to her memory," said Harris County Commissioner Sylvia Garcia today.

Ms. Tinsley's funeral will be held Saturday at Houston's South Main Baptist Church.

MORE: Read Dr. Richard Murray's blog on the life of Eleanor Tinsley

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