Willie Mae Kirk

Feb 10, 2021 - 2:55 pm

Mrs. Willie Mae "Ankie" Kirk (1921-2013)  was a consummate humanitarian and two two key ideas within her personal philosophy drove her work in the community: the belief in "the worth and dignity of each individual" and her firm stance that "if you have anything at all, you have something to share." 

She began teaching in 1947 after attending and graduating from Old Anderson High School and Sam Huston College (Huston-Tillotson Univ) in 1947. She taught elementary education until she retired in 1982. She later accomplished her graduate work in education at Prairie View College and the University of Texas here in Austin. 

Kirk worked with other community members and leaders to heal racial tensions and to find ways to promote social justice and create quality education in Austin. 

She was a co-founder of the 1963-1964 Mothers Action Council, a timely and controversial local civil rights movement and collaborated with other citizens and community leaders on different FRONTS to heal racial tensions and promote social justice and education in Austin. 

In 1968 the Austin City Council appointed Mrs. Kirk to its first Human Rights Commission. After the race riot resulting from attempts to desegregate businesses in the UT area, she served on a committee to deal with the 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 order to save the Carver Library, Austin's first branch library, Mrs. Kirk lead fundraising and supported a bond initiative that saved it from demolition. 

Staying active in the community for her entire life, she supported her Alma Mater, Huston-Tillotson University, was 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. 

She earned the respect of state and local leaders working from many spheres of society, political, educational, non-profit, and religious institutions. 

And in October 2012 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.