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Mrs. Willie Mae (Ankie) Kirk

Memorial for Mrs. Willie Mae (Ankie) Kirk

Born in Manor, Texas on Feb. 4, 1921
Departed on Sep. 28, 2013 and resided in Austin, TX.
Visitation: Friday, Oct. 4, 2013
1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Service: Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013
11:00 am
Cemetery: Evergreen Cemetery
Please click on the links above for locations, times, maps, and directions.

Mrs. Willie Mae "Ankie" 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.

Willie Mae Kirk and her twin brother, Willie B. were born next to the youngest child in a large family that thrived on a farm outside of Manor. Both of her parents, Henry and Sarah Jones, were kind-hearted, generous people who acted on their concerns for the well-being of their neighbors and friends. They held excellent reputations for being faithful members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Manor, and they were the "go-to" people for those in need. Although both parents died while Willie Mae was still a child, her entire family of 14 siblings carried that Jones legacy of being willing care givers through-out their lives.

Because her mother had died when she was only six years old, following the death of her father in 1936, two older sisters brought Willie Mae to live in Austin. She 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.

It was natural for her, raised within the identity of a large family and its community, to understand the importance of fitting-in and contributing wherever she went. So, Mrs. Kirk continuously reached out to help those in her immediate environment. She performed countless acts of compassion providing personal assistance to neighbors, friends, students and their families, the East Austin homeless, and even traveling musicians. Beginning in the 1940s when the Kirks bought their first home, until 2007, when the need arose, a total of about 20 people lived with them. Friends often teased that Willie Mae was "a one-woman social service agency."

From the example of their parents, each of her children continues this family legacy of public service and political involvement. She encouraged her children to be involved in service and was pleased that Saundra, Connie, and Lee 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 a Cabinet position as the United States Trade Representative.

Civic Involvement
Mrs. Kirk's community grew and so did her sphere of altruism and influence. 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 Willie Mae Kirk to the Library Commission in 1971. In 1972, the Director of Libraries sent a resolution to the City Council concluding that the Carver Library that served African Americans in East Austin was substandard and should be demolished, or removed and replaced with a mobile unit on Rosewood Avenue. Mrs. Kirk organized the East Austin community's opposition to this proposal.

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. 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. The City assured Carver Museum's preservation by approving its landmark designation with historic zoning.

Mrs. Kirk was a member of the Library Commission until 1983. During her 12 years as a commissioner, she was a champion for branch libraries, particularly those in East Austin. Willie Kirk worked tirelessly to resolve problems in order to improve facilities, staffing inequities, and unsafe conditions on library premises. She also promoted policy changes that made it easier and more convenient for the public to use branch libraries.

She was a dynamic school teacher whose students, their families, and her fellow teachers benefitted from her generous spirit, open-handed giving, and kind understanding. Each year before the end of the term, she provided a very popular treat for her fifth grade students; she prepared homemade ice cream that they could turn in her manual freezer. From the 1950s through 2009, Willie Kirk voiced concerns during many appearances before the Board of the Austin Independent School District (AISD). She chaired a Parent/Teacher's Association committee to deal with a 1971 race related riot on the Reagan High School campus. And later, AISD invited her to participate in a review of its "1979 Status of Desegregation Plan."

Willie Kirk frequently collaborated with other involved citizens and community leaders on many fronts to heal racial tensions, and 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. The Council organized an impressive collection of families, churches, fraternal organizations, social clubs, and college student demonstrators to protest the establishment of a segregated ice skating rink on Airport Boulevard in East Austin. This year-long effort was successful in closing that skating palace.

In 1975 the City Council appointed Mrs. Kirk to Austin's Joint Legislative Committee to promote better relations between the City and State. She served multiple terms on the Travis County Grand Jury where she applied an outspoken common sense approach to ensure the fair and equal treatment for everyone who moved through that part of the criminal justice system. Mrs. Kirk participated in many community discussions and conferences on issues ranging from violence in schools, to political and social issues in the national debate.

Memberships and Awards
Willie Mae Kirk 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.

Throughout many years applying her talent and energy to various venues of public service, Mrs. Kirk received numerous awards from organizations including Huston-Tillotson University, the State of Texas, Austin Independent School District, United Way, Salvation Army, National Foundation for the March of Dimes, and the National Council of Negro Women.

A few examples are: In 1994 Willie Kirk and Barbara Jordan were inducted into the National Women of Achievement "Hall of Fame." The Austin Villager Newspaper acknowledged Mrs. Kirk with its 1997 "Living Legend Award" in recognition of her iconic standing as an Austin community leader, and of the prestigious honors vested on her for community leadership and distinguished service. The Austin, Texas Chapter of the NAACP presented her its 1997 "Arthur DeWitty and Volma Overton Award for outstanding efforts and achievement in human rights in Central Texas. The Southern Poverty Law Center presented her their "Certificate of Appreciation in Recognition of an Important Contribution to the Fight against Hatred and Intolerance in America." In 2002 The Austin Area Urban League honored her fight for the civil rights and equality of blacks with its prestigious Whitney Young Award. 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.

Destiny Fulfilled

Rooted in deep Christian faith, Willie Mae Kirk was a devoted fixture in The Church of the New Testament that her brother, Sylvester "Bro. Bill" Jones founded in 1957. People saw faith in action in her life. At age 91, Mrs. Kirk expressed these sentiments: "It is my joy and privilege to be involved in helping people. My immediate concern has been the citizens of my local environment in Austin and East Austin. My late husband, Lee A. Kirk and I contributed money, clothing, food, housing, and personal assistance to people who needed our help. To the extent possible, I continue to aid family members and friends."

Willie Mae was sustained by a vast circle of family and friends who proved their love in countless ways. She was particularly drawn to children; she exalted them by high expectations to live clean lives and make useful contributions to society. She still enjoyed cooking big Sunday dinners with turkey, dressing, and all the trimmings, including her special yeast rolls and sweet iced tea. She looked forward to annual award banquets. She was a huge sports fan who couch-coached football, basketball, and baseball. She never met a stranger. She had met all levels of politicians including President Obama, who called "Mama Kirk" from time to time. She was blessed with a profound memory and could recall specific incidents and people from long ago.

And so, she lived a long, fulfilling, remarkable life. At age 92 Willie Mae still resided willfully, independently in the Maple Avenue home she and her husband built. On Saturday, September 28, after a brief catastrophic illness brought on by congestive heart failure and a massive stroke, she left her physical form to walk holy ground. Willie Mae was the last of the 14 direct descendants of Henry & Sarah Jones:

1. Lillie Idelphia Luckett 8. Henry Jones, Jr.
2. Walter Jones 9. Mary Louise "M.L." Allen
3. Jennie B. Hicks-Rogers 10. Rosie Lee Alexander
4. Julie Ann Earls 11. Sylvester "Bill" Jones
5. Arthur Jones 12. Willie B. "Dad" Jones
6. Leroy Jones, Sr. 13. Willie Mae "Ankie" Kirk
7. Mary Elizabeth "Babe" Easley 14. Samuel T. "Loty" Jones

Willie Mae was also predeceased by her beloved husband, Lee Andrew Kirk, Sr. (1982) and 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); grandchildren: Meagan Kirk Thompson (Michael), Leianne Alexander (Adriant), Elizabeth Alexandra Kirk, Catherine Victoria Kirk; and great grandchildren: Myles, Austin, and Morgan Thompson; and Adriant, Jr., Kaitlyn, and Kenslei Alexander. She dearly loved and is survived by a treasure trove of nieces, nephews, former students, and friends, including her lifelong friends and close neighbors, Bettye Washington and Irene Thompson.

In lieu of flowers, you may donate to:
Huston-Tillotson University
The Church of the New Testament, Austin, Texas


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