Lila Cockrell, who was the first woman elected Mayor of San Antonio, and whose strong presence helped shepherd the city into the modern era, has died at the age of 97, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Lila May Banks Cockrell was born in Ft. Worth in January of 1922, and she served in the WAVES during World War II. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she got involved in political activism heading both the Dallas and San Antonio chapters of the League of Women Voters.
Cockrell was elected to San Antonio City Council in 1965, and in 1975, when she was elected to the first of her four two year terms as Mayor, she became not only San Antonio's first female mayor, but made San Antonio the largest city in the USA with a woman mayor.
She preceded the election of Henry Cisneros as mayor in 1981, and after Cisneros' retirement in 1989, she was elected mayor for another term.
After leaving elective office, Cockrell continued to be active in city affairs, heading the San Antonio Parks Foundation, and heading the effort to redesign the historic Hot Wells property.
"If there were a Mount Rushmore for our city, Lila Cockrell would be on it," Mayor Nirenberg said. "She was a great San Antonian.
I deeply valued our friendship, which started through a mutual appreciation for jazz music, the arts and our environment. Lila’s generosity with her time, knowledge and insight was incredibly helpful. She was a consummate statesman. She exuded class and never involved herself in the pettiness of politics despite all of the years that she was in the center of political life in San Antonio. She was a stellar role model for young women and young men."
The Lila Cockrell Theater in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, as well as several other San Antonio landmarks, are named in her honor.
'I don’t think she gets proper credit for ushering in an era of equal representation. She really did bridge the gap into the single-member district era. There would be no modern San Antonio without her leadership through that transition," Nirenberg said.
"In addition to serving on City Council and two separate stints as mayor, Lila continued to dedicate her life to public service as president as of the San Antonio Parks Foundation for 15 years in addition to numerous other roles. She was a towering example of civic engagement at its finest. Her quiet but powerful service-oriented activism throughout her life was truly an inspiration to all who care about San Antonio and admire true leadership."
PHOTO COURTESY, CITY OF SAN ANTONIO