Westside Stories: Mary Arnold

17 mins read
Mary speaks at the June 7, 1990 City Council meeting about Barton Creek development. She was against approval of the development.

By Forrest Preece

It’s hard to believe that I have never done a column on Mary Arnold. When it comes to community activism, she has been in the forefront for decades. We’ve encountered each other many times, but we have never sat down to have a conversation. Recently, we had lunch at the Lions Municipal Golf Course clubhouse café and had a talk. And yes, that was an appropriate meeting place, since she is in the forefront of the Save Muny movement, something we conversed about at length.

The heritage Mary grew up with laid the groundwork for her appreciation of the environment. Both of her father’s parents came from families that had large landholdings north of Corpus Christi. Her grandfather decided that he wanted to begin ranching in Mexico and bought land near Durango. Their family lived down there for several years and often traveled back to Texas. She says that her uncle believed that Pancho Villa worked for the family at one point. Indeed, Mary related a dramatic story to me about all of that which would make a column in itself.

She was planning to go to a girl’s school in Virginia for a year before coming to the University of Texas. But when she was invited to be on Plan II at UT, she consulted with Dr. Pratt on the faculty, who was head of the program. He said that Plan II would give her as good an education as she would obtain at Yale or Harvard – and those schools were not admitting women then. At UT, her activism kicked into gear. An intelligent, high-achieving student, she was in the Orange Jackets and Mortar Board and was named a Phi Beta Kappa. Through happenstance, her sorority sister in Kappa Alpha Theta who had been president of the Panhellenic Council, got married and that bumped Mary, the junior representative, up to that post. Being in that position, she saw and learned a good deal about how the bureaucratic levels of a big institution function.  “I learned a lot while working with the Dean of Women’s office during that time,” Mary says. . .

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