The Honorable Wilhelmina &
Dr. Exalton Delco
Nominated by Tracy and Ken Snodgrass
The Honorable Wilhelmina and Dr. Exalton Delco are trailblazers. The Delcos have been forces of historic change since beginning their careers in the 1950s, and have served the Austin community for over 50 years. They met as students at Fisk University, and made Austin their home together shortly after. The couple has been married for 68 years and have four children and nine grandchildren.
The Honorable Wilhelmina Delco was the first African American elected to the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees, the first African American elected official in Travis County, the first African American elected as Travis County’s representative in the Texas House of Representatives, and the first woman appointed Speaker Pro Tempore of the House. Wilhelmina served ten terms in the Texas Legislature on over 20 committees and was a founding member of the Austin Community College Board. In 1993, Wilhelmina received the esteemed James Bryant Conant Award in education. After her retirement from politics in 1995, Mrs. Delco remained active in education as the chair of the Board of Trustees at Huston-Tillotson College and an adjunct professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Exalton Delco, Jr. was the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Texas in 1962 after years of research in the field of entomology. Exalton attended UT after returning from Germany, where he had been drafted into the army to serve as a surgical technician. Dr. Delco went on to teach at Texas Southern University before beginning a 25-year career at Huston-Tillotson University, where he became Dean. Exalton was the Vice President of Academic Affairs at Austin Community College until his retirement in 1995. In retirement, Exalton still continued his work as the Special Assistant to UT President Robert Berdhal to create better relationships between UT, community colleges and historically black colleges and universities.
Wilhelmina and Exalton have been active members of Holy Cross Catholic Church for many years. As singers in the church choir, they have been able to travel and sing the good news across the country.
The Delco legacy lives on throughout Central Texas. The Delco Activity Center, established in 2002 in East Austin, is named in honor of the Delcos and is used for various community-wide events. Coat and backpack giveaways, sporting events, and community conferences geared toward providing information like how to access mental health services, find adequate housing, and build economic empowerment fill the center and are a true testament to the Delcos’ lifelong service. Wilhelmina also has a school named in her honor—Delco Elementary School—whose motto is rooted in the Delco name:
L= Learning & Love
C= Creativity & Caring
Both Wilhelmina and Exalton continue to be active Austinites—attending their church regularly, staying fit by going to the YMCA every morning, and traveling with family.