Wilhelmina Ruth Fitzgerald Delco has dedicated more than three decades to public service. Beginning as a concerned parent of four, Delco became an active leader within her children’s Parent Teacher Associations. Having a desire to be of greater assistance to children in her community, Delco ran and was elected to the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees in 1968, three days after the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. This landmark victory made Delco the first African American elected to public office in Austin. Following her first term on the School Board, Delco sought to become a force in statewide policy-making and ran a successful campaign for the Texas House of Representatives, making her the first African American official elected at-large from Travis County. During Delco’s 20 years (ten terms) in the Texas Legislature, she served on more than 20 different committees. Although her committee assignments ran the gamut, Delco maintained her interest and influence in education. By 1979, Delco was appointed Chair of the prestigious House Higher Education Committee where she served until 1991 when she was appointed Speaker Pro Tempore (the first women, and second African American in this second highest position in the Texas House) until the beginning of the 73rd Legislative Session in 1993.
Delco’s consistent dedication to education has gained her a national reputation in the field of higher education. Consequently, Delco has been appointed, served in leadership capacities, and received top honors from nearly every national education board in the country. Additionally, Delco’s efforts have also been rewarded by the academic community where she has been the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from ten colleges and universities.
Following Delco’s retirement from the Texas Legislature in 1995, Delco has remained an active force in the community. Delco recently completed a two year appointment to the Texas Ethics Commission and is currently serving on a number of local and national boards. She is also currently serving as an adjunct college professor of the Community College Leadership Program at The University of Texas at Austin. In addition to being an active community leader, wife of 61 years, and a mother of four, she is also a devoted grandmother to her nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.