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Bertha Means

Civil Rights Activist

May 1, 1920 – March 16, 2021

Bertha Elizabeth Sadler Means

A Force for Change

Our first Lion of Muny is Austin civil rights icon, Bertha Sadler Means.

Bertha was a business leader, lifelong educator, church co-founder, school namesake, and civil rights pioneer. One day in 1962 she and her friend were planning to spend a day out on the town. The kids would go to the Ice Palace ice skating rink, and they would go to the driving range off of Burnet Road. Instead, she was turned away for being black, and soon her kids returned as they too had been turned away. Although Bertha had grown up in Jim Crow south and was very accustomed to the blatant racism all around, that day changed her. She decided she wouldn’t let her kids be discriminated against like she was. Thus her career as an activist began (joining her daughter Joan Means Khabele who had begun the fight against segregation in Barton Springs and Zilker just two years prior). After founding the Mother’s Action Committee and helping to establish the Human Relations Commission, Bertha continued her fight against discrimination, spending 13 years working to remove signs that separated races.


A Bit About Bertha

Years after getting turned away from that Burnet course, Bertha made her way back to golf. She went to George Hannon, the head golf professional at Muny, asking to be taught. Though she feared she was too old, he assured her that there is never a time too late to start doing something you enjoy. Not only did she learn to play golf, Bertha joined Muny’s ladies club and played in country clubs across Austin, attended one of the early “Save Muny” golf tournaments, and even the one after the dedication of the Texas Historical Marker for Muny’s desegregation. Historic Muny would seem the perfect place at the intersection of Bertha’s love of golf and its dedication to her own charges for integration. Even at 93 years old she

was playing golf every week. Throughout her life, Bertha continually pushed back against expectations. She attended what is now Huston-Tillotson University in East Austin and became one of the very first black educators to teach in Austin’s white-majority schools. She taught at Prairie View A&M College and at the University of Texas at Austin and delivered workshops at Huston-Tillotson University. Her family also fought barriers such as her aforementioned advocate daughter Joan, and her son James who was the first black athlete to earn a varsity letter at UT due to his talent in track. Overall, Bertha Sadler Means was an impressive person, brave enough to picket and protest Jim Crow and shape the Austin community into what it is today. This is why she is most certainly an admirable Lion of Muny.


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