Suggestions for the Bill White Oral History Project

Four former Houston mayors, an ex-U.S. Secretary of State, a racecar driver, and even Houston's most well-known homosexual are all included in the Mayor Bill White Collection, part of the Houston Oral History Project. But project head Marie Wise says it's Frances "Poppy," Northcutt, a scientist who worked on NASA's Apollo 8 Mission that is the most interesting to her.

"She decided she wanted to go into the sciences at UT -- this was before women went into the sciences," says Wise, digital-projects manager for the Houston Public Library. "She was the first woman to work at NASA's mission-control center and then went on to become a feminist leader in Houston and worked for equal opportunities for women in Houston. She talks about this in a really candid and genuine tone."

With the likes of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza, formerly of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and Dr. Mavis Kelsey, founder of the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic included, it might seem to be a rah-rah round-up of Houston boosters. But a few figures discuss Houston problems challenges. There's the aforementioned homosexual/prison rights advocate Ray Hill; Tatcho Mindiola, activist and head of the Mexican American studies program at UH; and Howard Jefferson, a former HISD administrator, who all discuss Houston's checkered civil rights past.

"Certainly there's a very pro-Houston component," says Wise, "but a lot of these do address problems. A lot of the histories from the `60s and `70s cover the period of desegregation in Houston. Those were tumultuous times in Houston and they're not all glowing. The library has made the decision not to censor ... some of them are very rugged, and candid."

Rugged? Candid? Let's go for hell-raising, or ornery. Or hey, how about plain stupid? Hair Balls has a few suggestions for future interviews:

Ask Quanell X to discuss HIV/AIDS as the number-one killer of black women in the city. Oh, and the Harris County Health Department's comprehensive response to the epidemic.

Maybe Houston firefighters Jane Draycott and Paula Keyes, the targets of alleged racist and sexual slurs from male co-workers at Station 54, could discuss HFD's superior personnel management.

Get a former Enron employee, preferably one who lost his/her life savings in the company's collapse, to interview former Enron President Jeff Skilling. Yeah, it will have to be long-distance since Skilling is serving 24-year prison sentence in Colorado for his role in the financial wrongdoings, but maybe he can take a collect call.

Look up Alex Gonzales, a former HPD officer who was sentenced to seven years for voluntary manslaughter when shot and killed Ida Lee Shaw Delaney in the late 1980s.

And could somebody please talk to Gladys House? The Freeman's Town advocate has been a thorn in every lazy politicians side for years (and years).

Get former Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal to outline the finer points of e-mail etiquette.

We'd like Rusty Yates to discuss women's reproductive rights. (His ex-wife Andrea could add a little background. Again, there'd be a long distance call involved since Andrea is currently in prison, but maybe someone could lend her a cell phone.)

And finally, it would be really interesting to hear what Lenwood E. Johnson, a resident organizer of Allen Parkway Village, has to say about urban planning.


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