A 'Truth-Teller' Passes On

Friends and family honor the memory of Lucy Selby

Lucy Reed Garretson Selby
<br>(photo courtesy of the Selby family)
Lucy Reed Garretson Selby
(photo courtesy of the Selby family)

Lucy Selby, a longtime local Democratic activist and old-school feminist, died at home July 7, less than a year after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Selby, who was 67, served as the backbone of many local political campaigns, including city council races that saw victories for Council Member Daryl Slusher in 1996, former mayor Kirk Watson in 1997, and Brigid Shea in 1993. She worked alongside her son Tom Selby, who served as campaign manager in Slusher's first council bid and before that as executive assistant to Shea. "She really loved the rough-and-tumble aspects of politics," said Tom, now a trial lawyer in Washington, D.C.

Friends and family members described Lucy as a worldly woman with flaming red hair and a personality that could light up a room. At her memorial service last Sunday, anecdotal evidence of her brutal wit played to an appreciative audience of politicos and regular folk. Her oldest son, W. Gardner Selby, a San Antonio Express-News reporter, recalled how he had come to her about a week before she died and asked if there were any words of wisdom or advice that she could pass on to him. Even in her weakest moment, Lucy didn't hedge: "Weight Watchers," she told her son.

An accomplished pianist and potter, Lucy also held a doctorate in anthropology, turning her dissertation into a chronicle of the Sixties' feminist movement in Austin. She went on to become a big supporter of Sissy Farenthold's 1972 gubernatorial run and helped with former Gov. Ann Richards' 1990 campaign, holding a staff position after Richards took office. Lucy's daughter, Theadosia, a San Francisco business owner, credits her mother's feminism and pro-choice stances for shaping her own values. In Slusher's view, the three Selby kids represent Lucy's greatest legacy. "They're very strong, very ethical, and very honest," he said. "That was Lucy."

Veteran campaign operative Pat Crow admired her intellect and humor. When Lucy was a research director for the American-Statesman, she helped launch the paper's Capitol 10K race. "She was the smoker in the group and probably never ran a day in her life," Crow said, laughing. "She wasn't the least bit religious, but she had a real conscience about her; she was a truth teller."

As a seasoned volunteer in political races, Lucy often served as the glue that held campaigns together. "Lucy was one of those people who knew how to move on a dime," Watson recalled. "She was a no-bull, get-it-done kind of person. If it moved the cause forward, she would get it done."

Henry Selby, Lucy's husband of more than 40 years and professor emeritus in the UT archaeology department, talked at the memorial service about his life with Lucy. He cheerfully told the crowd that this was one of those rare moments where he could recount a story without Lucy stepping in to say, "That's not the way it happened." That brought the house down.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More obituary
Richard Overton Dies At 112
Richard Overton Dies At 112
America's oldest man and World War II veteran, died Dec. 27

Nina Hernandez, Jan. 4, 2019

More by Amy Smith
The Work Matters
The Work Matters
A look back at some of our most impactful reporting

Sept. 3, 2021

Well-Behaved? Let's Assume Not.
Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis: The Untold Story
Barbara Leaming's new biography makes the case that Jackie O suffered from PTSD

Nov. 28, 2014


obituary, Lucy Selby

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle