A 'Truth-Teller' Passes On
Friends and family honor the memory of Lucy Selby
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.