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Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Just A Thought" Column continues in La Prensa of SA, 2-16

Just a Thought: 100-year-old Bill Sinkin passes
By Steve Walker

San Antonio Icon Bill Sinkin passed away only three months shy of his 101st birthday. The man who was born May 19th, 1913, and contributed to the betterment of San Antonio for decades, spent his last hours in the hospital surrounded by friends and family.

His nephew, Steve Sinkin spoke about those last hours during the memorial service that attracted as estimated crowd of over 500 mourners at Temple Beth-El, Friday February 7th.

He jokingly reminisced how his uncle loved the Beatles and wanted to hear their hit “Here Comes the Sun” one more time. Steve recalled for the crowd that he found the song on his phone and they sang it shortly before he passed on. Mr. Sinkin’s passion and active involvement in solar energy may have some bearing on his partiality to the song. He started his solar company at age 86.

Ironically my column for La Prensa in May 2013 was published after Mr. Sinkin celebrated his 100th birthday at the University of the Incarnate Word Sky Room. That event drew nearly as many supporters as attended his memorial service. I was honored to also cover his 95th and 98th birthdays.

Although a Jew, Mr. Sinkin has contributed so much to the Hispanic as well as the African American community over the years.

Growing up he endured the same taunting prejudice as other minority groups that included: being picked on and beat up because he dressed differently and wore the traditional longs locks that devout young male Jews wore back then.  

Painfully aware of prejudice based on skin color and religious heritage, he pioneered the concept of opening up opportunities for people systematically denied. Not too many people are aware that he co-founded Goodwill of San Antonio in 1945 to help those with physical and mental challenges to find employment. He fought discrimination all his life whatever the discrimination happened to be and who it affected.

During his stint as Chair of the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) from 1949-53, he hired the first woman executive director of SAHA.

In the banking industry he controlled the Texas State Bank in the late 60s which catered to minority representation and small business lending. He founded the Urban Coalition of San Antonio also in the 60s for low income communities of color to address economic issues as well for low income white communities.

Mr. Sinkin was also instrumental in bringing the 1968 HemisFair Exposition to HemisFair Park.  That is a column for another day.

During the nearly two hour memorial to the San Antonio hero, the program included Rabbi Samuel Stahl’s Eulogy, Mr. Sinkin’s two sons, Richard and Lanny, a rendition of the 23rd Psalm in song, and a special reading by Poet Laureate of Texas Rosemary Catacalos of “Mr. Chairman Takes His Leave.”

Mt. Zion First Baptist Church Choir sang and a NAACP Resolution offered, followed by Senator Leticia van de Putte reading a Proclamation from the State of Texas recognizing the legacy and accomplishments of Icon Bill Sinkin.

As one who knew him for a long time I say he was truly a man of the people and a role model that very few of us could live up to in our own lives.

And as always, what I write is “Just a Thought.” In the case of Bill Sinkin, “A Final Thought.”

Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and former Justice of the Peace and Journalist.

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