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THANK YOU FOR YOUR COOPERATION AND UNDERSTANDING
CELEBRATION OF A LIFE WELL LIVED
BERTHA SADLER MEANS
Bertha Elizabeth Sadler Means May 1, 1920 – March 16, 2021
Bertha passed away peacefully at the age of 100+. She was the center of our family on the Sadler and Means side and has been a source of inspiration to many. She was born in Rock Springs, Texas, a community founded by her grandfather, Rev. James B. Sadler. After her father died when she was four, her mother moved the family to Waco. While she was at A.J. Moore High, she was on the newspaper staff, lettered in athletics and was Miss Moore High.Although she has lived and worked in Austin since 1939, Bertha never lost touch with friends and family in Waco or with preservation efforts to restore the Rock Springs Cumberland Presbyterian Church founded by her grandfather after slavery.
She earned a B.A. degree in Education and English from Tillotson College, now Huston-Tillotson, and a Master of Education in Educational Psychology. from UT Austin. She held several positions with AISD, was a Head Start Director, and the first coordinator for reading instruction in junior and senior high schools in Austin. During summers from 1959-1969, she was a visiting instructor at Prairie View A&M in the Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction. She also was an instructor at UT Austin during the spring and summers 1972-1973. In recognition of her dedication to education, the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy, was named in her honor in 2014.
Always looking to make things better, Bertha was involved with others in efforts to remove age-old color barriers in Austin including the integration of Barton Springs (1958) where daughter Joan and the other Black Austin High school seniors weren’t allowed to participate in the senior class picnic because of segregation. She was picket (Direct Action) chair of the Mothers Action Council to integrate the Ice Palace (1963). Bertha had a direct role in the integration of athletics at UT Austin. In 1963, she conferred with Frank Erwin about segregated athletics. Son, James, became the 1st Black to letter at UT and 1st to participate in athletics in the Southwest Conference. She also played a leading role in the integration of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School where daughter, Pat, became first Black graduate. Daughter Janet participated in Freedom Rides in The South. In the 1980’s, Bertha served 2 terms on the St. Stephen’s Board of Trustees.
The City of Austin recognized Bertha’s contributions as a city council appointee to the Parks and Recreation Board from 1963-1974. She initiated steps for the improvement of parks in East Austin and the plaque at Givens reads “A Tribute in Honor of Mrs. Bertha Sadler Means. Her dedication and leadership made this structure a reality – May 1977.” For many years, she was also a member of Citizens for a More Beautiful Town Lake.
Retiring after 40 years from AISD, she became President and CEO of Austin Cab Company, that was founded by her son Ronal Means.
Involved in international affairs, Bertha was Honorary Consul General to the Kingdom of Lesotho, was Chair and President Emerita of the Austin-Maseru Sister Cities Committee and was elected as a charter member of the Board of Directors of Austin Sister Cities International, for which she served as State Representative.
“The Dr. Bertha Sadler Means Endowment for Racial Justice" at Seminary of the Southwest will fund, in perpetuity, a ministry to support visiting black scholars, research in Texas slavery and racism, teaching racial justice, formation for empowerment of black leaders, and encouragement for Episcopal black ministries in the diocese and the Church.”
Bertha took great pleasure in the numerous awards and recognition of her efforts and was especially happy that she could enjoy them in life. For many years, she was active with her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha (Diamond Member with over 75 years of Membership), Jack and Jill of America (Austin Chapter Charter Member), Alumna Member of The Austin (TX) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and other service groups.
1965 – She received Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s Woman of the Year Award in Education.
1966 – She was the first recipient of the Arthur B. DeWitty Human Relations Award from the Austin NAACP.
1978 – Congress Avenue was named in her honor for a day, May 8, 1978.
1979 – Austin American Statesman selected her as one of the Outstanding Women in Austin.
2004 - Joe W. Neal Award by the International Hospitality Council of Austin
2004 Austin YWCA “Woman of the Year”
2005 – Honorary Doctoral degree from Huston-Tillotson
2008 – Austin Urban League, “Whitney M. Young Leadership Award”
2011- Travis County Democratic Party “Trio of Stars Award”
2016 - Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from the Texas Diocese of the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest
Political involvement never stopped, and she was especially happy as “Great Grandmama for Obama” to be the oldest delegate to 2008 the Democratic National Convention.
She considered herself an athlete, having played basketball in high school and college and golf as an adult.
One of her greatest pleasures was being involved with the founding of St. James Episcopal Church where she married James Means, Sr. in 1941.
Bertha is survived by her five children Joan (Paseka) Khabele, Janet (Samuel) Scott, James (Carol) Means, Pat (Marvin) King, Ron (Diane) Means. Grandchildren are Dineo Khabele (James Hunter), Inonge Khabele, Thomas (Aida) Scott, Wes (Leslie) Scott, Kathy (Bobby) Bryant, Alyssa Means, James Means III, Rosalyn (John) Smith, Marvin (Amy Evans) King, Rebecca (Daniel) Roddy, Jamie King, Jasmine Means. She was GG to great grandchildren: Lebohang Hunter, Lesedi Khabele-Stevens, Thabo Khabele-Stevens, Tumelo Khabele-Stevens, Palesa Khabele-Stevens, Naledi Khabele, Tau Khabele, Letsie Khabele, Jr., Weston Scott, Mirelle Scott, Rachel Reynard, Dean Bryant, Max Bryant, Sam Scott, Timothy Scott, Elliott Smith, Vanessa Smith, Eleanor King, Alice King, Frances King, Eden Roddy, Naomi Roddy, Tabitha Roddy.
She is survived by and was proud of her numerous Sadler and Means nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by husband, Dr. James H. Means, Sr. in 2008, and grandson Letsie (Khotso) Khabele in 2020, parents Ludie and Sidney, brothers and sisters, Cicero, Estina, Homer, Robert, Juanita and Sidney.
Bertha was Mother, Grandmommy and GG, a hard worker, a fighter and a friend to many.
In lieu of flowers, the following contributions in honor of Bertha Means would be appreciated:
Huston-Tillotson College – James H. Means Endowed Professorship at Huston-Tillotson University Office of Institutional Advancement, Huston-Tillotson 900 Chicon St. Austin, TX 78702
A special thanks to Inonge, Joan and Paseka; and to Cella Bella Hospice’s staff and nurses for taking such good care of Bertha.
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