From running his own Eastside neighborhood grocery store on to becoming the longest-serving city council representative for District 2, Joe Webb Sr. made a lifelong commitment to his adopted hometown of San Antonio.
The Beeville native died Saturday at Metropolitan Methodist Hospital. He was 86. Webb moved to San Antonio in 1955 and worked for the YMCA before attending San Antonio College and St. Mary’s University. Webb was also a reverend and assistant pastor at God’s Property Church.
Webb’s niece Lisa Jackson noted that H-E-B’s Charles Butt personally traveled from Corpus Christi to hire her uncle, who entered the company’s management program in 1969 and went on to manage two large stores. He later opened the WebbWay grocery store on East Houston Street near his Eastside home.
Former colleagues noted that Webb’s closeness to his community contributed to his longevity as a councilman, serving from 1977 to 1991.
Webb served on City Council for Henry Cisneros’ entire tenure as mayor from 1981 to 1989. Cisneros called Webb “a unique spirit in our city” and praised his former colleague’s effectiveness on many major projects, including helping initiate the annual Martin Luther King Freedom March, bringing needed infrastructure projects to the East Side, redevelopment of Sunset Station, development of housing and community centers, and advocating for better policing practices.
“Joe made sure the East Side got its share of everything that was happening in our city, and [at a time] when it took political skill to make it happen,” Cisneros said.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who served as Webb’s colleague on City Council representing District 8 from 1987 to 1991, echoed similar sentiments. He credits Webb for helping to secure construction of the Alamodome in District 2 and for the 1987 library bond issue that would result in the construction of the Central Library.
Wolff said Webb’s longevity as a councilman was the result of two simple reasons: “He was active in a number of causes, and had a good relationship with his constituents.”
Mayor Ron Nirenberg called Webb “a champion for working families and public transportation,” and that he valued the former councilman’s mentorship.
“Councilman Rev. Joe Webb, Sr. was generous with his advice and friendship, and I’ve valued both as mayor. … He will be sorely missed,” Nirenberg said.
Community activist Nettie Hinton said she was serving in the federal government in Washington during most of Webb’s influential political career but knew of his accomplishments. Her brother-in-law Joe Scott worked closely with Webb on political campaigns including that of Lyndon Baines Johnson as he ascended to the vice presidency of the U.S.
While his influence may have helped her get her job with the U.S. Treasury Department, Hinton said his advocacy for civil rights and black business owners outweighed the personal connection.
“It’s the passing really of a very important generation, not only for me personally but [for] San Antonio,” she said.
When Hinton returned to San Antonio in 1993, she was delighted to see that the bridge just south of the Alamodome had been named Joe Webb Bridge in his honor.
While Cisneros noted the many important roles Webb played in San Antonio and said, “we’ve lost a real leader,” he noted Webb “gave birth to a whole group of young leaders on the East Side,” including community organizers Mario Salas and T.C. Calvert.
Newly elected District 2 Councilman Jalen McKee-Rodriguez wrote in a Facebook post that during his campaign, Webb was often mentioned when he would ask those in the community about their favorite council members. “He was a tireless advocate, a community leader, and a Councilman for the people. … Although his tenure ended before I was born, his impact will be felt long after we are all reconnected with him.”
Webb was preceded in death by his first wife Frances Webb, and is survived by his second wife Barbara Webb, brother Victor Webb, sons Joe Webb Jr. and Vincent Webb, and daughters Linda Webb Stephens and Monique Miles Hunter.
The family will announce funeral and burial arrangements next week.