Minnie Hill bows her head as a prayer is said. Photo by Scott Ball.
Minnie Mabry Hill passed away on May 4, 2018. In this 2015 photo, she bows her head in prayer during an event. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

On Thursday afternoon, local and national NAACP leaders saluted Minnie Mabry Hill and her husband, Oliver, with a standing ovation for bringing the organization’s 109th convention to San Antonio this July – the first time the city has hosted the annual event.

Minnie Hill served as the local branch’s chair of the convention, but she was too ill to attend the event.

“She’s in transition,” Oliver Hill told the Rivard Report at the event Thursday, holding back tears.

After suffering a series of strokes since 2013, Minnie Hill passed away early Friday morning. She was 74.

Described by her husband as a native San Antonian, she was born in 1943. The couple was married July 31, 1964, at the San Antonio West End Baptist Church.

A driven and diligent civil servant, Minnie Hill never let anything slow her down, her husband said, recalling how she gave him tasks to complete while she was in a hospital recovering from a stroke in November 2017.

“That’s the kind of person she was,” he said. “She always wanted to make sure everything was done decently and in order.”

Hill is survived by her husband; children Oliver Wendell Jr., Caron Susann Jackson, and Shannon Diane Simpson; and grandchildren Hannah Marie-Caron Simpson and Jillian Elessee Simpson, according to the San Antonio Branch of the NAACP.

“Our community was blessed by Mrs. Minnie Mabry Hill’s presence and leadership,” Councilman Cruz Shaw (D2) said Friday. “We are hurting today, but we must stay strong for Mr. Hill and for their children and grandchildren. Mrs. Hill’s passion for serving our community and her fearless advocacy on behalf of the NAACP will live on forever. We are lifting up her family and friends in prayer.”

Despite San Antonio’s relatively small black population, less than 7 percent, the San Antonio branch of the NAACP is one of the most “active” and engaged in the nation, said Leon Russell, chairman of the NAACP’s board of directors, on Thursday.

Russell attributed the selection of the Alamo City for the 2018 convention, which is also the 100th anniversary of the local chapter’s founding, largely to Minnie Hill.

“Let’s do this for Minnie,” he said.

Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) remembered her as an elegant woman.

“Her spirit is going to shine over that convention,” Calvert said. “I also think that she is just a good human role model. She was kind. She had integrity. She was a person who loved her family and took care of her family and her community. … She’s had a life well lived and a lot of adoring fans and friends who will miss her.”

Calvert said he last saw her during a recent centennial celebration of the local NAACP branch at St. Paul United Methodist Church.

“She was a big part of that celebration,” he said. “She was dealing with her health issues but she was still standing. She went strong for her community to the very end and we appreciate her.”

Hill’s husband said she had more than just an eye for her own style. She would buy and pick clothes for him to wear so that he always represented his public position properly.

“She kept me shipshape, believe you me,” he said.

She also was involved with the PALS Social Club in San Antonio. Founded in 1925, the organization serves as a way to mentor black youth with an annual Debutante Presentation Ball.

The Hills would go bowling together when they were younger, Oliver Hill said, but his wife’s true love was for tennis. She played regularly at the Fairchild Tennis Courts.

San Antonio NAACP Chapter President Oliver Hill during the meeting discussing the future of Ella Austin Community Center.
San Antonio NAACP Chapter President Oliver Hill (left) sits next to his wife and NAACP convention Chair Minnie Hill during a discussion about the Ella Austin Community Center in 2017. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“Minnie Hill’s dedication to the San Antonio Branch of the NAACP was extraordinary,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg. “She was truly inspirational and her determined fundraising produced results that improved our community in many ways. Our hearts and prayers go out to Oliver and their family.”

“Minnie Hill was an incredibly gracious woman,” City Manager Sheryl Sculley said. “We worked hard together to bring the NAACP conference to San Antonio, and I regret that she won’t be here to celebrate the fruits of our labor and the 100th anniversary of the local NAACP chapter.”

In lieu of flowers, Oliver Hill said, the community can make contributions in his wife’s memory to the San Antonio branch of the NAACP.

Funeral services will be held next week at the St. Paul United Methodist Church, her “home” church, he said.

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and mental health. Contact her at iris@sareport.org

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.