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From McCallum to mother to mayor

Former Mac civics teacher is also only woman to serve as Austin mayor; neither is the job she's most proud of

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From McCallum to mother to mayor

Carole Keeton holds her granddaughter, Anna McClellan (who happens to have the byline for this article), and is surrounded by her other granddaughters, Kathryn and Michelle McClellan, as she gives her concession speech for the gubernatorial race on Nov. 7, 2006. Although, she lost the race, having her family there made it one of the highlights of her political career.

Carole Keeton holds her granddaughter, Anna McClellan (who happens to have the byline for this article), and is surrounded by her other granddaughters, Kathryn and Michelle McClellan, as she gives her concession speech for the gubernatorial race on Nov. 7, 2006. Although, she lost the race, having her family there made it one of the highlights of her political career. "The [best] moments are the moments when the family is all there. And they’re there in good times, and they’re there in the tough times."

Bahram Mark Sobhani/ ZUMA press. Reposted with permisson.

Carole Keeton holds her granddaughter, Anna McClellan (who happens to have the byline for this article), and is surrounded by her other granddaughters, Kathryn and Michelle McClellan, as she gives her concession speech for the gubernatorial race on Nov. 7, 2006. Although, she lost the race, having her family there made it one of the highlights of her political career. "The [best] moments are the moments when the family is all there. And they’re there in good times, and they’re there in the tough times."

Bahram Mark Sobhani/ ZUMA press. Reposted with permisson.

Bahram Mark Sobhani/ ZUMA press. Reposted with permisson.

Carole Keeton holds her granddaughter, Anna McClellan (who happens to have the byline for this article), and is surrounded by her other granddaughters, Kathryn and Michelle McClellan, as she gives her concession speech for the gubernatorial race on Nov. 7, 2006. Although, she lost the race, having her family there made it one of the highlights of her political career. "The [best] moments are the moments when the family is all there. And they’re there in good times, and they’re there in the tough times."

Anna McClellan, guest reporter

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People would tell her that it was “too tough for a woman,” that she should “stay in the house and take care of her family, cook dinners, and let the men take care of the government and political work.”

But former McCallum teacher and tennis coach Carole Keeton knew she could do more than just teach, and she certainly did.

“My dad never distinguished between me and my brother, so I never knew there was anything a woman couldn’t do,” Keeton said.

Keeton taught at McCallum right out of the University of Texas in 1961 and continued to teach civics, economics, and U.S. history until the spring of ‘63, when she became pregnant with her first son, Mark. In that time, when a woman became pregnant, the school district would not allow her to keep teaching. She had four sons in total, Mark, Dudley, Bradley and Scott McClellan. Mark and Scott worked in the White House for some time under President George W. Bush, and Brad and Dudley are both successful lawyers.

File photo from 1962 Knight
Keeton (McClellan at the time) was formerly the McCallum girls varsity tennis coach. In this yearbook picture, she poses with her team in 1962.

Around the time the boys were all in elementary school, Keeton attended a Austin School Board meeting to talk about rethinking some of the budget cuts they had made. She was laminating chairman of the Casis Elementary PTA at the time, and they needed the funds that had been cut.

“Laminating was very important in those days because we would cut out all the laminating, cover the stuff for particularly your younger grades,” Keeton said.

I’ve never done anything if I don’t think I can make a difference, and I thought I could make a big difference.”

— Carole Keeton

Also at the meeting, that night were two East Austin activists, Velma Roberts and Larry Jackson, to talk about getting a pilot breakfast program started in the schools. Roberts and Jackson wanted to prove that students perform better after they have eaten breakfast. They volunteered to provide and cook all the food themselves.

“Are you going to pick up the depreciation on the pots and the pans, if you use these pans for fixing breakfast for these children?” one of the Board members replied.

In that very moment, Keeton (who at the time went by her maiden name, McClellan) decided to run for the school board.

“I sat in the back of the room and thought that, and I had never thought about running,” she said. “You gotta get where you can make these decisions.”

The next year she was elected to the Austin Independent School District School Board.  Although this was in the ’70s, a time when a lot of people were still against integration, Keeton and her distinguished Board colleagues helped lead the peaceful integration of Austin schools. This process is something that she and her colleagues hold as one of their most cherished accomplishments.

 

Keeton holds Audrey McClellan, one of her nine grandkids. “My greatest accomplishments are my four grown sons, and my greatest joys are my nine grandkids,” Keeton said.

She was later voted by her Board colleagues to be the first female president of the AISD School Board and the Board of Austin Community College. From there, Keeton decided that she wanted to continue to make a difference, so she ran for mayor.

“I thought I could make a difference,” she said. “I’ve never done anything if I don’t think I can make a difference, and I thought I could make a big difference.”

When the race was still six weeks away, Keeton resigned from her position as president of the School Board. She believed it would be unfair to her fellow board members if she spent the next six weeks completely immersed in the election. Because she still had her family to take care of during the day, she spent a lot of time working at night.

All of her hard work campaigning paid off. In 1977, she was elected mayor of Austin, becoming the first (and only) woman to ever hold the title.

Austin belongs to no special interest group, no special individual, no special political credo. It belongs to all Austinites because it is their city, and in a sense all Texans because it is their capital.”

— Carole Keeton

“The first term I was elected, being a woman was a big issue. People would say I was abandoning my kids, which was untrue and would’ve never been said about a man,” Keeton said. “But really, it’s not whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s who’s the most qualified. It’s great to be a Texan, great to be an Austinite, and great to be the first woman mayor of Austin.”

She went on with a mission of improving the lives and livelihoods of everyone, revitalizing downtown Austin, and working hard to make sure “we, as a city, were united as a city.”

She held all three of her swearing-in ceremonies publicly in Wooldridge Park so that everyone could attend, and not just a special few. She hoped this would represent what she wanted the government to be: open and accessible to all.

“Austin belongs to no special interest group, no special individual, no special political credo,” she said. “It belongs to all Austinites because it is their city, and in a sense, all Texans because it is their capital.”

Her gender was no longer an issue for the public by her second and third terms. Instead, the city council was more focused on pulling everyone together to improve the capital city.

Mothering was No. 1, and mayoring was No. 2. I would stop news conferences for forgotten lunches, forgotten tennis rackets, whatever it was.”

— Carole Keeton

Even though she was determined to make a difference, she never forgot her family in the process.

“Mothering was No. 1, and mayoring was No. 2,” Keeton said. “I would stop news conferences for forgotten lunches, forgotten tennis rackets, whatever it was.”

Following her three consecutive terms as mayor (the most ever served by a man or woman), she was appointed to the State Board of Insurance by Gov. Mark White. She later successfully ran for the Texas Railroad Commission and State Comptroller, being the first women to be elected and hold both offices.

When looking back at when she was a teacher and coach at McCallum, Keeton has many good memories. She says that her time at McCallum is the reason she has an immense passion for education and public service.

“I’m delighted I was in the classroom,” Keeton said. “I loved my days at McCallum. It was a great school then, and it’s a great school now.”

Courtesy of Keeton
Keeton poses with seven of her nine grandchildren. Back: Michelle and Anna McClellan. Middle: Audrey, Carole Keeton, and Kathryn McClellan. Front: Cade, Colt, and Keeton McClellan.

She was able to turn many students’ lives around. For example, she remembers one student who had failed numerous times but needed to pass Keeton’s civics class to graduate from high school. With Keeton’s help and encouragement, he was able to finally graduate. Many years later, he came to her house to thank her for teaching him and perhaps more importantly for having faith in him.

Following her time as State Comptroller, Keeton made the decision to run for governor as an Independent, but she lost the election. Though she was disappointed, she concluded that having her family by her side was all that she needed.

“[My family is] there in good times, and they’re there in the tough times,” Keeton said.

After the race was decided, she remembers holding one of her granddaughters and having the others smiling and waving by her side. Confused, but smiling and waving.

“That’s what it’s about,” Keeton said.

I loved my days at McCallum. It was a great school then, and it’s a great school now.”

— Carole Keeton

Now that she has retired, the former mayor keeps herself busy with her pets, Sunny the dog and Mac the cat, her artwork and, of course, her family. She has nine grandkids in total, the oldest two, Kathryn and Michelle, are the daughters of Brad and his wife Suzi McClellan. They are college graduates and are moving on with their careers. Mark’s daughters, Ellie and Alex, are currently in college, and Mark is happily married to his wife, Corinna. Dudley and his wife, Julie, are kept busy with their daughters, Anna and Audrey, who attend McCallum High School and Lamar Middle School respectively. Keeton’s youngest son, Scott, and his wife, Jill, have the youngest of Keeton’s grandkids with three little boys: Keeton, Cade, and Colt.

“My greatest accomplishments are my four grown sons, and my greatest joys are my nine grandkids,” Keeton said.

She looks forward to hearing of the many accomplishments of her family, especially her grandkids, and can’t wait for there to be another woman to be elected mayor of Austin.

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “From McCallum to mother to mayor”

  1. Evelyn Griffin on February 25th, 2019 2:10 pm

    Awesome article! It tells a great story and I really liked the amount of quotes used.

  2. Kennedy W. on February 26th, 2019 9:53 am

    I really liked this story! It was cool to learn all the awesome things your grandma did!

  3. Anna on February 26th, 2019 9:59 am

    This is a really interesting article! I love the choice of photos. It is very heartwarming to see that Keeton choose family over everything else. I love knowing the whole backstory and history of her life.

  4. Elly Schottman on February 26th, 2019 10:18 am

    I thought this story was really great and sweet. The story flows well and the pictures fit perfectly with the article.

  5. Bridget Cole on February 27th, 2019 4:00 pm

    I loved this story! The pictures are great and the story is very interesting and well written. Congrats on Best of SNO!

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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