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Remembering Bill Sinkin

February 10, 2014

Bill Sinkin was many things: banker, civil rights advocate, political and civic activist, community and World’s Fair organizer, philanthropist, promoter of alternative energy, and bow-tie aficionado. Above all, Bill Sinkin was a champion of San Antonio.

Throughout his life, Mr. Sinkin has worked to improve the community by opening opportunities for those traditionally denied. In 1946, he co-founded Goodwill Industries in San Antonio to help those with physical and mental challenges find work. He was involved in public housing issues and chaired the board of the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) from 1949-1953. He also conscientiously worked to increase the participation of minorities in local governmental agencies. He hired the first woman executive director of SAHA. He is known for his role as an advocate and catalyst for minority business development. When Mr. Sinkin bought control of Texas State Bank in the late 1960s, the bank started an aggressive program of minority representation and small business lending.  -Solar San Antonio website

UTSA reception, September 2010

UTSA reception, September 2010

Sinkin’s love for his hometown can also be seen in the work he did to ensure that the World’s Fair took place in San Antonio. HemisFair ’68, the first World’s Fair to be held in Texas, was the vision of a handful of San Antonio businessmen.  In 1962, they formed San Antonio, Fair, Inc. as the corporate body of HemisFair ’68 with Bill Sinkin as the organization’s first president. As recently as 2005 Sinkin claimed to “regard HemisFair ’68 as my greatest contribution to the community.”  He made several donations of archival material to UTSA Libraries Special Collections San Antonio Fair, Inc. records collection over the years. Most recently, in 2010, he donated several original HemisFair ’68 posters and a small reception was held in his honor.

After retiring from banking in 1987, Sinkin became a business consultant.  He eventually founded Solar San Antonio in 1999, a nonprofit organization committed to making solar energy a major contributor to the creation of the new energy economy. Bill Sinkin passed away on Monday February 2 at home and surrounded by family. The funeral and memorial services were held Friday February 7 at Temple Beth-El.

Related archival sources at UTSA:

  • William and Fay Sinkin papers: The William and Fay Sinkin Papers document the Sinkin’s longstanding commitment to civic issues and include correspondence, clippings, articles, scrapbooks, photographs, videotapes, and datebooks.
  • San Antonio Fair, Inc. records. Executive Officers: The records of the San Antonio Fair, Inc. span the years 1962 through 1995 and document the planning, lobbying, financing and construction that resulted in HemisFair ’68. This series consists of correspondence of executive officers, general administrative papers, minutes of meetings, and oral history transcripts.
  • Oral history interviews:
    • William Sinkin, 1980 – William Sinkin describes the political and economic history of Hemisfair from the first proposal in 1957, the impetus from Congresssman Henry B. Gonzalez in 1962, through its completion.
    • William Sinkin, 1995 – Describing Hemisfair as “a watershed for San Antonio’s growth and development”, Sinkin explains the role of Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, political and business leaders that shows the effect of their efforts on civil rights, culture, tourism, the economy and politics in San Antonio.
    • William Sinkin, 2005 – A series of interviews with William “Bill” Sinkin, son of Russian immigrants, concerning his family, personal, and professional history also includes his observations on the politics and economy of San Antonio, which was edited by Sterlin Holmesly for a newspaper article.

Sources:

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