Gloria and Mel Pennington Papers
An Inventory of the Collection
Upon moving to Austin, Gloria Mata Pennington was a stay at home mom for her two children and became immersed in community service. Gloria volunteered many hours to the Austin Independent School district, serving as President of the Gullett Elementary School PTA and later, of the McCallum High School PTA.
Her interest in politics and the impact it has on the community lead her to work on various political campaigns for politicians such as John Trevino, Richard Moya and Gonzalo Barrientos. Gloria also joined the Travis County Democratic Women's organization, where she was appointed to represent the group on the board of the Lakeside Senior Activity Center. That begun, her interest in working for and with the elderly. She later served on the board of the Community Workshop Market, the program that gave birth to the Old Bakery and Emporium and on the planning committee for Austin first Senior Activity Center.
In 1977, she went to work for the City of Austin, Parks and Recreation Department's Senior Programs. She also continued her service to the community by serving on the boards of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, Foster Grandparents, County Extension Agency and the Area Agency on Aging. She became a known expert on issues relating to the elderly and in 1977, she went on the air on Channel 36, as the host of "Senior Forum," thus becoming the first Hispanic woman on Austin television. The award winning program ran for 23 years. In 1995 she was appointed by Congressman Lloyd Doggett to represent the congressional district at the White House Conference on Aging in Washington, D.C.
Other community organizations Gloria has been involved in include the Austin/Saltillo Sister Cities program, the Fiesta de Independencia Committee, the Hispanic Archives Committee of the Austin History Center, Lou Rawls United Negro College Fund Telethon, Austin Arts Commission and the Board of Trustees of the Austin/Travis County MHMR Center.
Gloria's work has garnered her many awards. In 1989, she was recognized by the Hispanic Business Women's organization as one of the Outstanding Women of the Year for her work in the community. In 2003, she was presented La Prensa's Lifetime Achievement award for "life-long commitment to defend, preserve, and improve the quality of life in East Austin." For the promotion and nurturing of the Mexican culture, in 2007, she was presented the Ohtli award, the highest award given by the Mexican government to a non-Mexican citizen, by Consul General Jorge Guajardo.
Mel Pennington was born February 12, 1934 in Jessieville, Arkansas. Pennington first came to Austin in 1952 as an 18-year old Air Force serviceman. While in the US Air Force he began his broadcast career with the Armed Forces Radio Service and the Far East AFRS Network. Upon returning the United States Mel continued his broadcasting career at KRBC radio in Abilene. In 1957, after being discharged from the Air Force, he moved to Galveston to work at KGBC radio. While in Galveston he also became involved in community projects and met his future wife Gloria Mata.
In 1958, soon after Mel and Gloria were married, Mel went to work in radio at Houston's KODA-AM and FM and KXYZ stations covering sports and news. Mel and Gloria and their two children, Lisa Anne and Clark Raymond, moved to Austin in 1965 to be part of the new Austin television station KHFI-TV (now KXAN-TV). Mel originally worked as the lone sportscaster for the station. After 14 years in sports, he moved into management and became program director. Pennington is also known for The Joyce and Mel Show, which ran from 1979 to 1983. The program was a live talk show with viewer call-in segments. Mel also became a familiar face to Austinites as a host for various events, including the Jerry Lewis Telethon. He was a pioneer in Austin television and had many firsts, including the first talk show, the first call-in show, the first live remote, the first remote ball game, and the first local game show. Mel retired from KXAN in 1990.
Mel Pennington died on August 4, 2003 in Austin, Texas.
The majority of the collection consists of materials that Gloria Pennington assembled to “tell the story of the Senior Programs of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department” and her involvement in creating programming for the elderly that received state and national recognition. There is information on the Onie B. Conley and Roy G. Guerrero Senior Activity Center, the “Old Bakery” project, Senior Support Services, the South Austin Senior Activity Center and other senior citizen programming.
In addition, there are newspaper clippings, correspondence, biographical information, awards and recognitions and photographs that chronicle Mel Pennington's life as a television broadcaster and personality as well as the couple's involvement in many community projects.
Restrictions on Access
Open to all users.
Restrictions on Use
The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.
These papers were donated by their creators.
Gloria and Mel Pennington Papers (AR. 2002.008). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/2002/027
Donation Date: 2002 and 2005
Initial Inventory and Preliminary Processing by Molly Hults, August 2009. Final Processing and Finding Aid by Amanda Jasso and Johnny Rovell, January 2017.
Detailed Description of the Collection