Austin (Tex.). Mayor's Office. Robert Harry Akin Records
An Inventory of the Collection
Robert Harry Akin was born near Longview, Texas on September 3, 1903 to Ollie S. and Robert Harry Akin, Sr. He grew up on a dairy farm with six siblings. After completing high school Akin attended the University of Texas at Austin as a pre-med student. While at UT he became involved with the Curtain Club, the college theater group, and decided to try to "make it in the movies." He went on the road with a traveling theatrical tent show for the next few years.
After returning to Austin, Texas, Akin opened up the first Night Hawk Restaurant on December 24, 1932 in an abandoned fruit stand on the corner of South Congress Avenue and Riverside Drive. From there he created a vertically integrated food service business that included seven more restaurants; Akin Farm, a cattle ranch supplying meat for his restaurants; and a frozen food processing plant and retail distribution network.
Akin first married Bonnie Mae Wheat. He later married Josephine Dunlop in 1944, who died in 1966. His married third wife, Lela Jane Schueler Sumner, in 1967.
While building up his own restaurant business Akin was also involved in various restaurant and civic organizations at the local, state, national and international levels. He served as the President of the Austin Rotary Club in 1950-1951; founded the Austin Restaurant Association; received the Outstanding Restauranteur Award from the Texas Restaurant Association; served as President of the National Restaurant Association and member of that organization's Government Affairs Committee; and served as Vice-President of the International Association of Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe Owners.
Highlighting his interest in civic affairs is Akin's active involvement in desegregation issues at the local and national level. Beginning with the integration of his restaurants in 1959 Akin went on to push for voluntary desegregation throughout Austin. During 1963-1964 he met with the United States Attorney General Robert Kennedy, as well as John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to discuss the desegregation of public facilities across the nation. Locally, Akin served on the Austin Human Relations Committee as chair, the National Citizens Committee for Community Relations, the Committee of Human Opportunity, and actively supported the proposed Anti-Discrimination Ordinance and the Open Housing Ordinance.
Akin first ran for a seat on the Austin City Council Place 2 in 1965 but lost his bid to Ben White. He ran again two years later and was elected to Place 4 on City Council and was appointed Mayor (during this time the City Council decided amongst themselves who served as mayor). His 1969 election bid resulted in defeat and Akin retired from public office. In the remaining eight years before his death in 1976 Akin remained active in running his businesses and civic affairs. He continued to support a Civic Center plan that he had promoted while mayor and lent his support to others running for public office.
The Austin (Tex.) Mayor's Office. Robert Harry Akin Records consist of correspondence, press releases, speeches, notes, newspaper clippings and a portrait photograph that document Akin's time serving as mayor of the City of Austin, 1967 through 1969. The small collection (.4 linear feet) is arranged into four series: Correspondence; Press Releases, Speeches and Notes; Newspaper Clipping Subject Files; and Mayoral Memorabilia
The Correspondence series (1967-1969) consists of a significant amount of received letters and telegrams congratulating Akin on winning the election and being chosen as mayor, as well as the thank you responses sent by Akin. In addition, there are invitations for Akin to speak at events for local organizations and conferences, as well as thank you letters he received after these events. There is a limited amount of constituent correspondence concerning the issues of city government at the time - whether there should be a charter amendment to allow voters to directly elect the mayor (at the time the city council members decided amongst themselves who should serve as mayor) and the Fair Housing Ordinance that was passed by City Council but ultimately voted down by Austin citizens.
The Press Releases, Speeches and Notes series (1967-1969) documents Akin's political stance on the Fair Housing Ordinance, whether or not the mayor should be elected by direct vote of the people, the Model Cities Program and the tax policies of the City of Austin. The fair housing issue is the best documented and includes his public statement, press release, handwritten notes along with his research materials including a precinct breakdown of the votes cast for an against the Fair Housing Ordinance in 1968. In addition, there are the notes and speeches he made on an official trip to Saltillo, Mexico in 1969, a speech at the July 4th, 1967 fireworks exhibition at Festival Beach and a statement he made at a news conference on May 13, 1969 reflecting on his time as mayor and his hopes for the future of the Austin community.
The Newspaper Clipping Subject Files series (1967) contains clippings of a wide range of Austin political issues that were of interest to Akin. Subjects included are changes made to the ambulance ordinance; the dismissal of City Manager Williams and subsequent hiring of Robert Tinstman; City Council testing the idea of night council meetings; Fiesta Gardens offering to give up their lease on the Town Lake lagoon for a fee; the possibility of fluoridating Austin's water; complaints from East Austin/Montopolis residents concerning infrastructure and housing needs; the selection of Akins as mayor; and the development of Town Lake.
A framed portrait photograph of Akin, a ceremonial bible from a prayer service at Woodlawn Baptist Church, stationary and a business card make up the Mayoral Memorabilia series (circa 1967).
Open to all users
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.
Austin (Tex.). Mayor's Office. Robert Harry Akin Records (AR.2017.016). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.
Donor #: DO/1983/015
Donation Date: 1990
These materials were originally filed with AR.Z.016, Akin's personal papers. Finding aid created and encoded by Molly Hults in 2017.
Detailed Description of the Collection