A Guide to the Helen Cloud Austin Papers, 1944-2010
Helen Cloud Austin earned local and national recognition for her accomplishments and dedication as a social worker at the San Antonio State Hospital. Austin was only the second black student ever to attend the University of Louisville’s Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work. After earning her Masters of Science degree in 1953, Austin was hired as a social worker at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. Austin moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1957 and became Chief of the Outpatient Department at Longview State Hospital. In 1962, Austin’s husband, a civil service worker, was transferred to Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. After moving to Texas, Austin applied to the San Antonio State Hospital for a social work position, but was denied employment due to a “No blacks hired as professional” policy. Austin, however, found professional work in the private sector. In 1965, with the help of Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez, the racist policy was lifted, and Austin became the first African-American professional hired at the San Antonio State Hospital.
Austin cultivated a rewarding career at San Antonio State Hospital, spearheading several new programs as Chief of the Social Services Department. Among the first programs started by Austin was an orientation for newly admitted patients. In 1968, Austin started the SASH-Mobile program, providing bus rides from Nueces County to San Antonio for family and friends of patients. Splash for SASH was another program started by Austin to organize beach trips to Corpus Christi for patients and their family and friends. In 1980, Austin also organized efforts encouraging short-term patients to register and vote in political elections.
Austin’s accomplishments were formally recognized in 1983 when she was declared San Antonio Social Worker of the Year and Texas’ State Social Worker of the Year. In 1984, Austin was honored as the nation’s Social Worker of the Year by the 94,000-member National Association of Social Workers, making her the first Texan to receive all three awards. The city organized a large send-off at the San Antonio airport before Austin departed to accept her award at the National Health Conference in Washington, D.C. U.S. Congressman Henry B. Gonzalez escorted Austin to the ceremony and read a tribute to her in Congress, which is published in the Congressional Record of June 11, 1984. Among other prestigious honors, Austin was inducted into the San Antonio Hall of Fame in 1985. In addition, Austin was one of fifteen women included in a 1989 booklet sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women entitled Salute to Black Women Who Make Things Happen.
After nearly 23 years of service, Austin retired from the San Antonio State Hospital in 1987, but remained active in the field of social work and in other community organizations. Austin continued to volunteer at the San Antonio State Hospital, and served on the Advisory Committee of the Hogg Foundation, and as the President of the Board of Directors for the San Antonio Halfway House, Inc. Austin also served on the Boards of the Bexar County Mental Health/Mental Retardation Center, Greater San Antonio Mental Health Association, and Wesley Community Center. Austin continued to be an active member at St. Paul United Methodist Church where she started the Senior Citizen Ministry. In addition, Austin continued her activities with the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. A member of the sorority since 1945, Austin served as President of the San Antonio Alumnae Chapter from 1970-1972.
Correspondence, newsletters, news clippings, magazines, award programs, photographs, awards, a high school diploma, and a scrapbook document a prominent San Antonio social worker who gained national recognition for her accomplishments in the profession. The collection is divided into four series and arranged in chronological order within each series: Career Files, Awards and Honors, Community Involvement, and Personal files.
The papers in Career Files are arranged as a chronology highlighting Austin’s professional accomplishments and her involvement in the community. Very little material dates back to Austin's first professional jobs in Chicago and Cincinnati during the 1950s. The bulk of the material dates from her time at the San Antonio State Hospital from 1965-1987. Also included is material on her retirement, including a Retirement Scrapbook that was given to Austin by the San Antonio State Hospital upon her retirement in 1987. The scrapbook provides information about the hospital’s history, and includes photographs of the institution. Within the Career Files series folder, is a letter recognizing all of the hard work Dr. Inglis, the superintendent of San Antonio State Hospital, did to promote Helen Cloud Austin's retirement. The Career files dating after Austin’s retirement in 1987 show her continued involvement in, and recognition by, professional and community organizations.
The Awards and Honors series highlights Austin's professional and community achievements. Austin was chosen to be the nation's Social Worker of the Year in 1984, making the 1984 file an excellent source of personal and professional background information on Austin. Included in the 1984 files are various biographies written by newspaper columnists and professional and community organizations. Respect for Austin and her accomplishments are conveyed through letters of congratulations and additional recognition from leaders in Texas government, the social work profession, and organizations in San Antonio.
The Community Involvement series emphasizes her involvement with St. Paul United Methodist Church, as well as her support for political leaders.
The papers in the Personal Files series relate to her education, including a high school diploma, material documenting the time Austin spent at the University of Louisville, and her involvement with the sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. The bulk of the material relating to the University of Louisville regards her involvement with the Alumni Association and includes material on the 50th Alumni Anniversary and the Helen Cloud Austin Scholarship Fund. The Delta Sigma Theta material chiefly relates to her involvement with the San Antonio chapter. Included with this material is a certificate and letter of acceptance into the sorority.
The Photographs series includes one photo from Austin's high school graduation and one photo of an unknown man, while the bulk of the photographs consist of work and award related photographs.
Selected material in this collection has been digitized and is available in our digital collections.
This collection is housed at UTSA's Main Campus and must be accessed via the John Peace Library Special Collections reading room. To request access, please use the Collections Request Form.
Permission to publish material from the papers must be obtained from University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
[Identification of item], Helen Cloud Austin Papers, 1944-2010, MS 61, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections.
Received as a gift from Helen Cloud Austin, 1997-2010 (Acc. 1997-017, 2002-007, 2003-068, 2005-016, 2007-019, 2008-023, 2010-029).
Processed by Toni Jeske, Processing Archivist, January 1999, Tatina Wulzer, Collections Assistant, August 2008, and Rose Rodriguez, Collections Assistant, July 2010.
Detailed Description of the Collection