Austin City Council Votes to Rename Street in Honor of Azie Taylor Morton

Public Testimony from Texas AFL-CIO Communications Director, Ed Sills-

Mr. Mayor, Honorable Members of the Austin City Council, my name is Ed Sills. I’m Communications Director at the Texas AFL-CIO, a state labor federation consisting of 237,000 affiliated union members who advocate for working families in Texas.

On behalf of the officers and staff of the Texas AFL-CIO, I have the honor of speaking in favor of Item 78, the proposal to rename a road in honor of Azie Taylor Morton, the 36th Treasurer of the United States.  

Ms. Morton, then Azie Taylor, worked as an Administrative Assistant at the Texas AFL-CIO starting in 1957. That job, then and now, requires organizing, leadership, personal and trouble-making skills that go well beyond basics like typing, filing and answering the phones.

By all accounts, the Azie Taylor of the late 1950s and early 1960s had these proactive skills in abundance, so much so that the Texas AFL-CIO could only briefly occupy her momentum toward a place in our nation’s history. In 1961, she went to work in Washington, D.C., for the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, President Kennedy’s pioneering federal agency that was a catalyst in the civil rights movement and a predecessor to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. In later jobs, she continued to make a difference for our city, our state and our nation. 

No one currently in our office knew Ms. Morton personally, but I scoured our archives and found some interesting material.

 A true rarity appears in our transcript of the 1959 Texas AFL-CIO Convention. It’s a photo of Azie Taylor with two other administrative assistants. In our 60-year history, we have almost never run photos in the books that contain our formal proceedings, but a smiling Ms. Taylor can be found in this exception. Then Secretary-Treasurer Fred Schmidt said of the administrative assistants as he introduced them, “Now if you all got any complaints, why here are the people who can do something about it….”

Ms. Morton returned to our convention 20 years later as a featured speaker while serving as U.S. Treasurer. She acknowledged her roles as signer of our currency and friend of working people, stating, “You have me in your pockets in more ways than one.” She offered special greetings to local and state labor leaders Walter Timberlake, Dally Willis and Ruth Ellinger, then launched into a speech urging investment in U.S. Savings Bonds.

Our 1979 Convention Program devoted a page to a picture of Ms. Morton and her impressive biography. (See Below)

Members of the City Council, the Texas AFL-CIO’s connection to Azie Taylor Morton is a source of great pride. She made a difference in true uphill struggles -- as a hands-on advocate for working people, a champion of accessible housing and an outspoken leader in the civil rights movement.

One other piece of history: Ms. Morton would be the second speaker from the 1979 Texas AFL-CIO Convention to be remembered in the renaming of an Austin street. The first was César Chávez, the great United Farm Workers co-founder.

I urge the Council to vote “yes” on the plan to commemorate Azie Taylor Morton’s history-making accomplishments by naming a road for her.