Friday, December 26, 2008

Reverend Dr. Marshall Truehill Jr.

A big blow for every community.

He was at his best when he spoke for himself:

Man, that's a great clip.

He came to Austin with Karen, John Barry, and I.

This was the last time I saw him, at last week's protest demanding the reopening of Charity Hospital and the preservation of Lower Mid City:

He's wearing a red cap, standing next to his wife, Miranda.


When I daydream, a frequent occurrence, I think about a time in the future when progressives have finally realized the dream of political ascendancy. Naturally, I'm the Mayor and I've embarked on an ambitious agenda to reform institutions and systems responsible for the structural inequalities in our civic life. Of course, there are a lot of boards and commissions in my new administration and I was going to make sure that Reverend Dr. Truehill sat on nearly all of them.

He was very busy in those daydreams of mine. We were going to have lots of spirited discussions and debates. I was really looking forward to it.

There are a lot of smart people in this world but brilliance is rare - occurring when intelligence combines with passion, thoughtfulness, and curiosity.

Reverend Dr. Marshall Truehill was brilliant.

I feel blessed to have known him but I mourn the loss of all the lessons I would have learned.


From Walter Gallas of the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

I first met Rev. Truehill as a fellow student at the University of New Orleans' College of Urban and Public Affairs about 15 years ago. I had recently arrived in New Orleans to pursue a Masters degree in Urban and Public Affairs. Marshall was working on his Ph.D. in Urban Studies—the degree, I understand, he finally attained just days ago.

I followed his career in public service including his tenure on the City Planning Commission, but it was during the battle of the proposed demolitions of the "Big Four" public housing developments in the last few years that I really got to know him better. Marshall was able to eloquently express the plight of the public housing residents—whose voices were stilled or ignored by city and federal officials. We attended editorial board meetings together, spoke at public meetings and City Council hearings, and huddled with other community activists to plot strategies. His manner was usually cool, calm and collected, but when he was provoked, an angry and defiant edge would creep into his voice, and those in the room would stop, look up, and listen to the words of this confident preacher.

As the representative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in New Orleans, I struggled constantly to articulate a message that the public housing debate was more than about saving and re-using old buildings, that it was really about whether housing policies for the poor in our community are humane, inclusive and sustainable. Marshall managed much better than I to get the message across, and maybe he pricked the consciences of some of our local leaders. Alas, they chose not to heed his admonitions, and we are seeing the fulfillment of his forecasts that the City of New Orleans, HANO and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were pursuing a dangerous and wrong-headed housing redevelopment strategy that essentially locks out the vast majority of the poor.

I will miss Marshall a lot. I hope that we can use him as a constant touchstone against which to check our assumptions, weigh our positions, confront our prejudices, and perhaps eventually reach some of the goals he sought with so much determination to achieve.


alli said...

Oh jesus. This is horrible.

jeffrey said...

Was this reported somewhere?

E said...

I got a call this morning.

jeffrey said...

Oh there it is now