Rice alumna Annise Parker elected Houston mayor

Rice alumna Annise Parker elected Houston mayor
Professors recall Parker’s days as a student

Rice News staff

  Listen to Annise Parker’s reference to Rice in her victory speech.

Annise Parker, a 1978 graduate of Rice University, won the Dec. 12 runoff for Houston mayor.

The first openly gay mayor of one of the nation’s largest cities, Parker teased her supporters as she began her victory speech. ”I am proud, very proud, to have been elected the first (pause), the very first graduate of Rice University to be mayor of Houston.” She did not make an issue of her sexual orientation during her campaign.

Parker defeated former City Attorney Gene Locke by more than 10,000 votes. According to the Elections Division of the Harris County’s Clerk’s Office, with 100 percent of the city’s precincts reporting, Parker received 81,665 votes or 53.6 percent. Locke received 70,705 votes or 46.4 percent. Turnout was estimated at 16.4 percent of eligible voters.

"We’re united in one goal, and that is making Houston the city that it should be, could be, can be and will be," Parker told supporters in her victory speech.

Annise Parker, a 1978 graduate of Rice University, won the Dec. 12 runoff for Houston mayor.


”Houston is a city that invites entrepreneurs and shelters evacuees. Houston is a city built on dreams, but these dreams have always been powered by hard work, creativity, common sense and cooperation. We are a diverse city, and I’ve heard Houston described as a city where the future has already arrived.”

A native Houstonian, Parker attended Rice from 1974 to 1978 and was a member of Jones College. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, psychology and sociology.

Sociology Professor Stephen Klineberg was a new member of the Rice faculty when Parker was an undergraduate. He remembers Parker as "wonderfully bright and engaging — the epitome of why I was feeling good about having come to Rice."

Klineberg said Parker was "very much of a presence" in the classroom and always asking the kind of questions that "keep professors on their toes." He ran into Parker years after she graduated and said she reminded him of a course he taught on social development in Tunisia. She could still recollect some of the material — like figures on women’s education — that Klineberg had unearthed during a yearlong stay in the North African country several years earlier.

Parker was elected city controller in 2003 and ran unopposed in 2005 and 2007. Prior to becoming controller, she served on the Houston City Council. She was elected to an at-large position in 1997 and became Houston’s first openly gay elected official.

Chandler Davidson, professor emeritus of sociology, recalled Parker recruiting him to serve as faculty sponsor for the Gay and Lesbian Support Group that she founded at Rice in 1979 — a year after she graduated. When the members of the group later posed for their first Campanile photo a few years later, Davidson said, almost all wore paper bags over their heads to guard their anonymity. Thirty years later, he noted, the group’s founder has won the especially identifiable position of mayor. "They have really come a long way," Davidson said, "to a significant degree, thanks to Annise, working to get the community politicized and organized."

  Annise Parker, pictured fourth from left on the back row, made a visit to campus in 1984 for the Gay and Lesbian Support Group’s Campanile photo. She was one of two people in the photo who did not conceal their identity with a bag over their heads.

Years later, Davidson said he attended a Parker fundraiser for her city council bid. He remembered Parker responding to audience questions on a wide range of issues related to different parts of Houston. "I was really impressed with her knowledge of the city — all parts of the city," Davidson said. It was this attention to detail and hard work, he said, that helped Parker reach her current position.

After she is inaugurated in January, Parker will work closely with fellow Rice alumnus Harris County Judge Ed Emmett ’71, who is the presiding officer of Harris County Commissioners Court. Other Rice alums currently holding elected office are state Rep. Scott Hochberg ’75, state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh ’74 and U.S. Reps. Pete Olson ’85 and John Kline ’69. While Parker is the first Rice graduate to serve as mayor, former Harris County Judge and former Mayor of Houston Roy Hofheinz attended Rice but did not earn a Rice degree.

Parker was the leading vote getter in the first round of the Houston mayoral election Nov. 3 (with 31 percent of the vote), but was forced into a runoff with Locke to replace Bill White, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.





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