Skip to main content

Citizens' Environmental Coalition (CEC) Records

Identifier: 2007-001

Forms part of the Houston History Archives.

CEC's archival records collection includes documentation of Houston's environmental history and CEC's organizational efforts from 1966 to 2000. The CEC records collection arises from three separate accessions. First and largest are the records preserved in the CEC offices. With a few exceptions, the CEC office records document organization activities during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. In addition to administrative, financial, and program files, these records include audio tapes, photographs, slides, and posters.

A second accession came from the Terry Hershey papers. Hershey's CEC papers include the earliest organizational records from the late 1960s and 1970s, including documentation of CEC's predecessor and partner, Citizens Who Care (CWC). Also included are the very few records that remain of the Houston Area Forum. Hershey's papers include organization and financial records, board correspondence and training, early committee work, materials on local organizations, documentation for the early CEC brochures, and a nearly complete set of newsletters. Also integrated into the Hershey papers was a carton of materials acquired from the estate of Barrie Zimmelman. Because Zimmelman's collection was comparatively slight and because Hershey secured the papers from Zimmelman's executors, they were processed with the Hershey accession.

A third accession came from Sarah and Army Emmott, graciously donated by Army Emmott's daughter, Mildred Williams. The Emmott's accession includes papers largely from the 1980s, including financial records, committee activities, and newsletters plus programs such as the Waterfront Festival that are not represented elsewhere in the CEC collection.

A fourth set of records is housed at the Metropolitan Research Center of the Houston Public Library. Those records include CEC documents from 1971 to 1981 and from the CEC Education Foundation, Inc. This collection includes correspondence, newsletters, meeting minutes, and reports regarding the environmental issues affecting the Upper Gulf Coast, including extensive reports on the Toxic Waste Task Force.

The three accessions represented in this finding aid were processed similarly but separately to adhere as closely as possible to the archival principle of original order. Also, the archivist determined that it was important historically to preserve the collections of founders who had been essential to CEC's development. Both Terry Hershey and Sarah Emmott were visionary in their preservation of documents. Terry Hershey continues to preserve and disseminate documentation of Houston's environmental history.


  • 1966-2008


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Special Collections owns the physical items in our collections, but copyright normally belongs to the creator of the materials or their heirs. The researcher has full responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish from copyright holders, and abiding by current copyright laws when publishing or displaying copies of Special Collections material in print or electronic form. For more information, consult the appropriate librarian. Reproduction decisions will be made by Special Collections staff on a case-by-case basis.


15.0 linear feet

Historical Information

By the mid-1960s, Houston’s big city affluence had created a city of remarkable growth and employment opportunities but degraded by poor air and water quality, troubled by recurrent flooding, and deficient in park and recreation space. As concerned citizens became aware of a need for activism, local government oversight, and community advocacy, individuals began to organize to improve Houston’s quality of life. Citizens Who Care (CWC) was a group of women (and initially one man) who decided in July 1968 that they could organize to solve some of Houston’s problems. In November 1968, CWC organized a luncheon for a group of Houston’s elite businessmen who in turn created the Houston Area Forum, raised an impressive sum of money, hired a director, and printed promotional brochures. In fewer than two years, Houston Area Forum folded into the Chamber of Commerce and later disbanded altogether. Disappointed with these results, the women of CWC redirected their energies. Having realized that there were a number of small groups dedicated to improving Houston’s quality of life, the women of CWC decided that Houston needed a centralized information clearing house to assist struggling environmental groups and coordinate community efforts.

Influenced and trained by initiatives in other cities such as the San Francisco Planning and Urban Renewal Association (SPUR) and the Citizens Action Program (CAP) of Chicago, the founders of CWC formed the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (CEC) formally in 1970, but their informal activities had begun as early as 1969. Throughout spring 1969, members of CWC collaborated with other groups to sponsor a community education program on air quality, in preparation for June 1970 hearings by the Texas Air Control Board. Their effort brought 1500 citizens to the air quality hearing, a success that encouraged the formal establishment of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition.

In June 1970, members of CEC met to formulate Articles of Incorporation, By-laws, and a second important project. Office space offered by the San Jacinto Lung Association and grants from Lois Maher and CWC allowed CEC to open for business with the help of paid secretary. CEC organized to provide participating groups and the Houston community with networking, resources, and information. Over time, it offered telephone answering services, an information hotline, and recommendations for expert speakers among other services.

Having succeeded with their Air Quality Information Campaign, CEC’s second major undertaking was formation of task forces on environmental issues, a project that would occupy CEC members over the second half of 1970. These task forces were an important step in Houston’s environmental activism because they involved coordination of environmental, political, and professional groups as well as government agencies. The task forces were set up to study broadly the problems of waste management, open space, urban aesthetics land use, population control, conservation, and transportation at local, state, and national levels to produce informed recommendations for legislative and community planning purposes.

CEC continued its community outreach efforts into the 1980s. For example, CEC hosted a series of meetings between the Houston City Council’s Committee on Flood Management with groups monitoring Houston’s Water Master Plan. CEC also established the Trails System Committee to develop an interconnected system of hike and bike trails in Harris County. During the late 1980s, CEC sponsored a radio program on KPFT, Radio Pacifica, entitled “Talk of the Earth.” At the beginning of the each program, CEC’s executive director read the environmental calendar of events to publicize meetings for the upcoming week. The program’s format provided a forum in which environmental experts could address the problems facing the Gulf Coast region and offer a spectrum of possible solutions. Tapes of that program are preserved in CEC’s archival records collection.

By the 1990s, CEC had established a website and began sending a weekly newsletter by email. Over the years, CEC had occupied space at San Jacinto Lung Association, University of Houston-Downtown, and at the “Firehouse” in the Montrose area. In 1998, CEC opened the Houston Environmental Conference Center that offers office space to member organizations plus meeting rooms and a conference space that can seat over 200 participants. Members of CWC and CEC organized Houston’s first Earth Day celebration in 1970, and CEC continues to sponsor annual celebrations of Earth Day, as well as an Annual Meeting, the Synergy Awards, and a variety of environmentally sensitive community initiatives.

Founders of the CEC were tenacious, energetic, and inspired by the urgency of their mission. They envisioned CEC as a vital organizational nexus that would link and reinforce local non-profit groups and function as a liaison between community, city, county, state, and national agencies and organizations. Following is an incomplete but representative list of women who founded CWC and CEC:

Helen Anderson

Marguerite Barnes

Mary Cravens

Dorothy Davis

Annella Dexter

Sarah Emmott

Hana Ginzbarg

Ada Grundy

Terry Hershey

Diana Hobby

Maizie Marshall

Marge Selden

Mary Spencer

Lucie Todd

Eloise Walsh

Shirley Wozencraft

Katherine Wray

Maggie Wray

Barrie Zimmelman

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Citizens' Environmental Coalition in 2007.

Processing Information

In general, the CEC collection was processed with chronological order. When the names of entities seemed more important for retrieval purposes, processing was alphabetical and then chronological. CEC office records are presented first, Terry Hershey's records follow, and then Sarah and Army Emmott's collection follows, following the chronological order of accessions. Following the Emmott accession is the CEC media collection, placed at the end of the collection because tapes and slides require special housing configurations.

The CEC archival records collection consists of 730 folders housed in 73 manuscript boxes, 171 audio tapes housed in 10 boxes, thousands of slides housed in 23 metal boxes, and 1 tube for rolled oversized items.



Guide to the Citizens' Environmental Coalition (CEC) Records
Silvia Martinez and Teresa Tomkins-Walsh
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections Repository

University of Houston Libraries Special Collections
MD Anderson Library
4333 University Drive
Houston TX 77204-2000 USA