Former longtime Waco city councilman passes away

Posted at 1:59 AM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2018-06-19 15:01:03-04

Family and friends remembered and honored former Waco city councilman Wilbert Austin, Sr. Tuesday after he passed away Monday.

Family friend Sam Brown said Austin died around 9 p.m. after a long battle with stomach cancer and was surrounded at home with family.

“Wilbert was passionate about his community and the people who lived in it. Many don’t know he was instrumental over 40 years ago in getting Waco to go to single member districts which ensured East Waco would have representation on the city council. We will forever be indebted to his efforts," Brown said in a Facebook post.

Even though one of his daughters, Sarah Chatman, knew her father's death was coming, she said his passing still leaves her in shock.

"How do I feel? Just numb. It's like a pain you can't describe it. I don't have any feelings. I cry. I have my moments but for the most part, I don't know how I'm feeling," Chatman said.

It's a feeling she shares not only with her family but also with the community.

"I think it always hits you in the gut if you lose somebody like that that you care about even if you know that he's been ill," Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver said.

"He said I know that I'm dying but I'm not going to let death catch me in this bed. I'm going to be up and around this city doing something," Chatman said.

He really did do something in his 76 years.

"He was just the kind of person who wanted to help. He wanted to make things better for the community," Chatman said.

Austin served on the city council in Waco for more than a decade and as a pastor of the Peaceful Rest Baptist Church in Moody for several decades all while championing his district and volunteering his time.

"He's just a model of a servant leader that you would like to emulate," Deaver said.

"My dad always told us he wanted to leave a legacy and that he did," Chatman said.

Chatman said it is a legacy of grace, care and positivity her father passed along that will never leave her.

"A lot of times I catch myself always wanting to help someone just like him," Chatman said.

Austin stepped down from the council last month because of his illness.

The Waco City Council chose Noah Jackson, Jr. last week to fill the final year of Austin's term.

Chatman said her brother and her sister are handling the funeral arrangements and that everything is pending at this point.

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