As Terri Burke prepared for her interview to become executive director of the ACLU of Texas, she looked on the organization�s website to find the street address. Only its post office box address was listed. That�s when she knew that leading an organization that many in the state saw as a bunch of frizzy-haired, fuzzy-headed, Birkenstock-wearing, aging hippies would draw more hostility than being a newspaper editor in a mid-sized, very traditional Texas city.
After a 32-year newspaper career that began with work as a reporter in East Texas and included stints at Connecticut�s Hartford Courant, the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, and The Albuquerque Tribune, and as editor of the Abilene Reporter-News, Burke is now three years into her �encore� career. She leads a growing staff (from eight to 17) in a state of 25 million people that is often the country�s laboratory for civil rights violations. She and her colleagues are in the forefront of a coalition to prevent Texas from going the way of Arizona: engaging in the �cause of our lives� to stop the xenophobic assault on immigrants. And while they are at it, they continue to react to all manner of Constitutional violations, including swimming upstream to educate Texans about the proper role for government in exercising religious beliefs. Under her leadership, the budget has doubled, and she has positioned the organization for major growth, moving its headquarters from the oasis of blue Austin to cosmopolitan Houston and opening offices across the state.