Next time you visit the State Capitol in Austin, be sure to look up at the eight-foot-wide sheet metal star at the top of the rotunda. Longtime Crestview resident Bill Williamson, right, was instrumental in creating and hanging the star in 1958.
One day after work at the New Deal Tin Shop, Bill told us, he stopped off at the Cottage Cafe, at 6720 Burnet Road (ABC Vacuum Warehouse in 2015). He ran into a painter he knew who had been working down at the Capitol. He asked Bill if he’d like to create the star. He helped make it for $150 and even helped hang it, 266 feet above the rotunda floor. The star’s been there ever since—even surviving a Capitol restoration project in the 1980s that threatened to replace it.
(Thanks to Doug Fogle for writing me in July 2015 about the roles of Bill’s coworkers Jim Fogle—Doug’s dad—and Jesse Hernandez Sr. in helping create the star. All three men worked at Austin’s New Deal Tin Shop, where they made duct work—sheet metal projects that people seldom see once they’re installed. Doug also told me that his dad “spent many hours on the copper roof [of the Capitol] repairing it over the years.” Doug said Joe Smith founded the New Deal Tin Shop on Red River Street in Austin in 1933 and named it that because he was inspired by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. In 1960, Bill and Jim bought the business. After Bill sold his share and Jim retired in 1988, Doug became owner.)
Bill and his family have two mosaic tiles on the Wall of Welcome in Austin—one for the Capitol star and one for Bill; his wife Ginny; and their kids “Moe,” “Doe,” and “Joe.” Bill often visited Jean as she worked on the wall and helped however he could.
For a short time after the mosaic wall was finished in Spring 2008, a small group of neighbors met on Sundays outside Little Deli for a potluck brunch. I was there once when Bill joined us. He shared a story that epitomizes the community spirit we’ve also experienced here.
A neighbor’s tree fell and blocked the street, and the city was slow to respond. Bill and others didn’t hesitate to pitch in. “We take care of our own in this neighborhood,” he told city workers, who arrived after the street was cleared.
Bill is one neighbor featured in our film A Community Mosaic. In 2013, he was named Golden Texan by the Texas Health Care Association for his contributions to the state, including work on the Capitol star project in 1958. As a Crestview neighbor, he was a Cub Scout leader; baseball coach; and founding member, elder, and Sunday School teacher at Redeemer Lutheran. He also was a World War II veteran, and the G. I. Bill of Rights helped him buy his Crestview home after the war. Bill remembers that monthly payments were $55.55, a challenge back then for the young husband and soon-to-be father of three.
Bill passed away on November 23, 2013, at the age of 88. Growing up, he and his family moved around a lot. When he moved to Crestview in 1952, he says in A Community Mosaic, he was determined to remain here the rest of his life—and he did. You can read more about Bill here or by using the search box on our website, above.
We interviewed Bill on October 7, 2007. A DVD of his videotaped interview is at the Austin History Center.