Strauss, Annette Louise Greenfield (1924–1998)


By: Pamela Neal

Type: Biography

Published: February 13, 2022

Updated: March 24, 2022


Annette Louise Greenfield Strauss, Dallas mayor and philanthropist, was born in Houston, Texas, on January 26, 1924, to Jacob Behr or Bear Greenfield and Edith (Weinberger) Greenfield. Her father, an insurance executive, was born in Safed in the Ottoman Empire (present-day Israel), and her mother was born in Brenham, Texas. Her paternal grandfather was a rabbi, and all four of her grandparents were from Ottoman Palestine. Annette was an only child who grew up with a strict father, who gave generously to philanthropic causes. He instilled a philanthropic sense of duty, rooted in Judaism, in his daughter. Annette recalled her father teaching her the aphorism “what I have is what I’ve given away.” By the time she was six years old, Annette showed her money-raising ability by playing Ginger Rogers on her front porch.

In high school she studied public speaking and was the first woman to win state speech championships two years in a row. After graduating high school in Houston, she attended Rice University for one year and then transferred to the University of Texas at Austin, where she was named Outstanding Woman Speaker in the Southwest. At the University of Texas, she met her future husband, Theodore Henry “Ted” Strauss. Annette graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Texas in 1944. She then attended Columbia University where she received master’s degrees with honors in psychology and sociology in half a year while she worked as a fashion model for the John Robert Powers modeling agency. Annette returned to Houston where she was a social worker for the American Red Cross. After working in this capacity for a year, she married Ted Strauss on September 8, 1946. A few months later the couple moved to Dallas, Texas. They raised two daughters—Nancy and Jane.

After moving to Dallas, Annette served on numerous boards of organizations for education, art, healthcare, and social services. She worked on behalf of United Jewish Appeal, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, the Crystal Charity Ball, Southern Methodist University, the United Way, the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Baylor University Medical Center, and numerous other organizations. By the early 1970s she was in charge of almost every major ball in Dallas, received numerous community service awards, and raised millions of dollars for the arts. She was recognized as the city’s most effective volunteer fundraiser.

Annette Strauss also did work for the Motion Picture Classification Board, Planned Parenthood, Dallas Municipal Library Board, and the Dallas Parks and Recreation Board. She raised more than $20 million for various organizations and groups. She worked as the vice president of public affairs at the Dallas public relations firm Glenn, Bozell & Jacobs. After years of successful fundraising and networking with numerous groups, she ran for public office. In 1983 she won a seat on the Dallas City Council. She became deputy mayor pro tem and then mayor pro tem in 1984. With a campaign promise to be “mayor for all the people,” Annette became mayor of Dallas in a runoff election with 56 percent of the votes in 1987. She was the first woman and first Jewish person to be elected mayor of the city (Adlene Harrison was appointed mayor in 1976). One reporter for the Dallas Morning News wrote of her ability to persuade some of the more hard-nosed businessmen by putting her hand on their sleeves and saying, “Now, honey, do it for Dallas.” She was mayor during the controversial and racially-charged reorganization of the Dallas City Council following Williams v. City of Dallas (1990). Her leadership during this tumultuous period was widely praised.

After leaving her mayoral position in 1991, she worked as a public relations consultant for the Irving advertising agency Levenson, Levenson & Hill. She later served as an “ambassador-at-large” for the city of Dallas. She was also chair of the board of directors for the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies at Southern Methodist University and the Dallas Council of World Affairs. She served on the developmental boards of the University of Texas and the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. She was a trustee of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation, the Dallas Methodist Hospitals Foundation, the St. Paul Hospital Foundation, the Texas Historical Foundation, and the Timberlawn Foundation, among other organizations.

In 1996 she was honored with the inaugural Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award, which is presented by Family Gateway, a homeless shelter and social service center Strauss helped to found in 1986. Other honors she received include honorary doctorates from Southern Methodist University, Northwood University, and the University of North Texas; the National Council of Jewish Women’s Hannah Solomon Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service; Texas Women's Hall of Fame Award; the University of Texas at Austin Distinguished Alumnus Award; the National Mother’s Day Committee’s Mother of the Year Award; the Dallas Council of World Affairs Neil Mallon Award for Distinguished Civic Service; the Jewish National Fund’s Person of Valor Award; inclusion in Town & Country magazine’s Honor Role of Volunteer Women in the United States; and the John F. Kennedy Commitment to Excellence Award. The Annette Strauss Internationalizing Dallas lecture series was established at Southern Methodist University in 1997.

Annette Greenfield Strauss died at her home in Dallas on December 14, 1998, five months after surgery of a malignant brain tumor. She was buried at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas. She was survived by her husband and her two daughters. In 2000 the University of Texas at Austin established the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Participation (later the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life) in her memory. Annette Strauss Square at the AT&T Performing Arts Center was named after her in 2010.

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“Annette Greenfield Straus,” Shalvi/Hyman Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Jewish Women’s Archive (https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/strauss-annette-greenfield), accessed February 7, 2021. “Annette Strauss Legacy,” University of Texas at Austin, Annette Straus Institute for Civic Life (https://moody.utexas.edu/centers/strauss/annette-strauss-legacy), accessed August 6, 2020. Austin American-Statesman, December 15, 1998.

Categories:
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists
  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Politics and Government
  • Civic and Community Leaders
  • Government Officials
  • Women
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II
Places:
  • East Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • Houston
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Pamela Neal, “Strauss, Annette Louise Greenfield,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/strauss-annette-louise-greenfield.

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February 13, 2022
March 24, 2022

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