Hershey, Terese Tarlton (1923–2017)

By: Jesse Ritner

Type: Biography

Published: May 26, 2021

Updated: June 3, 2021


Terese “Terry” Tarlton Hershey, longtime environmental activist and organizer in Houston, Texas, was born on January 19, 1923, in Fort Worth, Texas. Her father, John Tarlton, was a lawyer and amateur gardener. Her mother, Elizabeth (Wright) Tarlton, was a homemaker and civic activist. Terese’s grandmother Mary Wright, was also a civic activist, making her the third generation of female activists in her family. She had one older brother, John. In 1939 Terese Tarlton left home to attend Stevens College for Women in Columbia, Missouri. Two years later, she entered the University of Texas where she earned a bachelor of the arts in philosophy. On June 11, 1943, Terese Tarlton married Thomas Hart Law, an attorney and ensign in the U. S. Naval Reserve. After their wedding the couple traveled to Tucson, Arizona, where her husband reported for duty and later to Philadelphia where she worked as editor for Air Scoop, a magazine for the Naval Air Materials Center. 

When World War II ended in 1945, Terese returned to Fort Worth with her husband. Tom Law worked in a law firm, while she edited the Junior League’s magazine, served on a number of city boards, and managed public relations for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (see SOUTHWESTERN EXPOSITION AND LIVESTOCK SHOW). While in Fort Worth, Terese also co-owned The Westside Post with Louis Reid, a friend from college.  Reid later became the director of the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in Washington, D.C., and remained an important connection for Terese during her activism in Houston.  In Fort Worth, both she and her husband were active supporters of the Democratic party.

In 1956, after thirteen years of marriage, Terese and Tom amicably divorced. Immediately after, Terese traveled briefly to New York but returned soon after and opened the Wonderful Things art gallery with partner Electra Carlin. While in New York at a charity event, Terese met her second husband Jacob “Jake” Wilbur Hershey, who also resided in Texas and was a distant relative of the famous chocolate makers. Jake and Terese married in Arlington on December 19, 1958, and soon set off to sail around the world for Jacob’s business ventures and yacht racing. In Houston, Jake Hershey was the president of Commercial Transport Corporation, one of the largest barge companies in the nation. His work brought him and his wife into contact with important members of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Terese utilized these connections when the couple settled down in Houston.

In 1966 Terese became involved with the Save the Buffalo Bayou Campaign (1966–71) and eventually became vice president of the Buffalo Bayou Preservation Association’s (BBPA) Executive Committee. The city of Houston was attempting to mitigate floods in the bayou, but the process involved destroying the bayou and replacing it with concrete, thereby destroying the natural beauty and scarring Hershey’s and many other neighborhoods. Terese, who did not work, unlike the men on the BBPA, had significantly more time to dedicate to the protection of the bayou and in many ways took the lead for the Save the Buffalo Bayou Campaign. She worked to create women’s groups, collect information, and organize a local movement to save Buffalo Bayou.

The Buffalo Bayou controversy jumpstarted her career as an activist and organizer in the greater Houston area. In 1967 Terese became a founding member of the organization Citizens Who Care. That same year, she presented a ten-minute oral testimony in defense of the bayou to federal officials in Washington, D.C. In 1969 she founded the Houston branch of the Audubon Society, and one year later she was named co-chair of the Sam Houston Resource Conservation and Development Area subcommittee on Land Use Planning. In 1971 the Army Corps of Engineers officially cancelled the project, in large part due to Terese’s work.

Over the years, she continued to found environmental protection organizations, including The Park People, the Citizens Environmental Organization, the Armand Bayou Nature Center, the Sam Houston Resources Conservation and Development Area, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation was celebrated for its support of Galveston’s Grand 1894 Opera House and its accompanying publication history in 1989 (see Opera). On March 27, 1990, Terese was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in Austin. In 1996 she was a member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and in 2012, at eighty-nine years old, she championed the preservation of the Edith L. Moore Log Cabin at the Houston Audubon’s Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary (see TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT; AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES). During her illustrious career as an activist, she was named the Outstanding Citizen Environmentalist, and Houston City Magazine named her one of Houston’s twenty most influential women.  Terese Tarlton Hershey died at the age of ninety-four on January 19, 2017 (her birthday), in Houston. A memorial was set up in her name for donations to the Bayou Preservation Association, Planned Parenthood, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Houston SPCA, or any other charity. She was preceded in death by her husband Jake. They had no children.

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Austin American-Statesman, January 21, 2017. Helen Drummond, “Remembering a Houston Legend, a Force for Nature: Teresa ‘Terry’ Tarlton Hershey (1923–2017),” Houston Audubon Society (https://houstonaudubon.org/about/news/hershey.html), accessed April 25, 2021. Fort-Worth Star Telegram, September 20, 1959; January 25, 2017. Galveston Daily News, March 19, 1989; November 19, 1989. Terese Tarlton Hershey Papers, 1956–1981, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Texas Parks and Wildlife Annual Report 1995 (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth653611/m2/1/high_res_d/UNT-0061-0020.pdf), accessed April 25, 2021. Houston Chronicle, January 21, 2017. Texas Women’s Hall of Fame: Terese (Terry) Tarlton Hershey, Texas Woman’s University (https://twu.edu/twhf/honorees/terese-terry-tarlton-hershey/), accessed April 25, 2021. Teresa Tomkins-Walsh, A Concrete River Had to Be Wrong: Environmental Action on Houston’s Bayous, 1935–1980 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Houston, 2009).

Categories:

  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Civic Leaders
  • Environment and Geography
  • Journalism
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Women

Time Periods:

  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • Texas in the 21st Century

Places:

  • East Texas
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • Houston
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

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

Jesse Ritner, “Hershey, Terese Tarlton,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 17, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/terese-tarlton-hershey.

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May 26, 2021
June 3, 2021

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