Bill Sinkin, founder of Solar San Antonio, died at his home on Monday, Feb. 3. He was 100 years old.
Sinkin was a progressive force in his native city. During the Depression he sold khaki pants for $9 a dozen and helped to found the local symphony orchestra (he played second violin). With his father, he operated a department store on the heavily African-American east side of town, and saw that his employees couldn’t get mortgages or car loans. So in 1960 he organized the Texas State Bank specifically to serve this community. In 1984, he put solar water-heating panels on the bank’s drive-through lanes and talked the local utility company into subsidizing solar. He founded Solar San Antonio in 1999 and then launched the Metropolitan Partnership for Energy in 2003. He started San Antonio’s Solar Tour and got the city designated a Solar America City.
Bill Sinkin was preceded in death by his wife Fay, who died in March 2009 at age 90, and is survived by twosons, Larry and Richard, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
William Sinkin was born in San Antonio in 1913. After earning a business degree in 1934 from the University of Texas, he began working at his father’s wholesale clothing manufacturing company and later became a successful banker. Throughout his life, Mr. Sinkin has worked to improve the community by opening opportunities for those traditionally denied. In 1946, he co-founded Goodwill Industries in San Antonio to help those with physical and mental challenges find work. He was involved in public housing issues and chaired the board of the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) from 1949-1953. He also conscientiously worked to increase the participation of minorities in local governmental agencies. He hired the first woman executive director of SAHA. He is known for his role as an advocate and catalyst for minority business development. When Mr. Sinkin bought control of Texas State Bank in the late 1960s, the bank started an aggressive program of minority representation and small business lending.
Sinkin’s interest in improving the community continued through the 1960s when he undertook a major role in organizing HemisFair, serving as the first president of San Antonio Fair, Inc., the corporate body for the San Antonio World’s Fair. HemisFair, held in 1968, proved to be a momentous event for the city’s economy and history. Sinkin also founded Urban Coalition of San Antonio in the 1960s, a non-profit research and advocacy organization that works with low-income white communities and communities of color to address community, social, and economic issues. The Coalition works in the areas of education, employment, health, hunger and poverty, welfare reform, immigration, issues of race, technical assistance and capacity building. In 1968, Sinkin served on the planning committee for dedicating the Bexar County Hospital, and was Vice Chairman of Bexar County Hospital District. He was also dedicated to addressing issues concerning the Jewish community. In 1976, Sinkin led a private delegation of San Antonio Jewish leaders to meet with Mexico’s President Echerrveria to discuss Mexican-Jewish relations after Echeverria endorsed a United Nations General Assembly resolution that equated Zionism with racism. The goodwill talks stressed the importance of good relations between the U.S. Jewish community and Mexico to promote economic and cultural ties.
Sinkin has been recognized with numerous awards, including the National Brotherhood Award by the National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1966, and banker of the year by the Small Business Administration and Independent Bankers Association in 1984. His interests in later years focused on city/county governance. Sinkin retired in 1987, and in 1988 he signed on with UTSA as a financial consultant and opened his own consulting firm, William R. Sinkin and Associates.
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