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Bill Sinkin’s Big Love Affair (Isn’t What You Think It Is)

Photo: Courtesy photos, License: N/A

Courtesy photos

The late Bill Sinkin championed civil rights and equality.

Photo: , License: N/A

The late Bill Sinkin in his trademark bow tie. Sinkin pioneered solar energy in San Antonio.

“It was a very explosive issue; we caught a lot of flack for even raising it,” says Lanny.

Sinkin’s fight for social and racial justice stemmed from his own battles with prejudice and discrimination. The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Sinkin faced intolerance during his childhood and was even beat up for his heritage, or as the schoolyard aggressors put it, for “not belonging,” leaving an indelible mark that allowed him to empathize with the struggles experienced by those of other races and religions.

In his mission to cultivate dialogue among cultures, Sinkin and local Palestinian poet and author Naomi Shihab Nye hosted Jewish-Arab potluck dinners at the Institute of Texan Cultures and the Mexican Cultural Institute, featuring music, traditional food and a seating arrangement that purposefully mixed the families together. (“You never know anybody, really, until you break bread with him,” Sinkin previously wrote.)

“We urged everyone to sit at tables with people they did not know and visit, as friends,” recalls Shihab Nye in an e-mail message sent from overseas. “It just mattered to both of us that people meet one another as human beings more often and share their likenesses and similar hopes—all about mutual respect.”

Shihab Nye and Sinkin shared in the notion that “peace is far too important to be left to politicians” and she says the gatherings helped give them both hope that peace among the groups could someday be achieved.

“Bill Sinkin was a positive force field. He beamed optimism and possibility. He didn’t shy away from hard labor to get something done. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he loved solar energy because he was such a massive beacon of light himself,” says Shihab Nye. “… And someday if there is more peace, it will bounce off his light panel.”

Sinkin’s reputation for reaching across the aisle found its way into the political sphere as well. With a deep love for politics, Sinkin worked for the Democratic Party on every presidential campaign since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s, and served as a precinct chair in Alamo Heights for most of his life.

Close family friend, former U.S. Congressman Charlie Gonzalez (son of Henry B. Gonzalez) says Sinkin not only supported their campaigns financially, but offered precious policy guidance, especially in the areas of finance, economic development and public projects.

“It was his advice and counsel that was invaluable. You could always count on Mr. Sinkin to sit down with you and give you his opinion of things, knowing you’d come out with greater insight. In fact, I don’t know very many elected officials that didn’t have Bill Sinkin on their Kitchen Cabinet [an informal circle of political advisers],” Gonzalez tells the Current.

“If you knew him personally or not, I guarantee you his advice found its way into public policy,” says Gonzalez, “I can assure you, Mr. Sinkin had tremendous input.”

Aside from being in the ear of local officials as an informal adviser, Sinkin took on his own major public works project. Dubbed the “Sun King” by admirers, Sinkin early on encouraged solar energy, having the foresight to understand its potential to loosen our dependency on fossil fuels.

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