Carl Edward Whitmarsh
January 16, 1952–May 8, 2016
Legendary Democratic activist Carl Edward Whitmarsh died unexpectedly of natural causes on Sunday, May 8, 2016, at his home in northwest Houston. He was 64.
A native of Brenham, he studied political science at Texas Tech University and made Houston his home “as fast as he could.” He was very active in his neighborhood civic club and was a constant resource for all his neighbors.
Whitmarsh’s political career began in the heyday of the Texas Democratic Party. He soared as an aide to Senator Lloyd Bentsen and continued until his death on Sunday. Despite being active on the state level and contributing to many national elections, his true love and purpose was for local politics. He formerly served as the executive director of the County Democratic Party and, at the time of his death, as president of the Oak Forest Area Democrats—a local grassroots group whose meetings were always crowded and routinely attended by prominent elected officials.
Carl virtually invented what could be considered the art of political blogging by today’s standards through the persistent and prolific use of his deep email list. That contact list was a byproduct of his vast institutional knowledge and local Democratic activism and a lifetime of networking. He started as far back as using LISTSERVs, AOL, and Yahoo Groups, which all morphed into email and eventually social media. Safe to say, if you never received an email from Carl Whitmarsh, you probably were not a Texas Democrat.
Carl was always a leader, whether serving in an official party role or on the sidelines; he carved out his own brand of politics that endured the shifting winds of party majority in Texas. The Whitmarsh trademark was brutal honesty, stitching together unlikely coalitions, and relentless party loyalty. He knew his style was not for everyone, even if uniquely effective. You could have heated arguments while agreeing with him at the same time. Whether you were a local activist or powerful politician, he could scream at you one day and sing your praises the next and intend both wholeheartedly.
He advertised and proudly exemplified the words of former U.S. Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn: “I am a Democrat without prefix, suffix, or apology.” Carl repeatedly joked that when he died, there would be as many people ready to dance on his grave as to cry over his death. It is certain that he is delighted by the knowledge that, once again, he was right.
Carl Whitmarsh is preceded in death by his father, Vernon Gray Whitmarsh, his mother, Lucretia Mae Whitmarsh, and his brother, Chris Albert Whitmarsh. He is survived by his honorary brother, Lane Lewis, his honorary niece, Kqisha Worsham, and his dear friends (honorary siblings) Mary and Floyd Schlett, with whom he lived for more than three decades and considered family.
Memorial service to be held 1 p.m., Saturday, May 14, 2016, at St. John’s United Methodist Church, 2019 Crawford St., Houston, TX 77002. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Mary and Floyd Schlett, 1445 North Loop West, Suite 110, Houston, TX 77008.