Keith W. Wade (’78)

Keith Wade, a longtime political strategist and public servant in Houston and special adviser to mayors Sylvester Turner and Annise Parker, has died of the new coronavirus, officials said.

“A dear and beloved friend has fallen tonight at the hands of #COVID19,” U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee said. “Keith Wade was a quiet and even-handed leader. He was a political strategist without comparison and many of us in public service can attribute our successes to him.”

Wade was an aide and consultant for many area politicians, including U.S. Rep. Mickey Leland. Turner said Wade was actively involved in both of his victorious mayoral campaigns, in 2015 and 2019.

The mayor said they knew each other for 46 years, since they met on the campus of the University of Houston. Wade was the first black president of the student association.

“Our journey in politics started on the UH campus. Throughout his life, Keith championed the causes of labor, people who have been disenfranchised and he advocated for the rights of people to vote,” Turner said. “He was instrumental in so many campaigns in all levels of government. And that is true in my case as well.”

Special advisers are not traditional salaried positions and Turner’s office said Wade hadn’t been at City Hall since at least mid-March. The mayor hadn’t seen him in weeks either, his office said, but they communicated often and last spoke Tuesday. Turner tested negative for the virus last week, as did his chief of staff.

Wade told the Chronicle in the 1990s that he ran for student association president in 1977 because a white student walked up to him and scoffed that their peers “never would elect a black president.”

He won, and the UH student body wouldn’t elect another black president for 20 years.

Wade was born in 1955, according to Chronicle archives. His mother taught English in El Campo schools, and his father worked several jobs, including plumbing, electrical work and fix-it jobs.

He had an uncle who was a minister and would often bring him to civil rights marches and rallies outside Texas. He was so well-liked by peers that his friends would ask him to “schmooze their parents if they got in trouble,” according to a 1997 Chronicle article.

“This is a sad day for a lot of people because Keith wasn’t just a consultant or a Special Advisor,” Turner said. “He was a friend and a brother.”

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