As many long-time members may know, Pamela Baggett-Wallis passed away in December after battling cancer. She was a two-time president of WCA, supporting the organization through thick and thin. A fierce advocate of women in the industry, Pam served with some of our legacy members, such as Jo Caldwell Meyer, Anne Durrum Robinson and Gene Barnwell Waugh. Pam received the organization’s Outstanding Member award in 1982, Outstanding Austin Communicator Banner Award in 1984, the Leadership Award in 1997 and the Gene Barnwell Waugh Mentor Award in 1999. Pam’s favorite event of the year was Banner, which she never missed.
The board would like to recognize Pam for all that she has done for our chapter. For those unfamiliar with Pam, her obituary is below. Her presence and guidance will be missed.
Pamela Anne Baggett-Wallis
May 25, 1946-December 2, 2023
Pam Baggett-Wallis passed away December 2nd at home in the arms of her loving husband, Jesse, after a long-fought battle with cancer.
Born in Colorado, Pam took a short detour to Oklahoma then arrived in Texas “as soon as she could.” She grew up in Fort Worth and spent a lot of time with her adoptive father’s family in Archer City which made her very proud of her Texas roots. She first attended Our Lady of Victory for grades 1-6. She then attended Rosemont Junior High where she found her first love of Journalism by serving on the Rosetta Yearbook student staff, which then carried over to her years at Paschal High School. After graduating from Paschal in 1964, she went on to study journalism at the University of Texas at Austin where she received her Bachelor of Journalism degree on August 27, 1968.
It was also in 1968 when Pam married her first husband, Boyd Johnson. Within a few years she gave birth to two sons, Paul and Heath. Along with being a mother, she pursued her career in communications and public relations in Austin before serving in the late 1980s as editor of the Homes section at the Austin American-Statesman – or “Statesperson” as Pam liked to call it.
She also dipped her toe in Democratic politics, working for candidates like Sarah Weddington and Dolph Briscoe, and more recently Wendy Davis, Sally Hernandez and Vikki Goodwin. She detoured briefly into Republican politics by throwing her support behind Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daughtery, who she ardently backed because he wanted the SH45 road extension.
As one friend accurately recalled, Pam was a ball of fire – about her political beliefs, her dogs and everything in between.
From the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s Pam loved participating each year in the cast of the Gridiron Show at the Paramount Theatre, where members of the local media entertained and poked fun at the public figures they covered throughout the year to raise money for college journalism scholarships. One year she served as Gridiron producer.
After leaving the Statesperson, Pam worked for Southern Union Company, was an adjunct professor at Texas State University and director of communications for the Texas Medical Association.
Later, she handled communications at disaster sites for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where, like her idol Christiane Amanpour, she was frequently deployed to support on-the-ground communications. Pam was once trying to give advice to the then current FEMA director who just happened to be a former marine and was ignoring her advice. She then stepped up on a platform, got eye to eye with him and told him “You may be a former Marine, but I’m a former Marine’s mother, and this is what needs to happen.” He wisely chose to comply.
After leaving FEMA in 2001, she started her own firm, Persuasion Communications, offering crisis communications consulting to organizations like the Independent Pharmacists of Texas. In 2002 she married her current husband, Jesse Wallis.
Anyone who knew Pam understood what it meant to say someone was fiercely dedicated to a cause. Whether it was cheering for her grandsons at ball games, leading a July 4th parade, women’s rights, or refusing to write an endorsement for a candidate she did not support (even if it cost her a job) she did what she believed to be right. Opinionated and passionate, she was unafraid to speak her mind. She was also kind and loving, and always rooted for and supported those she cared about.
Pam didn’t give in easily to her illness and lived fully until recent months. While the cancer was in remission she fulfilled a quest to run for office to represent her area at the Texas Legislature. She wanted the Democrats to at least have someone in the race, so she signed up and drove countless miles to speak to community groups. She talked with passion during that run trying to spur others to understand the need for more mental health services.
Pam never did anything half-way and she created families everywhere she went. As a member of Women Communicators of Austin (originally Theta Sigma Phi) Pam was on the national board, a two-time president of the Austin chapter, and resident historian for the 94-year-old organization. She was recipient of that organization’s Outstanding Member award in 1982, Outstanding Austin Communicator Banner Award in 1984, the Leadership Award in 1997 and the Gene Barnwell Waugh Mentor Award in 1999. As a past president, she remained a source of inspiration and information until the end.
In pursuing her support of mental health awareness, she taught the Family-to-Family classes provided through the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI). She then continued to host a support group consisting of individuals from these classes for over 12 years. She was a dedicated member of the South Austin Rotary Club for many years. She also had a stalwart group of friends she relished from her long-lived bridge group.
Pam also believed in serving her community and was president of the Travis Country HOA and, after moving to Shady Hollow, was elected to the Shady Hollow Homeowner’s Association.
In August 2018, Pam and Jesse relocated to a house they built on a hill near Johnson City, a house designed by Pam and decorated with remembrances of her beloved Texas Longhorns. With the help of New Century Hospice, her 3 sisters-in-law (Ann Turner, Ruth Ladd and Barbara Churchwell) and Jesse, she fulfilled her wish to pass away in the lovely house they built together.
She is predeceased by her mother Mary and father Robert, her sister Lynn, and many friends and mentors, as well as her beloved pups: Elmo, Rover Ann, Calista May, Monica Marie, Annie Josephine, and Gracie Elizabeth. She is survived and will be greatly missed by Jesse, her son Heath Johnson, son Paul Johnson and daughter-in-law Diane, grandsons Aaron and Cameron Johnson as well as her foster puppy Max.