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Cook-Walden Funeral Home

6100 North Lamar, Austin, TX

OBITUARY

Berl L. Handcox

February 23, 1932June 21, 2020
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Berl Lawrence Handcox, Sr, passed away peacefully June 21, 2020, surrounded by family members, after a courageous battle with cancer. Berl was a loving husband and father, devoted friend, mentor, educator, civic leader and civil rights pioneer.

Handcox was born on February 23, 1932, in Denton, Texas to R.D. Handcox and Annie Vernell Handcox. After graduation from Fred Moore High School in 1949, Berl joined the United States Navy, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge during the Korean War. During his service Berl became interested in boxing, later becoming a Navy champion boxer. After an honorable discharge in 1955, Berl attended Prairie View A & M College, where he met and married his loving and devoted wife, Ruby L. Hemphill. He obtained his Bachelors of Science Degree in Mathematics and Industrial Arts in 1961. Berl’s professional career began as an educator and coach at Austin County High School in Sealy, Texas, teaching math and industrial art while coaching football and track. Afterwards, he taught and coached at Lincoln High School in College Station, Texas. He then embraced the challenge of a career change, becoming assistant area manager at Gary Job Corp Training Facility in San Marcos, Texas. Berl and Ruby moved their family to Austin in 1964. In 1967, Berl joined IBM Corporation, serving as an in house education training facilitator. Handcox was later promoted to company recruiter for IBM. While employed with IBM, he answered the call to serve his community. Berl was the first African American elected to the Austin City Council, under the Manager-Council form of government, serving from 1971-1975 (two terms). While serving on the City Council, Handcox remained focused on improving the conditions of his constituents. In particular, Berl was instrumental in improving the infrastructure in deteriorated areas in East Austin, by initiating a Community Improvement Plan, known as the Handcox Paving Plan. During his tenure, Berl also played key roles in the passage of an equal opportunity plan for the City of Austin. Having an interest in water and wastewater, Handcox was instrumental in the creation of the Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Unfortunately, he was term-limited before being able to initiate plans for a new water treatment plant. However, in recognition of his interest in water and wastewater, Water Treatment Plant 4, was renamed the Berl L. Handcox, Sr. Water Treatment Plant on February 8, 2019. After serving the Austin City Council and leaving IBM, Berl became Executive Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity under then Governor Dolph Briscoe for four years. After leaving the Governor’s office, Berl worked for Motorola Corporation and the Texas Workforce Commission for several years, prior to becoming an entrepreneur and then retiring.

Handcox served on numerous boards and commissions (too numerous to mention) throughout his life. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc. (past president). In addition to his passion for playing golf, Berl was an avid bridge player, belonging to three bridge clubs: Grand Slam Bridge Club, Austin Travis County Duplicate Bridge Club and The Players Bridge Club.

Preceding Berl in death were his parents, beloved wife of 50 years Ruby L. Handcox, his only brother James Cochran and son Berl L. Handcox, Jr. His survivors include his sons: Gary (wife Patricia) of The Woodlands and Ricky (wife Veronica) of Cedar Park; his daughter-in-law, Ladonna Handcox (wife of Berl, Jr.) of Cedar Park; seven grand-children; Charlotte Mustiful (husband Gary), Shannon Handcox, Andrea Handcox, Lindsey Marshall (husband DJ), Jordan Handcox (husband Danny), Hugh Handcox (wife Carolyn) and Prisilla Handcox. Berl has eight great-grandchildren: Miles, Mitchell and Mykah Mustiful; Kaden, Jaxon and Mason Marshall; Calvin and Carter Handcox and a host of relatives and friends.

Berl and the family are deeply grateful to Dorothy Madison, Berl's close friend and bridge partner for over 20 years, and the many friends, neighbors, Hospice Austin and other health care providers for their constant and tireless love, support, encouragement and assistance.

In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the First Tee of Greater Austin (www.firstteeaustin.org) or The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org).

Visitation will be 5-8pm on Thursday, July 2, 2020, at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar Blvd. in Austin. Details for a Memorial Celebration to be held at the Austin City Hall, 301 West 2nd Street, are forthcoming.

Services

  • Visitation

    Thursday, July 2, 2020

Memories

Berl L. Handcox

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Carol "Diamond" Fresch

July 2, 2020

Mr. Berl my favorite and most supportive fan. Loved how you always made sure you were in front when Johnny "Lil Johnny Be Good" and I performed. I will miss your love, your beautiful smile and wisdom. Rest well my friend until we meet again.

Yu Vonda Galloway

June 28, 2020

Mr. Handcox will always be remembered. He was a charming elderly friend, mentor, and Bridge player. His legacy is strong and impressive, but his smile, laugh, piercing eyes and my greatest debater on many topics will be dearly missed. I will miss you my friend, we bridged the gap between generational perspectives. R.I.P.


Tifanni Cochran

June 26, 2020

Rest well my beloved Uncle. You will be missed. Fond memories of you will be cherished and live on in all of us.

Love Tifanni Cochran

Las Vegas,Nevada

Kawanna Bruce

June 24, 2020

Uncle Berl,
A message from your great niece in DENTON TX
Times were so great spent with you and Aunt Ruby. We had great times in Austin TX. In the summers feeding the horses, brushing and riding them, playing in the barn. I could name so much, I do know that I love you and will surly miss you.
And you know mom Ann is missing you, her dad and Mummie
Rest Now,
With Love,
KaWanna Bruce
Denton TX

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Biography

Berl Lawrence Handcox, Sr, passed away peacefully June 21, 2020, surrounded by family members, after a courageous battle with cancer. Berl was a loving husband and father, devoted friend, mentor, educator, civic leader and civil rights pioneer.

Handcox was born on February 23, 1932, in Denton, Texas to R.D. Handcox and Annie Vernell Handcox. After graduation from Fred Moore High School in 1949, Berl joined the United States Navy, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Valley Forge during the Korean War. During his service Berl became interested in boxing, later becoming a Navy champion boxer. After an honorable discharge in 1955, Berl attended Prairie View A & M College, where he met and married his loving and devoted wife, Ruby L. Hemphill. He obtained his Bachelors of Science Degree in Mathematics and Industrial Arts in 1961.

Berl’s professional career began as an educator and coach at Austin County High School in Sealy, Texas, teaching math and industrial art while coaching football and track. Afterwards, he taught and coached at Lincoln High School in College Station, Texas. He then embraced the challenge of a career change, becoming assistant area manager at Gary Job Corp Training Facility in San Marcos, Texas. Berl and Ruby moved their family to Austin in 1964. In 1967, Berl joined IBM Corporation, serving as an in house education training facilitator. Handcox was later promoted to company recruiter for IBM. While employed with IBM, he answered the call to serve his community. Berl was the first African American elected to the Austin City Council, under the Manager-Council form of government, serving from 1971-1975 (two terms).

While serving on the City Council, Handcox remained focused on improving the conditions of his constituents. In particular, Berl was instrumental in improving the infrastructure in deteriorated areas in East Austin, by initiating a Community Improvement Plan, known as the Handcox Paving Plan. During his tenure, Berl also played key roles in the passage of an equal opportunity plan for the City of Austin. Having an interest in water and wastewater, Handcox was instrumental in the creation of the Walnut Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Unfortunately, he was term-limited before being able to initiate plans for a new water treatment plant. However, in recognition of his interest in water and wastewater, Water Treatment Plant 4, was renamed the Berl L. Handcox, Sr. Water Treatment Plant on February 8, 2019. After serving the Austin City Council and leaving IBM, Berl became Executive Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity under then Governor Dolph Briscoe for four years. After leaving the Governor’s office, Berl worked for Motorola Corporation and the Texas Workforce Commission for several years, prior to becoming an entrepreneur and then retiring.

Handcox served on numerous boards and commissions (too numerous to mention) throughout his life. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity Inc. (past president). In addition to his passion for playing golf, Berl was an avid bridge player, belonging to three bridge clubs: Grand Slam Bridge Club, Austin Travis County Duplicate Bridge Club and The Players Bridge Club.

Preceding Berl in death were his parents, beloved wife of 50 years Ruby L. Handcox, his only brother James Cochran and son Berl L. Handcox, Jr. His survivors include his sons: Gary (wife Patricia) of The Woodlands and Ricky (wife Veronica) of Cedar Park; his daughter-in-law, Ladonna Handcox (wife of Berl, Jr.) of Cedar Park; seven grand-children; Charlotte Mustiful (husband Gary), Shannon Handcox, Andrea Handcox, Lindsey Marshall (husband DJ), Jordan Handcox (husband Danny), Hugh Handcox (wife Carolyn) and Prisilla Handcox. Berl has eight great-grandchildren: Miles, Mitchell and Mykah Mustiful; Kaden, Jaxon and Mason Marshall; Calvin and Carter Handcox and a host of relatives and friends.

Berl and the family are deeply grateful to Dorothy Madison, Berl's close friend and bridge partner for over 20 years, and the many friends, neighbors, Hospice Austin and other health care providers for their constant and tireless love, support, encouragement and assistance.

In lieu of flowers, please contribute to the First Tee of Greater Austin (www.firstteeaustin.org) or The American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org).

Visitation will be 5-8pm on Thursday, July 2, 2020, at Cook-Walden Funeral Home, 6100 North Lamar Blvd. in Austin. Details for a Memorial Celebration to be held at the Austin City Hall, 301 West 2nd Street, are forthcoming.