Beryl Pickle, the widow of Austin’s legendary congressman Jake Pickle, died Thursday night at the age of 93.
During the congressman’s 31-year career in Washington, Beryl Pickle was central to both his political and family lives.
“She understood that the voters came first and accepted that,” said stepdaughter Peggy Pickle. “She came to the political world reluctantly, but once she got into it, she came to enjoy it.”
Beryl Pickle had a keen sense of humor and was no shrinking violet, even when compared with the larger-than-life “Gentleman Jake,” said longtime Pickle aide Paul Hilgers.
“She kept him grounded. She was not bashful about sharing her opinion on any subject and he relied on her counsel and her judgment on a number of issues,” Hilgers said.
Jake Pickle, who died in 2005, recalled in 2000 that Beryl kept his ego in check, according to an American-Statesman account.
Widowed in 1948 at age 31, Beryl Bolton McCarroll moved to Austin from East Texas with two young sons, Dick and Graham, to find a job.
She started as a file clerk in a state office and eventually served as executive secretary to Texas Railroad Commissioner Bill Murray.
In 1952, Beryl wanted to buy a Tarrytown house on her own but the bank insisted her father co-sign the loan.
“She was a pretty stubborn, independent woman,” Graham McCarroll said. “She wouldn’t have it. She asserted herself and got the house.”
Jake Pickle, whose first wife died in 1952, married Beryl in 1960. Three years later, he won a seat in Congress.
In his autobiography, co-authored with his daughter Peggy, Jake Pickle tells of one occasion when he was headed back to Austin for a 1,000-person fundraiser but his flight got delayed. So Beryl gamely stepped in for him.
“All over the country people may be asking ‘Where’s the beef?’” Beryl told the crowd, referencing the Wendy’s commercial popular at the time. “But I know that right now you’re asking ‘Where’s the Pickle?’”
“She brought down the house,” Pickle wrote.
Hilgers said Beryl Pickle treated the constant tide of staffers that flowed through her house as family.
“The bonds that Pickle staff people have is unique and she was definitely part of that,” Hilgers said. “She meant a great deal to all of us.”
Jake Pickle was succeeded in office by Lloyd Doggett, who still represents Austin in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Doggett’s wife Libby said Beryl Pickle served as a great example of how to be a political spouse.
“A full partner in Jake’s hectic and rewarding life, her flexibility and sense of humor always struck me,” Libby Doggett said. “She could sit on a bale of hay in the back of a pickup truck in a parade and a few hours later, be the picture of style and beauty at a gala event.”
Funeral services will be held Thursday at 2 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca St. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the church or Austin Speech Labs.