Vegan World Radio & Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off cofounder Shirley Wilkes-Johnson
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:
Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, 74, died of a stroke in Houston on
April 9, 2011.
A vegetarian since 1961, Wilkes-Johnson began discussing her
beliefs about diet, health, and the treatment of animals with the
public in January 1974, as co-host of a morning talk show on radio
KTLW in La Marque, Texas. She soon became a frequent speaker to
small gatherings and contributor to newspaper recipe columns.
Becoming vegan in 1984, Wilkes-Johnson in 1987 began
teaching vegan cooking in the Houston area. Her second radio
program, Go Vegan Texas, debuted on KPFT 90.1 FM, the Houston
affiliate for the Pacifica network, in 1996. After six successful
years, Go Vegan Texas in 2002 expanded into Vegan World Radio,
broadcast live at 10 p.m. on Wednesday nights in Houston, accessible
as a webcast elsewhere. The April 13, 2011 edition was a tribute to
Wilkes-Johnson’s life, hosted by Bob Linden.
Recalled longtime friend Dana Forbes of Houston, “Shirley
traveled around Texas speaking on ‘The Fascinating and Little Known
History of Vegetarianism.’ She was co-founder and director for 13
years of the Lone Star Vegetarian Network. She was co-founder and
director for seven years of the South Texas Vegetarian Society in
Brazoria County,” and also served stints on the boards of the
Houston Vegetarian Society and Houston Animal Rights Team.
Wilkes-Johnson, Forbes, Kimberly Lewis, and Pat Tierra in
1989 cofounded the annual Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off.
Remembered Wilkes-Johnson, “I had read that chili cook-offs
were one of the biggest fundraisers across the U.S., and that some
of them cleared $20,000 in profit! I naively dreamed of the grand
work that vegetarian societies could accomplish with that kind of
money in our treasuries. We reasoned that chili was Texas food and
that it was easy to ‘veganize’ and cook, and that it might draw the
general public for a tasting, so we could show them that
vegetarianism wasn’t strange, that it could be something with which
they were familiar.” The first Lone Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off,
held in Austin, drew 500 people to eat, and the event has continued
to grow for 22 years.
In 2009 Wilkes-Johnson began assembling a
soon-to-be-published 300-recipe collection, How to Eat Like a
Vegetarian Even if You Never Want to Be One, edited by Carol Adams,
author of The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990). “The cause of her
fatal stroke was a congenitally malformed blood vessel in the brain,”
Adams posted to her web site. “As Ben,” Wilkes-Johnson’s husband of
44 years, “shared the news with me, he said, ‘While this blood
vessel might have given way at any point in her life, it appears
that her vegan diet kept her alive and healthy for this length of