This news segment for Houston's KPRC-TV captures Mayor Louie Welch's visit to HemisFair in San Antonio on June 17, 1968. From a balcony box, Welch and his entourage watch one of the highlights of the World's Fair: the Danza de los Voladores de Papantla. After the acrobatic show, Welch meets with the performers. The footage is silent and would have been voiced over by the anchorperson during a live broadcast.
The 1968 HemisFair was a World's Fair held in San Antonio to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the city's founding. It was the first World's Fair to be held in the southwest, and its theme was "Confluence of Civilizations in the Americas." From April 6 to October 6, 1968, the HemisFair welcomed over 6 million visitors. Famous attendees included Bob Hope, Louis Armstrong, Princess Grace of Monaco, President Johnson and his family, and Texas Governor John Connally. There were many attractions including exhibits, a monorail, a lagoon, and a variety of performances. Perhaps the most controversial was a show called the "Flying Indians of Papantla," during which four men tied to ropes revolved down a 114-foot pole. The complaints stemmed from a mock sacrifice at the beginning of the show, which involved a chicken and a topless woman. This was swiftly edited out of the show.
The popular River Walk was extended in order to meet the site of the fair, and many new buildings were constructed in the downtown area to accommodate exhibitions from over 30 countries and 15 organizations. Some of these buildings remain, most notably the Tower of the Americas, which was the main symbol of the fair. The area is now known as HemisFair Park.
Politician Louie Welch was born in Lockney, Texas on December 9, 1918. He received a degree in history from Abilene Christian College, now Abilene Christian University.
Welch began his political career in 1950, serving four terms on the Houston City Council. He unsuccessfully sought the Houston mayoral office three times before being elected to the position in 1963. Houston grew immensely during Welch's five terms as mayor, from the population topping one million people to the opening of the Astrodome in 1965 and the Houston Intercontinental Airport in 1969.
His tenure, however, was not without its controversy. A 1967 conflict between police and Texas Southern University students created a rift between the local administration and many of Houston's African Americans. Welch's reputation also came under fire during his last term over his relationship with well-known crime leaders, leading to suspicions about how his second mayoral bid was financed.
In 1985, Welch ran for mayor again, campaigning in opposition to the extension of job protection rights to members of the LGBTQ community employed by the city government. He lost to incumbent Kathy Whitmore.
Welch died from lung cancer on January 27, 2008 in his Harris County residence. He was 89.