HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s long-time friend and special advisor, Keith Wade, died Thursday, the mayor’s office confirmed to KPRC 2. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee tweeted that Wade died of coronavirus.
Wade, who was in his 60s, was involved in Turner’s campaigns in 2015 and 2019. He served under Turner and former Houston Mayor Annise Parker. Remembered as a mainstay in Houston politics, Wade spent his career behind the scenes, working with some of Houston’s most prominent leaders.
“Keith Wade spoke and everybody listened,” said Houston City Councilwoman Letitia Plummer.
Turner issued a statement on Wade’s passing:
“Keith and I go back 46 years, to our days on the campus of the University of Houston. After I was speaker of the student government, he was president. Our journey in politics started on the UH campus. Throughout his life, Keith championed the causes of labor, people who have been disenfranchised and he advocated for the rights of people to vote. He was instrumental in so many campaigns in all levels of government. And that is true in my case as well. He was actively involved in my 2015 campaign and when I ran for re-election in 2019. Keith served as a special advisor to both me and Mayor Annise Parker. This is a sad day for a lot of people because Keith wasn’t just a consultant or a Special Advisor. He was a friend and a brother."
As a special adviser, Wade did not hold a salaried position with Turner’s office, the mayor’s spokesperson, Mary Benton told KPRC 2. Wade had not been in the office for more than a month.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee tweeted condolences Thursday night saying a “dear and beloved friend has fallen tonight at the hands of #COVID19.”
“Keith Wade was a quiet and even-handed leader. He was a political strategist without comparison and many of us in public service can attribute our successes to him..." she wrote.
In a follow-up tweet, she continued “..He battled this viscous virus with out complaint, and he will be deeply missed. We are praying for his family and we hope that all will be be comforted by the many memories we have with him and the many successes of his life. Rest In Peace Brother Keith. (sic)”
Remembering ‘Uncle Keith’
Houston city council member Letitia Plummer, who previously announced she too had tested positive for coronavirus, said the news of Wade’s death “floored” her. Plummer said she had the fondest memories of Wade, who she had grown up calling “Uncle Keith.”
“I remember watching him as a child and realizing that he was the one behind the scenes, making everything happen," Plummer said. “And all the good stuff that happened in politics, very early on I realized that this was the one doing it.”
Plummer said when she decided to run for office, Wade was her “go-to” person for advice.
“He had a very soft voice. He never raised his voice. But he spoke with conviction and dignity and was just very much like my grandfather was,” Plummer said.
In his decades-long career in politics, Wade forsook the limelight in support of others.
“You know how some people thought of the rainmakers as people that have (ulterior) motives to make things happen? That wasn’t Keith,” Plummer said, choking back tears. “He did it because he’d seen African Americans’ success in politics and he was behind people who truly cared about communities, because it was the right thing to do.”
Condolences on social media
Soon after news broke, condolences poured in on Twitter:
Saddened to learn of the passing of Keith Watson Wade. He was a great political mind, change agent, and mentor to many. I was fortunate to soak up wisdom from Keith in recent years. He will be deeply missed. My sincere condolences to his family and friends.— Chris Hollins (@CGHollins) May 22, 2020
My heart is broken. Tonight Houston mourns the passing of a legend, but more importantly, a beautiful friend to so many of us.— Abbie Kamin (@AbbieKamin) May 22, 2020
Keith Wade stood by me through one of my most trying times. That’s who he was. I cherish his wisdom, guidance, and the comfort of his spirit.
I really hate to hear the sad news Keith Wade passed away. He was truly an institution in Houston politics. I always enjoyed our conversations- he was a fountain of knowledge.— Dylan Osborne (@MDylanOsborne) May 22, 2020
Rest in peace to a long time public servant and my fellow UH Alumni & chapter Fraternity Brother Keith Wade. Your leadership and humbleness will always be admired and remembered. 🙏🏾@SylvesterTurner— Hubert Roberson (@HubertRoberson2) May 22, 2020
Mr. Keith Wade was a silent soldier but always took a moment to mentor, teach, provide wisdom, and lead.— Jeff Syptak (@JeffSyptak) May 22, 2020
A grassroots and institutional knowledge individual who truly worked in the trenches to fight for those in need. Mr. Wade will be missed. Rest well sir.
Some of my pics. pic.twitter.com/1V1frUeCf0
This man, Keith Watson Wade, was among the greatest ever to serve the people of Houston. He was the reason I got my 1st political job, the standard by which we measured character, and a man whose word was forever his bond. May his name and deeds be ever remembered. 😥❤ pic.twitter.com/kZf1gFRL67— Damon (@damon_williams2) May 22, 2020