Mayor Turner’s special adviser and long-time friend, Keith Wade, dies of coronavirus

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s long-time friend and special advisor, Keith Wade, died Thursday, the mayor’s office confirmed to KPRC 2.

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."

Left to right: William-Paul Thomas, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harry Hayes, Keith Wade. (Image from City of Houston) (KPRC)

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)”

Special Adviser Keith Wade and Mayor Sylvester Turner (Image courtesy of City of Houston) (KPRC)

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: