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Honoring Rose C. Lancaster: A Force for Good in the Austin Community

By February 9, 2024March 8th, 2024No Comments


Rose C. Lancaster

June 18, 1926-May 23, 2013

As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, it’s crucial to recognize the exceptional individuals who have left an indelible mark on our communities. One such remarkable figure is Rose C. Lancaster, whose legacy of compassion, leadership, and dedication to service continues to inspire in Austin, Texas.

Born on June 18, 1926, in Atlanta, Georgia, Rose’s journey of service began early in life. Having been raised on the campus of the Mary Holmes School for Black Women, she developed a deep sense of responsibility and commitment to others. After graduating from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, Rose pursued graduate studies at Tulane University. In 1955, Rose married Jim Lancaster, and together they moved to Austin, where they raised their four children. Despite the demands of motherhood, Rose remained deeply engaged in community activism and advocacy. She served as President of the Austin chapter of the League of Women Voters and held positions on various boards, including the League’s State Board.

Throughout her life, Rose wore many hats, each reflecting her unwavering dedication to serving others. She served as the Educational Director at Covenant Presbyterian Church and made a lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals. Her leadership extended to roles at Extend-A-Care, the Presbyterian Children’s Home, and Manos de Cristo, where she supported marginalized communities and advocated for social justice. Rose’s involvement in addressing homelessness in Austin was profound. As a founding board member of Front Steps, Rose played a pivotal role in the design and development of the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH). Her vision and leadership laid the foundation for Front Steps’ ongoing mission to provide essential support and resources to individuals experiencing homelessness.

In an exclusive interview conducted by Sheila Joseph, the current Executive Director of Front Steps, and Andrew Sherman, the Digital Media and Communications Associate, three of Rose’s children—Liz Rockwell, Jim Lancaster Jr., and Dave Lancaster—shared touching memories of their mother. They spoke fondly of her dedication to Extend-A-Care, a program she created to meet the need for after-school care for youth in the Austin area. They also highlighted her passion for helping the homeless population in Austin, Texas.

1.) Can you share fond memories about your mother, Rose Lancaster, and her involvement with Front Steps?

Dave, one of her sons stated that one of the many talents her recalls of his mother, was her ability to bring people together and to organize them to help solve many of the pressing problems facing Austin Texas, most importantly homelessness and providing services for women and children. Liz her daughter recalled that one of Rose’s prime achievements was creating her Extend-A-Care program which focused on kids after school care. This is where Liz related the most with her mother. She also recalled on “Freeze Nights” her mother and father would take their sleeping bags with the Central Presbyterian Church and sleep on the floor with guests looking to stay warm overnight. Rose’s other son Jim Lancaster Jr. recalled his mother’s immense knowledge for understanding how the city system works and knowing who to talk to at a government level to get projects and initiatives passed. He stated,

“She never did anything on her own- she knew you had to work with people and lead in service through faith.”


2.) What lessons or values did your mother impart to you through her involvement with Front Steps and her commitment to community service?

Jim: None of us followed in mom’s footsteps however for me part of my essence is how my mother imparted her wisdom to me and shaped my mindset on how I view others, especially seeing people through an empathetic and compassionate lens. He also stated

“Faith Requires Action.”


Dave: Being that I am retired, Mom taught me the value of giving back and ensuring that we are helping those we see who may need our help.

Liz: Compassion for people was always something I will carry with me from my mom. Being that I now live in Colorado Springs, which doesn’t have the best reputation for helping people, I’m more involved in my local church and one of the programs it offers is a family housing program. Families in need rotate churches to stay at and the community including our own come together to ensure these families receive the compassion and support they need.


3.) Can you recall any challenges or obstacles your mother faced while leading the fight against homelessness in Austin and how did she overcome them?

The biggest challenge Jim recalls stems from the beginnings of the ARCH in downtown Austin. He recalled his mom facing immense pushback from local businesses and community members concerned about “the destruction of downtown” by having the homeless population located in one central area. Dave also stated that another obstacle was finding the space to start as the downtown area was short on available space to build, where the ARCH currently resides.

4.) In one word, how would you describe your mom?

Liz: Tenacious

Dave: Compassionate

Jim: Caring

As we honor Rose C. Lancaster’s legacy during National Women’s History Month, let us reflect on her remarkable achievements and commit ourselves to carrying forward her legacy of compassion, advocacy, and service. Rose’s spirit lives on in the countless lives she touched and the enduring impact she made on our community. She was not just a pillar of Front Steps; she was a true champion of hope for us all.