Mercedes <I>Hester</I> Eichholz

Mercedes Hester Eichholz

Calhoun, Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, USA
Death 22 Aug 2013 (aged 96)
Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara County, California, USA
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 130972995 · View Source
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Born in Calhoun, La., to Clifton E. and Marie Gueydan Hester, she began life on a cotton plantation managed by her father. She attended Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute at Lafayette, where she met her first husband, C. Girard Davidson, a public power attorney. His appointment as general counsel to the Bonneville Power Administration took them to Portland and later, as Assistant Secretary of the Interior, to Washington, D.C. This Southern "magnolia blossom" thrived in the heady atmosphere of the New Deal. They returned to Portland where Davidson set up a law practice, but the marriage dissolved and Mercedes returned to Washington where she worked in the office of Helen Gahagan Douglas whose long political career was cut short by a young upstart, Richard Nixon, noted for his slanderous "pink lady" remarks (alluding to Douglas's alleged communist tendencies) in their contest for a Senate seat in 1950.

Eichholz second marriage, to Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas, took Mercedes to places around the world. Ever resourceful, she took a mechanics course at GM to be able to fix the car they drove on a 7,000 mile road trip from Karachi to Istanbul. She also helped edit, as well as photograph, for his books and for the National Geographic. (Her photography, especially candid shots of people in their environment, brought her late recognition in a four-woman show at the Arts Fund in Santa Barbara and her photos of children at Southeast Settlement House in Washington, D.C. taken in the 60s hang in the Upper Level Conference Room of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.)

Her third marriage to Robert B. Eichholz brought her into the world of fine art and philanthropy. With Mr. Eichholz, and after his death, she collected art, especially local artists whose careers might depend on such support. Throughout her life, she believed in service to others, from her early years as a nurse's aid in hospitals in Portland, to her service of many years in organizations in Santa Barbara -- serving on the the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission for nearly two decades, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art Board for many years and as chair for three terms. She has given to countless organizations in the areas of social justice, the environment and the arts -- both performing and visual, including the Portland Art Museum. In 2012, the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation gave $2 million to endow the Museum's Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Beyond her philanthropy, she has counseled countless friends, young and old, who look to her as "other mother".

She is survived by two children, Michael C. Davidson of Portland and Joan H. Davidson of Santa Ynez, Calif.; a granddaughter, Alexa D. Suskin of Brooklyn, N.Y.; and two great-granddaughters. She is also survived by her step-children, Millie Douglas Read, Lyn Eichholz Dunn and Roger Eichholz; and her step- grand and great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to one of her charities: The Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Visiting Nurse and Hospice, Portland Art Museum or the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

Published in The Oregonian (Portland, OR), August 30, 2013

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  • Created by: Ron Manley
  • Added: 6 Jun 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 130972995
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mercedes Hester Eichholz (28 Jun 1917–22 Aug 2013), Find a Grave Memorial no. 130972995, ; Maintained by Ron Manley (contributor 46788603) Unknown.