News in 2011

Jackie Lee Houston (1935-2011)
Palm Springs International Film Society

Palm Springs mayor, Steve Pougnet, issued the following press release –

Beloved Palm Springs Guardian Angel
Jackie Lee Houston Passes Away

Sept. 14, 2011

A beloved Palm Springs citizen and the City’s very own Guardian Angel, well known philanthropist Jackie Lee Houston passed away this morning at Eisenhower Medical Center following a stroke.

Houston, who was battling pancreatic cancer, was 76.

Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet has ordered the flag at City Hall to be flown at half mast in honor of Mrs. Houston. In addition, he has requested that this year’s 20th Annual Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade be held in her honor.

Houston was revered in the Coachella Valley for her big heart and her generous philanthropy, particularly in the City of Palm Springs, where she resided with her husband Jim.

Houston's fundraising prowess and party-throwing abilities were legendary in Palm Springs. She raised huge sums for FIND Food Bank, the AIDS Assistance Program, the Stroke Recovery Center, Angel View Crippled Children's Hospital and countless other Coachella Valley nonprofit organizations in need of her support. In addition, she was famous for chairing the star-studded Palm Springs International Film Festival Awards Gala, the biggest event of the Coachella Valley season.

In 2009, the City of Palm Springs paid tribute to Houston by dedicating Jackie Lee Houston Plaza adjacent to the Palm Springs Convention Center in her honor. Last year, Mayor Pougnet named Houston the City's Guardian Angel of the Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade. Mrs. Houston was also the City’s honorary guest at last year’s Holiday Tree Lighting in downtown Palm Springs.

In addition, Houston was one of only two Palm Springs citizens to win the Chamber of Commerce's prestigious ATHENA Award twice -- once for Business Leadership and once for Public Service. In 1999, she was honored by the Palm Springs community with her own star on the Walk of Stars in front of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Houston's star is between the stars of President Gerald Ford and President Ronald Reagan.

Along with her husband Jim, Houston co-owned Desert Television KPSP Channel 2 in Thousand Palms -- and was proud to boast that she was one of only two women in the United States to own a television station.

A beloved figure in Palm Springs, Houston, who was known to many as “Mrs. H,” was famous for her flair for fashion and a penchant for the color purple. She was also a spectacular hostess and her annual Halloween costume party at her Palm Springs home was legendary.

"Jackie Lee Houston was a truly remarkable woman with the biggest heart I have ever known. She was a wonderful lady who could always be counted on to help those in need and she cared deeply for the Palm Springs community she called home for so many years,” said to Mayor Pougnet. “She truly was our City's guardian angel -- and there will never be another Jackie Lee. A bright star has gone out in our City – and we will miss her terribly. On behalf of the citizens of Palm Springs, I want to extend my deepest condolences to Jim and the Houston family."

Jackie Lee Houston was born and raised in Seattle, Washington and graduated from the University of Washington where she was a member of the Alpha Phi Sorority, Sigma Chapter. She pursued a career in fashion modeling and design and was a local weather girl in Seattle before marrying James Houston, who would become a prominent real estate developer.

A true believer in giving back, in 2009 Houston told a crowd at the dedication of the Palm Springs park that bears her name, that along with her husband and family, her greatest joy in her life was giving back to the community.

"I feel very fortunate that I have been lucky enough in life that I can help a little and I want to encourage everyone who can -- to do the same. It's the least we can do," she said.

Houston is survived by her husband, children and grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending. A condolence book will be available for residents to pay tribute to Houston at the Palm Springs Public Library, 300 S. Sunrise Way.