San Antonio Zoo, San Antonio, TX
1868 - 1927

J. Ray Lambert

Born in Beverly, Virginia, Lambert arrived in San Antonio as a stone mason in 1892 and assisted in the building of the courthouse. Before being appointed San Antonio’s first parks commissioner in 1915 (a position he occupied until 1926), Lambert spent fourteen years in local politics, serving as a city alderman. During his tenure as parks commissioner, he oversaw the local park system, often using prisoners to construct roads and buildings while relying on public donations of exotic plants. He oversaw the construction of the city's first public swimming pool in 1915 and extensive improvements to the 350-acre Brackenridge Park (which today covers some 1,500 acres), established on land donated by George Brackenridge in 1899. The park would remain an ongoing project throughout Lambert’s tenure, which saw several new additions, including the Sunken Garden Theater, the Brackenridge Park Japanese Tea Garden, Brackenridge Park Golf Course, the San Antonio Zoo, and myriad amenities such as pavilions, playgrounds, bath-houses, and picnic areas. Lambert’s dedication to improving the park system endeared him to the public, and he was widely expected to run for mayor. He died, however, after a prolonged bout of bronchopneumonia at the age of 59 and is buried in San Antonio’s New Lutheran Cemetery.