Nancy Sims and Katy Caldwell Talk on Political Junkies and Poodle Hair

By Max Ward 

Katy Caldwell, left, and Nancy Sims, right, celebrate Nancy’s thirtieth birthday together in 1989. The pair met while working on a political campaign in 1984. All photos courtesy of Nancy Sims and Katy Caldwell unless otherwise noted.  

Katy Caldwell and Nancy Sims both grew up in Houston in the 1960s. One was raised in central Bellaire and the other in eastern North Shore. Born into different circumstances, these two women met and forged a friendship spanning more than forty years, weathering numerous political administrations and countless hardships. Both are leaders in their respective fields: Katy Caldwell is the former CEO of Legacy Community Health, and Nancy Sims is a political consultant and lecturer in political science at the University of Houston (UH), but it is their shared history and friendship that can inspire future generations of leaders. The women shared their stories in oral histories with author Max Ward in 2021 as part of the 100 Years of Stories: Documenting a Century at the University of Houston project. 

Katy Caldwell was born in 1956 in Bellaire, Texas. She grew up going to the opera and Houston’s museums. In addition to giving their daughter an appreciation for culture at a young age, her parents supported her education and instilled in her the idea that going to college was a given.i Growing up in a conservative environment, she wanted to go to a school that was more open-minded. Fortunately, during Katy’s senior year in high school, a friend invited her to the UH campus, and Katy liked the university’s progressive atmosphere. So, when UH accepted her application, she quickly enrolled. 

Sophomore Katy Caldwell, left, visits with friends Michelle Carter and Randy Young on the UH campus. Photo courtesy of The Houstonian, 1976, Digital Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Nancy Sims was born in Harlingen, Texas, in 1959, but moved to the Houston area shortly after that, eventually settling in “Nor-Shore,” where she stayed until finishing high school in 1977. Her father worked on the ship channel, and her mother was a teacher.ii  Early on, Nancy developed a fascination for national news and grew up watching coverage of the Vietnam War on television. She remembered, “My parents didn’t want me to watch it … so when they were asleep, I would sneak down the hall and watch it.”  But it was the political scandal surrounding then president Richard Nixon that cemented Nancy’s interest in politics. She explained, “In ‘72 Congress held these Watergate Hearings … and I became obsessed. … My friends would come by and want to play, and I couldn’t. … I was too busy watching these hearings!”

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Sims discusses her storied career as a political consultant.
Courtesy of University of Houston Libraries
Caldwell details her role as non-profit CEO of Legacy Community Health.
Courtesy of University of Houston Downtown

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