64 Parishes

Finding respite in 64 PARISHES during the COVID-19 crisis? Subscribe today to support our mission and contributors.

Pokey McIlhenny

Margeret "Pokey" McIlhenny was a New Orleans civic leader whose interests were politics, education, and public television.

Pokey McIlhenny

Courtesy of McIlhenny Company Archives, Avery Island, La.

Margaret Polk McIlhenny. Unidentified

Margaret Polk McIlhenny, or “Pokey” as she was universally known, was a New Orleans civic leader whose interests were politics, education, and public television.

Born December 16, 1914, in Austin, Texas, Margaret Polk grew up in Houston. She was the daughter of Sam C. Polk, an attorney, and Frankie Carr Polk. She received a bachelor’s degree from Rice Institute (now Rice University) in 1936 and graduated from the Katherine Gibbs Secretarial School in New York City in 1937. She married Paul Westfeldt McIlhenny, a Tulane University graduate, prominent New Orleans insurance executive, and scion of the family that founded the Tabasco industry at Avery Island, Louisiana.

Pokey McIlhenny was an early member of the Independent Women’s Organization and served as its president in the 1960s. She took enthusiastic part in a movement to appoint, rather than elect, a superintendent of schools for Louisiana, a reform which entrenched interests fought. She was a founder of public television station WYES in New Orleans, which began broadcasting in 1957. She also served on the Advisory Council for Title III of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Vocational and Technical Advisory Council of Louisiana, and the Coordinating Council for Higher Education, President Kennedy’s committee to boost the economy of the Greater New Orleans area, and the Vieux Carré Commission. She served as president of the South Louisiana Democratic Women’s Club. She died in New Orleans in September 1979 at the age of 65.