The 35 Biggest Moments in Modern Dallas History
We had the bright idea of not just chronicling these important moments, but getting the people who made the moments happen to write about them. This proved to be a Herculean task, but our efforts paid off. What other city magazine in America could get no fewer than seven billionaires to contribute to such an undertaking?
DART and Central Expressway Revolutionize Transportation
By Walt Humann
Two events have done more to change how we get around North Texas than anything else: the creation of DART on August 13, 1983, and the completion of the revamped North Central Expressway on December 7, 1999. As DART campaign chairman and creator of the North Central Task Force, Walt Humann was there for both.
The time was 2 pm on December 7, 1999, in the center lane of North Central Expressway, just south of LBJ. The highway from LBJ south to downtown Dallas was empty. Police were positioned at each on- and offramp to ensure that no one entered. We were going to have a parade to celebrate the formal opening of the “new” North Central Expressway.
The Red Rocket Car, which years earlier held the land-speed record, was in the lead position (with hundreds of antique cars, buses, and assorted vehicles parked behind it) —and ready to go. The day before, I’d taken a spin in the Rocket Car. The driver and I set a record that will never be matched for the fastest round trip from downtown Dallas to LBJ. Being 6-foot-6, my head poked up above the windshield of that little vehicle, and the faster we went, the higher my voice got.
Lining the edges of the freeway’s retaining walls and overlooking each bridge railing for miles were literally thousands of people awaiting the start of the historic event. Some wore t-shirts with two pictures: a turtle (representing the “old Central”) and the rabbit (as the “new Central”). The sun had come out to warm a cold winter day, and just as the aircraft flyover was completed, the Rocket Car shot forward, cutting the starter’s ribbon. The parade was on.
The largest civil works project in Dallas’ history had finally been completed and was open for traffic. As our lead vehicles drove past, the crowds would clap and cheer, which continued all the way to the parade’s endpoint in downtown Dallas. There, the festivities continued at Fountain Place, where speeches, refreshments, and congratulations were passed all around. What a great day for Dallas and North Texas. For me, there was a wonderful sense of what we had accomplished. And that weekend remains the only time I’ve been able to go 125 mph on Central Expressway.
The road had first been suggested in 1912 in the Kessler Plan. A “spine” highway was to go from northern to southern parts of the region using the abandoned railroad right-of-way stretching from Richardson to downtown Dallas. Construction started in the late 1940s and was completed in the late 1950s. Life magazine lauded Dallas for this civil engineering achievement, showing an overhead photo of the cloverleaf at Northwest Highway and Central Expressway. But for 40 years after the original construction was completed there was great dissension and heated public debate.
A Dallas councilman resigned, saying that Central “would be a highway to nowhere and at best should not have more than one lane going north and south.” Another argued it should have more lanes than were planned. Upon completion, the original Central “Expressway” quickly became jammed with traffic. As time passed, the highway got more congested. Efforts were sought to expand it even before it was finished.
Everyone had a solution to fix Central. The Highway Department wanted it double decked. City of Dallas officials wanted it widened at the surface, but admitted right-of-way limitations. Certain neighborhoods wanted to leave it alone. And while the debate raged, Central became the most congested highway in Texas, and one of the most dangerous in the nation. Its bridges were decaying, its roller coaster design created many low areas that flooded in minor rainstorms, and it was the object of many jokes about how “dynamic Dallas could not solve its problems.”
The U.S. Secretary of Transportation told me that Central Expressway was the “oldest living highway controversy in the nation” and many viewed a viable solution as impossible. One joke was that “the sun will burn out in 2 billion years, and Central’s reconstruction will have to be done in the dark.” The long-term viability of the central city was called into question by commuters who wondered if working downtown was a good idea given the difficult commute.
The eventual solution to Central’s problems grew out of a promise made during the campaign to create Dallas Area Rapid Transit, in 1983. Dallas Mayor Starke Taylor and I, as DART campaign chairman, had pledged to fix Central, since this was a critical route for a proposed rail line. An earlier attempt at creating a transportation authority (Lone Star Transit) had failed in 1980, and it was key to the success of DART that we developed detailed options (heavy rail, light rail, a combination) which were distributed to potential voters months in advance of the election. A Transportation Task Force shaped this plan, and requested a full 1-percent sales tax for voter approval to ensure that a quality transit system could be paid for.
The campaign was intense in each of the 14 cities that were to hold a DART vote on August 13, 1983. That evening, when the official results were announced to a gathering of supporters at Union Station, there was a 58 percent approval in the city of Dallas and between 60 percent and 75 percent approval in the suburbs. Balloons rained down, cheers went up, and DART was officially born. Three years and three days after the ill-fated Lone Star election defeat, the New York Times and Dallas Morning News described the victory as a “landslide” vote for a new transit era in the southwestern United States.
It was the end of a three-year-long journey for me, but also time to begin delivering on our promise to find an answer for Central.Shortly thereafter, I formed the North Central Task Force and offered a new approach to public officials to try to develop a plan. NCTF would comprise three groups: policy makers (the governor, key mayors, and the NCTF chair); technical staffs from the Texas Department of Transportation and the cities; and community representatives (there were about 200 vocal neighborhood, business, environmental, economic, and political groups, each with a pet solution).
After 12 months of collecting data and after studying 128 different combinations of transit and highway expansion in the corridor, we winnowed that number down to a single consensus solution—without taking a single vote. (Hence, there were no winners or losers, but rather, everyone agreeing to one plan.)
After the formal approval of the design for the North Central Corridor, there were many obstacles to overcome, including project management, funding, and public buy-in to the years-long traffic disruption. NCTF recommended and TxDOT adopted a completely new approach to managing the largest civil project in Dallas County’s history. TxDOT created a project manager position and recruited John Kelly to lead the project in Dallas. Up to that point, TxDOT would manage highway projects with individuals located in Austin, Dallas, and elsewhere. (Hence, no one was solely accountable.) That changed with the North Central project.
Funding was a big issue. The NCTF organized volunteers from the real estate community (e.g., Commercial Real Estate Women) to assist the highway department in the acquisition of property needed to widen the highway. The NCTF and the TxDOT project office initially estimated the total right-of-way cost to be about $190 million. As a result of the efforts of NCTF volunteers and city and state officials, the actual land acquisition cost was about $90 million under the projection. The funds for the right-of-way were split, with 25 percent to come from Dallas and 75 percent from the state. Mayor Annette Strauss and I served as co-chairs of the subsequent Dallas bond election when voters (fortunately) approved the funds required to meet Dallas’ contribution requirements.
Utilities had to be relocated. Some buried lines had never been recorded. NCTF organized the CEOs of the utility companies to work as a team at one time, rather than each do their jobs independently and at different times.
Another problem was that the old Central construction had covered over African-American graves located in Freedman’s Park. TxDOT brought in a team of scientists and anthropologists who carefully recovered and reburied the remains. This work received national acclaim from the African-American community for its sensitivity in rectifying past mistakes.
NCTF formed the Mobility Task Force to help public agencies keep traffic moving during the projected 10-year construction period. Thanks to the team effort between the adjacent land and office owners, TxDOT, and the city police departments, the city manager reported that there were almost no traffic complaints during construction, whereas he would receive 20 to 30 complaints a week from North Central commuters prior to starting work.
Construction of the DART tunnel, a new drainage tunnel, and the new highway lanes began in 1990. The existing highway and its bridges were demolished and hauled off. Each new bridge was designed to reflect the “look” of the adjacent neighborhood. The DART rail stations contained artwork and were designed to also mirror the adjacent communities. The project was completed in less than 10 years—under budget and ahead of schedule.
There was an effective private/public partnership at work during the entire construction period. We originally estimated that the project would be completed in early 2001. In the late 1990s I wrote the Highway Department and urged them to redouble their efforts to complete the freeway work by the end of 1999. If construction started in the 20th century (i.e., 1990) and was not completed until the 21st century (i.e., 2001), future generations would joke that “it took TxDOT two centuries to finally complete their Central Corridor!” TxDOT rose to the challenge and completed the entire project by December 1999—well ahead of schedule.
Since opening, the North Central project has received a number of national awards. The North Central Corridor has been mentioned as one of the most beautiful and functional multimodal corridors in the nation. For the first time in Texas urban highway history, architectural and aesethetic features were incorporated into the design. That beauty and dramatic improvement in highway function were visually evident on that afternoon in December 1999 when the Grand Parade formally opened the freeway for public use.
Walt Humann is the president and chief executive officer of WJH Corp.
Three families Give Their collections to the DMA
By Marguerite Hoffman
Because of the generous donations of approximately 900 works of art from a small group of people, the Dallas Museum of Art found itself at the top of the list of institutions for its postwar and contemporary collections. Marguerite and Robert Hoffman, who were part of the force behind the gifts, gave their collection, which resulted in the November 19, 2006-April 8, 2007 exhibit “Fast Forward.”
When Robert Hoffman and I married, we each had a passion for art, but for various reasons, neither of us was associated with the Dallas Museum of Art in any real way. This was a great sadness for me, so I began a quiet campaign to turn Robert’s attention back toward the museum and toward the role we could play in making the institution better.
I had great help in this effort from Howard Rachofsky and Deedie Rose and also from the arrival of Jack Lane as our director. Robert and I were both impressed with Jack’s track record in helping institutions reach their potential and thought his experience provided a wonderful opportunity for the DMA.
During all this time, we were very actively collecting, and it soon became clear that we needed to be mindful of what would happen to our collection in the event of our deaths. It sounds ghoulish, but we were traveling a lot and we had young children, so we were constantly updating our wills, and it forced us to confront the issue.
We felt strongly that our collection was a reflection of the ideas and experiences that we had shared together. It represented a part of us as a couple, so we wanted it to stay together and not be parceled out. The works seemed to belong together and have a certain power or resonance that would be disturbed if they were separated. We also felt strongly about trying to make a difference for our community. Living with these works has been extraordinary for us, and we wanted others to have access to the same experience. So there are the first two elements: a desire to become closer to our city’s major art institution and our decision to give the collection away intact at our death.
The third part of the equation was the work that was being done by the museum staff and key trustees around the thorny issue of how to provide adequate financial support for the museum’s future. As plans for a major campaign evolved, Robert and I got more engaged and began a series of conversations about how we could use what we had been so lucky to acquire to leverage other gifts in the community.
Because providence has declared that Dallas has the nicest and most generous collectors in the universe, it was easy to excite the Rachofskys and Roses and others to join this idea of not only “raising dollars” but also “raising art” for our museum. It has taken a lot of work, and we are not finished, but I believe we have collectively done something unique and very wonderful for our city. I am extremely proud of our actions and the impulses that propelled them into reality.
Robert died of leukemia in the summer of 2006 and was never able to see the exhibition, “Fast Forward,” that was spawned by our bequest. But more than 150,000 people came to see the exhibition at the museum, which is an incredible number for a contemporary exhibition in Dallas. Though I wish more than anything that Robert had been part of that number, I am so very glad that we made this gift during our lifetime together when he was healthy and intellectually and emotionally robust.
I hope our action encourages others to think about their own legacies and what they can do to make a difference now as well as through a future bequest. We must all remember to drink the good wine now and not wait for a better reason tomorrow.
A portion of this remembrance is reprinted with permission from the catalogue Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art, Copyright 2007, Dallas Museum of Art.
Jerry Jones Buys the Dallas Cowboys
By Jerry Jones
The Arkansas wildcatter bought the team from Bum Bright on February 25, 1989, and immediately cleared house. Jones installed his old friend and University of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson in Tom Landry’s old job and replaced longtime general manager Tex Schramm with himself. The brash new owner and his even more audacious new coach were a shock to Cowboys fans, especially after several decades spent with the stately Landry and Schramm at the helm. Especially galling was Jones’ awkward handling of Landry’s exit. When he and Johnson were photographed laughing it up at Mia’s on Lemmon Avenue—one of Landry’s favorite dining spots, and essentially a shrine to the man—it was seen as a slap in the face. The uproar eventually died down. Three Super Bowl titles in four years helped.
We stayed at the Mansion during the negotiations with Bum Bright—me, my wife, my attorneys, accountant, the whole negotiating group. While we were there, I would catch the evening news, and they would have all these tidbits about the deal, and they were right. I was mad and wanted to know who was leaking information to the television station. Turns out someone at the Mansion was taking our trash and giving it to the television station. Clever, but Caroline Hunt put a stop to that as soon as we mentioned it to her.
When we had the agreement set firm, I met in Bum’s office. We’d shaken hands on it already, but he wanted me and my wife to meet at his home on Lakeside Drive. So I rode over with Bum to the Mansion and had Gene come down. I’d told her I wanted her to come down and meet someone. She didn’t know who. When she came down, the car attendant let her in the backseat. I was in front, and Bum was driving. He turned around and held out his hand to her and told her he wanted to shake hands with the new owner of the Dallas Cowboys.
The fact is, at that point, the deal wasn’t closed when we made the announcement. We still had a legal page of details to work out after we made the formal announcement that I’d bought the team and even announced that we’d be changing coaches. That list of “details” was so significant that in aggregate it involved several million dollars. During the ensuing weeks, we negotiated those items, then we had the equivalent of a closing at some point after two or three weeks. There were items we couldn’t agree on even three weeks later.
I finally said, “Mr. Bright, what would you do?” because we still had so many sticking points, and we’d already made our announcements about the deal and the change of coaches. “What would you do if we don’t close this deal?”
He said, “Looks like I’ve got me a new coach.”
Funny, I was asked by the NFL president at the league meeting under what authority was I managing the Cowboys and making changes. I told them that technically I’m not making those decisions. Tex Schramm is still the president—and he was.
When we finally resolved the details, there was a figure in excess of $350,000 we couldn’t agree on. Bum said we should just flip a coin. I called—tails—and Bum flipped it. I lost.
When we later signed the final papers—and this was weeks after we’d made the announcement—he handed me an embossed coin, encased in rigid plastic so you couldn’t see one side. He told me that was the coin we’d flipped. “You’ll never know if that was a two-headed coin,” he said. People don’t believe me, but to this day I’ve never torn it apart to see if it was two-headed.
That night, after we signed the last paper, I went out to Texas Stadium and had them turn on the lights. I laid down on the star and had to pinch myself. That’s when it all seemed real.
Jerry Jones is the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys.
Cops Raid the Village Station
By Campbell Read
The October 25, 1979, police action changed Dallas, because for the first time, the persecuted fought back, providing a rallying point for the gay community in Dallas.
Homophobia among the Dallas Police Department was common, and the raid at the old Village Station on Cedar Springs Road was one of many raids along the street during the 1970s. But it stood out in the number of arrests that were made and the number of vice squad officers present. I think the entire vice squad was involved. They arrested 12 people who were doing a bunny hop on the dance floor for public lewdness.
The Village Station raid became a turning point not just for the Cedar Springs area but for the whole gay community because four of the 12 men arrested decided to fight the charges. That was unique. That was the first time. No one had ever stood up to the police before. In the past, gays were fearful that any publicity surrounding an arrest for public lewdness could cause them to lose their jobs. They usually pleaded guilty to avoid publicity.
No mainstream media reported the Village Station raid—as such raids were commonplace—but they did cover the trials. The first two men were tried in Judge Chuck Miller’s court. I went to both trials. In the first trial, the prosecuting attorney was Marshall Gandy. I remember him saying to the judge in his closing argument, “Your Honor, if you acquit this person, you’ll be saying that the police are lying.” But Miller acquitted both.
District Attorney Henry Wade then dropped charges against two of the others in Chuck Miller’s court and refiled them in two courts where he hoped to get convictions. One was found guilty by Judge Berlaind Brashear. We filed a complaint that Wade was forum shopping. They sat on it for about 18 months, including through an election cycle. It was basically dismissed.
After the raid, we started publishing the names of officers who were arresting gays, and the police were very uncomfortable with that publicity. We had to be secretive in how we got the names. At that time, the police department released only the names of arresting officers to attorneys. So attorney Don Maison, who is now president and CEO of AIDS Services of Dallas, did it on the sly for us. As far as I know, the police department never figured out how we were getting the names. We put them in the Gay Alliance newsletter, the Dialog, and also in a statewide gay publication called This Week in Texas. By 1980, we had a file of about 60 complaints against police officers from people who said they had done nothing related to public lewdness yet had been arrested.
Around this time, we also started appearing at City Council meetings. I went to the Dallas City Council and said it was time for the harassment to stop. We thought police officers were being overzealous in arresting gay clientele in the bars. The notion of gay pride began to emerge.
The raid and its aftermath sparked a dialogue between the police department and the gay community that hadn’t existed before. It later led the police department to assign a liaison officer to the gay community. They still have one today.
Campbell Read is a retired SMU statistics professor and past board member of the Dallas Gay Alliance (now the Dallas Gay & Lesbian Alliance).
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