Today we begin our attempt at the seemingly impossible: The creation of a definitive ranking of the 100 Greatest Dallasites of All Time that will appear in the December 2016 issue of D Magazine.
This task is far too difficult for us to accomplish on our own, so we’re turning to our readers for assistance. From now through September 23, please visit dmagazine.com/greatest as often as you can — while drinking your morning coffee, eating lunch, sitting at a traffic light, working out on the elliptical, whenever — to vote as often as you’re able on a series of head-to-head matchups among notable locals from our city’s past and present. Your decisions determine the ranking, which will update live as more and more votes are cast.
Each time you’ll be asked to answer a deceptively simple question: Who’s the greatest?
How We Did It
We began this absurd task by compiling a list of hundreds upon hundreds of nominees. We consulted a host of reference materials and sought the assistance of experts, including the Dallas Historical Society. Of particular help in our efforts was city archivist John Slate.
Then we made merciless cuts, trimming from the list many people who made significant contributions to Dallas but who, in our estimation, didn’t make contributions quite as significant in a given field as some of the other competitors we’re presenting here for your consideration.
Our online managing editor Staci Parks shepherded this project, and we got tremendous help from an army of interns — Elle Carnley, Susannah Hutcheson, Katelyn Lunders, J. Chase Beakley — in compiling the list.
“Greatest” is obviously a subjective term. Take it to mean whatever you like, but for our purposes we considered a person qualified to make the list for either:
1) Having made some significant impact on the Dallas area specifically, or
2) Having spent a significant portion of his or her life in the Dallas area and then making some notable impact on the greater world
For us, “greatest” is not a value judgment. We weren’t aiming to weigh which of these people is the best human being, and yet we decided early on to disqualify anyone best known for acts of violence. That’s why you won’t find Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby, Clyde Barrow or Bonnie Parker, among our nominees.
That’s not to say that all of the competitors are saints, by any stretch of the imagination. Even the founder of Dallas, John Neely Bryan, is known to have killed at least one man. And the troubled, sinful history of the treatment of minorities throughout much of our city and our state’s histories means there are undoubtedly people in the running who held attitudes or took actions highly objectionable by the standards of today. Feel free to weigh such matters as you vote.
But also remember that this is ultimately just a bit of fun. It’s ridiculous to decide whether Dirk Nowitzki or Benjamin Bluitt has done more for Dallas. Yet that’s exactly the sort of decision we’re asking you to make. We took pains to balance the sort of contributions made by the competitors on the list. So you’ll be faced in judging a sports star against a doctor, a pioneer leader vs. a musician, an actor or a chef. Just go with it.
Finally, if you believe there’s been an egregious oversight in regards to someone we should have kept in the running but who doesn’t feature among the nearly 300 on our list, let us know.
Email me your suggestion. I’ll put it to our brain trust, and if we agree with you, we’ll add the person into the contest. We’d appreciate this and all your help in determining history’s 100 Greatest Dallasites.