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Wick Allison, Dallas, power and D
By Lee Cullum |

AS WE CELEBRATE D’s 10th anniversary, it’s impossible to forget that the magazine’s story is the success story of Wick Allison, a talented, single-minded, forceful young man who cared for Dallas as much as he did for D. Reading those early issues, I’m struck by the tough, irritated insistence with which he urged Dallas on to greatness. (For Allison’s story of how D began, see page 71.)

Other bright, able people have come and gone. D’s first editor, Jim Atkinson, is currently writing for Texas Monthly and traveling around the country autographing his book, Evidence of Love, co-authored with John Bloom. David Bauer is editor of Sport. Ann Richardson is publisher of Texas Homes. John Merwin writes for Forbes. Kit Taylor is production director of Esquire. Rowland Stiteler is editor of Central Florida magazine. And Allison has set out to start a successful publishing company all over again. This time, he’s bought Arts & Antiques in New York and has completely revamped it. Thus far, the results are elegant and highly promising.

D has offered some notable journalism over the years. Remember David Ritz’s series that took you “Inside the Jewish Establishment”? Or Atkinson on “The Caruth Saga”? And more often than not, D’s predictions have come true. Early on, the magazine spotted the talents of Dr. Michael S. Brown and Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein at Southwestern Medical School (both researching cholesterol); Louise Eiseman, whose volunteer efforts in the community have been unfaltering; and Pat Higgin-botham, the trial lawyer who was on his way to the federal bench.

But D’s most significant effort came in September 1980, when the magazine focused on the Dallas Independent School District and aimed all of its editorial energies at conveying the message “This Chaos Must End.” What followed was an unhappy chronicle of falling test scores, rising federal expenditures (with enough strings attached to strangle the district), teachers harassed by an excess of paper work, students tossed into huge, frenetic open classrooms that offered neither the quiet nor the time required for learning and a school board that ignored the budget while its members bickered over who would go to some nothing-burger meetings in Austin.

Our readers took action. In the next school board election, the old group was swept out by candidates who supported Superintendent Linus Wright and insisted that Dallas public schools start educating students and stop wasting everybody’s time and money. In taking this stand, D was three years ahead of the national trend that made the Ross Perot program possible.

Of course, the subject that has obsessed D from the beginning is power in Dallas. In October 1974, it looked as though the election of populist mayor Wes Wise had dealt the city’s business leadership a fatal blow. “Wes Wise broke the mold,” D reported. “Things simply aren’t the same, and they never will be again.” This seemed true at the time, but in spite of Wise and single-member districts, the business leadership proved to be more resilient than anybody expected.

By 1977, Atkinson and Merwin were reporting the election of developer Bob Fol-som as mayor. It was this story that actually foretold the future: the rise of Far North Dallas developers in city politics and the counterrevolution of the homeowners. Today, some prognosticators are saying that Starke Taylor (who looks unbeatable for a second term next year) will be the last of the Bent Tree mayors. After that, they say, no one will be able to win without the active support of the homeowner groups.

But this doesn’t signal the end of business leadership, which in the past 10 years has won bond approval for the downtown library, the new Dallas Museum of Art, the concert hall, the Parkland Hospital expansion, the Majestic Theatre renovation and DART-hardly a leadership in decline. But where is it to come from in the future? Think of the Dallas companies that have been sold in the past decade: Neiman-Marcus to Carter Hawley Hale, the Dallas Times Herald to the Times Mirror Corp., Southwestern Life to Tenneco Inc., Fidelity Union to Al-lianz Versicherungs of Munich, Republic Financial Services to Winterthur Swiss Insurance Co., Burger King and Steak & Ale to Pillsbury, Dr Pepper to Forstmann Little, EDS to General Motors. This means absentee ownership, but not necessarily the withdrawal of local management from civic life. The principals of many of these companies continue to contribute to the city.

Other giants, such as Texas Instruments (TI), which gave Erik Jonsson, Cecil Green and the late Eugene McDermott to Dallas, have been quiet in recent years, though by no means unimportant. (TI is by far the largest employer in town.) But now Mark Shepherd, TI chairman and chief executive officer, has surfaced as chairman of the Met-roplex High Technology Task Force. It’s a welcome move that lends continuity to a long tradition binding TI to Dallas.

Over and over these days, I hear of things that are “not like Dallas.” The proliferation of superior restaurants, people say, is so exciting that “it’s not like Dallas.” Chandler’s Landing “is not like Dallas; it’s like California.” A certain wooded route from North-aven to Meadow roads “is so peaceful it’s not like Dallas.” What they’re saying is that Dallas has changed, is changing and will change some more.

We’re overcoming the aridity of the past and generating an urban atmosphere in which our creativity has a chance to match our prosperity. There’s much left to be done: We need stronger universities, an engineering school, a transit system, minority development and public education that’s not a contradiction in terms. We need to support our neighborhoods and enhance our arts. We need to build with better taste and plan with more imagination. But it’s all within reach. We at D are looking forward to the next 10 years with enthusiasm and hope.

Ruth Miller Fitzgibbons and Chris Tucker have been named senior editors of D. In alternate months, each will preside over the features of the magazine with an eye toward producing the strongest possible writing. Ruth presided over this anniversary issue.

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