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Publications

UPDATE

By Cecil Sharp |

VOID REMAINS IN LOCAL BLACK LEADERSHIP Last year’s fiftieth birthday of the Dallas Citizens Council served as a poignant reminder that power in Dallas traditionally comes in one color-white.

“Damn, when are they going to pass the baton?” blurted Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price to a reporter. “They’re going to have to incorporate us into the leadership.”

As reported by Bob Ray Sanders in February 1986, Dallas’s black business and political leaders have long been unable to devise an agenda of economic and political reform for Dallas’s burgeoning black population. The tools for such a task would seem to be in the hands of blacks like Price, city manager Richard Knight, state senator Eddie Bernice Johnson, activist Kathlyn Gilliam, and council members Al Lipscomb and Diane Ragsdale. Yet this firepower remains fragmented.

Price and other black leaders place some of the blame on prosperous black businesspeo-ple who, they feel, have lost sight of the bigger picture (progress for black Dallas) while pursuing their own goals.

“We’re just consumers.” lamented Peter Johnson of the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “We’re not creating the wealth or jobs that will allow black Dallas to participate in the American Dream.” Power struggles between black political, business, and religious leaders have also prevented progress. A prime example is the bitter feud between Price and former state representative Paul Ragsdale. Nor is any love lost between Price and Kathlyn Gilliam, who had threatened to run against Price for his commissioner’s post. And black Dallas seems to overlook local blacks with money and connections. Besides Pro-Line chairman Comer Cottrell-one of the few blacks on the Citizens Council-there’s realtor Al Herron, a board member of several major Dallas banks and businesses; D/FW Minority Business Development Council chief Elliott Stephenson; and former Dallas Cowboy turned real estate investor Pettis Norman. Former Sunbelt National Bank president Arlender Jones. Cityplace Development Corporation’s president Hugh Robinson, and several fast food entrepreneurs round out the list. A very competent group, but why no unity and no agenda? “We just don’t seem to have the heart, the pride, or the will.” moans Price. “And that’s very scary.”