For the past five years, I have resisted devoting an issue of this magazine to the topic of power in Dallas.

The word itself almost seemed a cliche. I could picture the obligatory story line: “No( too many years ago, a handful of successful businessmen, ruling as a benevolent oligarchy. . “

Yeech. Everybody knows that. And everybody knows that the oligarchy is gone.

And it’s been gone for the entire history of this magazine. Our very first issue, sixteen years ago this month, was devoted to the topic “Power in Dallas.” Sub-dubbed “Who Holds the Cards?,” that premiere cover featured a hand (white, male) holding a full house (two jokers, three kings). Inside, the powerful were chronicled (Robert Cullum, John Stemmons, James Aston), “comers” identified (John Schoellkopf, George Schrader), the over-trumped revealed (Ross Perot, H.L. Hunt).

The article is interesting as more than a period piece. Though the faces therein are the predictable moneyed businessmen, the copy details an established order that was just beginning to crack. Former sportscaster Wes Wise had had the gall some three years earlier to challenge the anointed candidate for mayor-and to trounce him at the polls. At a loss to explain the loss, and unimpressed with Wise’s on-the-job performance, business leaders were already beginning to bemoan the “leadership vacuum.”

Fast forward to 1983, when a man named James Crupi blew into Dallas from Atlanta, interviewed a bunch of people, and produced a study analyzing the dynamics of the Dallas power structure. His conclusions stung. He painted a picture of a business community that was clueless about the new political realities of the day. He described bankers and real estate barons without an inkling as to why and how minorities were struggling to become a part of the fabric of the city. He dismissed the role of women entirely. He described the black community as fragmented and ineffectual, unable to even shake a united fist. He painted the Hispanic face invisible.

The few people who were aware of Crupi’s survey were generally outraged by it. But the truth is, at least until very recently, it was hard to argue with most of his conclusions.

A year and a half ago, I heard Jim Crupi speak at a breakfast meeting. He had, since that study, shifted his focus to the international arena, while his associate, Stewart Lytle, continued producing leadership surveys around the country. As Crupi spoke about the future of those cities, and the generational transfer of power that was occurring in virtually all of them, my interest was piqued again. So much, it seemed, had changed since 1983.

That was the genesis of this issue. D struck a deal with Lytle’s new firm, Metro Group. Working last spring, Lytle interviewed more than one hundred people knowledgeable about civic and business affairs. D’s writers and editors talked to scores more in an effort to ferret out those men and women who truly have a hand in shaping the future of this city (our definition of power). We discovered that perceptions of who has great power (Trammell Crow, who doesn’t, comes to mind) often miss the mark. We especially enjoyed pointing to individuals who are just coming into view.

Much has changed since 1983. The economy forced it. Pressure from the media forced it. Age and the natural inclinations of the new generation forced it. The federal courts forced it.

And what seems to be taking shape is, in these eyes, promising indeed. The new business leaders who have risen above their peers are known to be fair-minded, forward-looking, and ready to sit down to breakfast with even the feistiest demagogue. The feistiest demagogues have begun to reveal themselves as caring, if stubborn, advocates of people whose voices have traditionally gone unheard. In between are all manners of bright, energetic, dedicated men-yes, and women-united by their mutual affection for this city.

Meet them, beginning on page 55.


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