LEADERSHIP IS AN ELUSIVE QUALITY. SlMPLY BEING in a position to lead does not, in itself, make someone a leader. There are those who make nothing of their position; there are moribund organizations living on past glories rather than present-day contributions. There are individuals whose actions are nothing but disruptive.
When it comes to the local African-American community, the spotlight is usually on its problems, not its successes; its miscreants, not its creators; its public-oriented, rather than public-spirited. Yet, the depth and richness of a community can only be measured by the numbers and types of individuals who, day after day, take it upon themselves to make a difference.
Former Dallas Housing Authority president Alphonse Jackson says, “When Anglos want to talk about religion, they go to a W.A. Criswell. When they want to talk about law, they to go a Mike Boone. When they want to talk about medicine, they go to a Kern Wildenthal. They don’t have one leader for everything. They have leaders for specific issues. “But when Anglos want to talk to us about religion, they go to Jesse Jackson. When they want to talk about law, they go to Jesse Jackson. When they want to talk about medicine, they go to Jesse Jackson. They don’t want to deal with us as leaders on specific issues. Whites ask, ’When are you going to get another leader like Martin Luther King?’ We don’t need a leader. We need leaders.”
There is more to the African-American community than its superstars-its preachers, athletes, and politicians. What follows are profiles of African-American professionals who lead, who make a difference in the quality of life in Dallas-Fort Worth.
A FEW YEARS AGO, LlNDA JONES WAS attending a journalists’ conference and bumped into an African-American writer she hadn’t seen in a while.
“1 asked what he was doing and he said he covered black folk,” Jones recalls. “When 1 asked what that meant he said, ’You know, poverty and social services.’ That’s what he felt covering the black community was all about.
“1 don’t subscribe to that. Basically, black culture is a rich area. I try to show that we are not a monolith.”
Since coming to The Dallas Morning News in 1994, Jones has carved a unique path, covering social developments and cultural trends within the black community.
Vicki Meek, director of the South Dallas Cultural Center, says, “What she has done is given blacks in this city and whites in this city an opportunity to look at many different sides of the black community.”
Jones shrugs at the compliment. “I enjoy writing about people of color. It really is a rich area.”
YOU DON’T HEAR MUCH ABOUT KARL BUTLER’S ICC ENERGY Corp. in the West End-unless you happen to be in the energy business. ICC is a diversified energy company, selling more than $100 million annually in natural gas, jet fuel, electricity, coal, and diesel fuel throughout the United States and Canada.
“In Texas,” he says, “there are 20.000 gas producers. The rancher doesn’t have time to fly all over the state to find the best price for that small amount of gas. We do that.”
Butler, a native of Crosby, Texas, spent 15 years in the Navy before retiring in the mid-’80s. He started out in the transportation leasing business, setting up the Institutional Capital Corp., which leased 22 buses to Greyhound Corp. for its operations in Maryland. In 1989. he decided to get out of the bus business and into energy and changed the name to ICC Energy.
“We are the largest African-American-owned natural gas marketing company in the United States,” says Butler, “and we’re in the middle of the pack as far as the rest of the industry goes. Our strategy is to be nimble and responsive to our customers’ needs.”
IN 1992, JOYCE STRICKLAND WAS IN HIGH SPIRITS. SHE WAS GOING home. She was working for IBM and living in Trophy Club. Bui she accepted a buyout from the computer company “and at thai point, the location didn’t make a lot of sense because I didn’t want to just visit the inner city, I wanted to be a part of it.”
The decision would prove to be life-changing. Less than two years after moving to the historic South Boulevard area Strickland’s oldest son, 19-year-old Charles Christopher Lewis and an 18-year-old friend. Kendrick Lott, were murdered a few miles from home. Lewis, a St. Mark’s graduate, had just completed his freshman year at Morehouse College in Atlanta; Loti had just graduated from DISD’s business magnet. The killers were ages 16 arid 17.
The experience drove Strickland to found Mothers Against Teen Violence, an organization dedicated to providing services to the families of homicide victims and working with schools and agencies to combat teen violence. The organization, says Strickland, provides “compassionate support” for families, primarily through monthly support group meetings. The group also has a court advocacy program and a growing reward fund to solicit information on unsolved teen murders.
“Anytime anyone needs help they can call our office and get hot line support,” Strickland says. “If they have a bad day, we are here for them. It’s difficult work at times, but it’s very rewarding. It helps me to assure that my son’s death was not useless.”
BILLY ALLEN’S DAY JOB HELPS PEOPLE MAKE A LIVING.
He is president and CEO of Minority Search, an executive recruiting and consulting firm that specializes in assisting companies in finding minority executives, “Career counseling is important,” Allen says. “Many employees are lost because they have no mentors or supports in their organization.”
That’s what he does for a living. But it isn’t how the soft-spoken 52-year-old lives. Allen lives for civic service.
Arts and entertainment? Allen is chairman of the board of the African American Museum, was the first African-American president of the Dallas Park and Recreation board, and was vice president of the National Recreation and Parks Association.
Business community? He was president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, a board member of the DFW Airport Authority, and is currently an associate board member of the Cox School of Business.
Social service? Allen served on the board of the Community Council of Greater Dallas, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Goodwill Industries, the Moorland Branch YMCA. and the Dallas Assembly. He is also an elder at the Concord Missionary Baptist Church.
“Why do I do it?” Allen asks rhetorically. “This is home. My kids have grown up here and if I can do something to improve the neighborhood in which they live, it’s all worth it.”
HANNAH MARSH AND THE WEST DALLAS COMMUNITY CENTERS grew with the times. Marsh came to the centers after graduating from Prairie View A&M in 1967 and never left. The focus then, as now, was on kids.
“Kids keep you going. Kids motivate you into developing new ideas. Kids keep you moving real quick,” she says from her office in the West Dallas housing development. When Marsh arrived at the center three decades ago, their programs consisted mainly of after-school baseball and basketball. “We changed that in the ’70s,” she says, “to deal with their educational needs.”
Marsh and her colleagues tutored kids wherever it was needed: in the center or in the homes. They added youth advisory committees to keep them abreast of kids’ needs and interests “and the economic development groups to expose kids to the fact that there are many ways of making money.
“Now we are developing our creative arts program,” says Marsh. “We believe the kids need to express themselves, and that means more than graffiti.”
JOYCE FOREMAN HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN VIRTUALLY EVERY MAJOR issue facing the black community for the last 20 years. “Joyce is tenacious,” says Alva Baker, a business consultant. “She is well-connected in the black community as well as with the white establishment. And when she gets involved with an issue, she sticks with it to the end.”
Foreman Office Products Inc. has been a small business success story for more than two decades. Success has earned Foreman her positions on the boards of Chase Bank of Texas, the Better Business Bureau, and the American Heart Association’s Minority Council.
“I am committed and involved because I grew up here,” Foreman says. “I always believed that if things are not the way you think they should be, then you have to be an agent for change.”
“MY BUSINESS,” SAYS LYRIA HOWLAND, “IS a professional services business based on relationships. People hire you because they know you or know of you and trust you and have reason to trust your work.”
Howland is a public relations specialist whose work is trusted by many. Most notable these days is Mayor Ron Kirk, who includes Howland in his kitchen cabinet. She is usually seen at his public forums, mingling with the audience, noting strengths and weaknesses in his presentations, and making notes for later discussions. She was part of Kirk’s successful campaign team and is involved with Friends of Ron Kirk, which is likely to become his next campaign committee.
Howland also represents Paul Quinn College, serves on the YWCA Board of Directors, and helped chair last fall’s “Week Without Violence” campaign.
JAMES SANDERS DID NOT INTEND TO GO INTO THE CONSTRUCTION business. In 1985. he was operations manager of United Parcel Service’s center for Irving and Grand Prairie.
But he was also an entrepreneur in the making, buying small, run-down residential properties, fixing them up, and later selling them. “I got to be real good at fixing homes,” he says, “and wound up being called on by neighbors to fix leaky roofs or fix the plumbing. I got to the point where I started charging these folks, and they still called me. I had 20 years in corporate America at UPS but was doing almost a full-time job on home repairs.”
What began small is now Sanders Construction, a million-dollar home repair business that has expanded into commercial construction and real estate management.
But you usually find Sanders with kids. He is on the board of Promise House, which he calls “one of the best not-for-profit organizations in the nation. It is for kids at risk-kids on drugs, runaways, kids who have no place else to go. They can call Promise House and they can live there for a while or arrange to get room and board.”
AT THE BEGINNING OF THIS DECADE, THE NEIGHBORHOODS AROUND the South Boulevard historic district in South Dallas contained some of the city’s worst housing stock and denizens. Middle-class families on South Boulevard wanted the city to rehabilitate the area around them. The city was willing to comply but looked for appropriate nonprofit organizations to work with in the redevelopment.
Enter Henry Lawson and the SouthFair Community Development Corp. Lawson, executive director of the SFCDC, started with an existing eyesore, a 160-unit apartment complex. “We changed it completely,” says Lawson. “We lowered the density to 110 units, bought everything on both sides of the street, and then made it a gated community. Then we put amenities in that they wouldn’t normally have-a community room, a laundry facility, an exercise room, and a room for community services.”
Lawson views his mission as the revitalization of South Dallas. “We know that more than just housing is needed to make a neighborhood,” he says. “You have to provide services and amenities and opportunities.”
Lawson targeted the “Good Luck Comer” of Grand Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard, an area known for drugs. “We had to organize to deal with the problems there,” Lawson says.
SouthFair now manages 400 apartment units and is expanding. “We want to put another 250 apartment units in the neighborhood,” he says. “We are attempting to attract a broad income mix and provide the services they need. Watch us.”
THERE IS ONLY ONE THING PREDICTABLE ABOUT ACTIVITIES AT THE South Dallas Cultural Center: There are a lot of them, and the center’s influence on the area’s arts scene is growing.
Vicki Meek, who became director of the center in February 1997, deserves the credit. The Cultural Center is an underutilized. 18,000-square-foot facility abutting Fair Park. It is surrounded by several schools, a natural constituency which had never been fully tapped.
“We have a facility people would kill for.” Meek says. ’The potential is unlimited.”
Meek began looking for activities which would involve young people and become self-sustaining. Children working in the center’s facilities produce limited edition prints, cards, and jewelry for sale. “My goal is to help children in the South Dallas area understand they don’t always have to work for somebody to make a living,” Meek says. “They can be businesspeople themselves.”
Meek is seeking money to expand the center to include a 300-seat proscenium theater and convert the existing black box space to a dance studio, which can be used for free classes, as well as rented to choreographers to produce income for the center.
“If lean get that kind of stuff going.” says Meek. “we will really be smoking.”
IF YOU ASK VICTOR WATT WHAT HE DOES FOR A LIVING, THE answer, for him anyway, is simple: He is manager of Texas Instruments’ process engineering section. What he does and how well he does it is widely known among electrical engineers and others in the business of making the brains that run computers. But to most, he’s just a quiet Jamaican immigrant who does something with technology.
In lay terms, what Watt does is take the designs for the latest integrated chip circuits and make them work. It’s his group’s responsibility to translate the designs and ideas into a product which can be mass produced- and that responsibility is across Tl product lines.
“’Making an integrated circuit is like building a house,” says Watt. “The painting of the house is one process. There are countless more which have to be put together in a comprehensive whole, and each has to relate properly to the other.
“We just want to make things work. We’re (he company’s bloodline.”
THEODORE M. LAWK WAS EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT TO Detroit Mayor Roman Gribbs when Dallas City Manager George Schrader asked him to become his assistant in 1974, making Lawe the first black executive at City Hall. Lawe was in charge of the newly created Office of Human Development, which, when he left in 1980, had an operating budget of $30 million.
When Lawe left City Hall, he created Metroplex Research and Development Consultants, which specialized in reviewing policies of companies to eliminate discrimination in employment and procurement. Lawe also developed the Transportation Center, which consisted of taxi fleets in Dallas and Garland, and Ready Ride, a van service for the elderly and handicapped that he contracted with DART. Both were generating more than SI million when he sold them a few years ago.
Lawe, through his Maxwell Enterprises, now provides management consulting for cities such as Dallas, Atlanta. Fort Worth, Phoenix, and Savannah. “Dallas is spending $33 million annually on community development block grants. We are doing a benchmark analysis comparing performance with their original goals to determine how well the city is doing.”
WHEN TEXAS INSTRUMENTS DECIDED TO SPEND HUNDREDS OF millions of dollars expanding its operations in North Dallas, its executives received the expected flood of inquiries from hopeful contractors-and Reginald Gates.
When the executive board of the Black National Bar Association met to determine the venue for their 2001 convention, they received a delegation of African-American attorneys from the Dallas J.L. Turner Legal Society-and Reginald Gates.
Gates is president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, a 72-year-old organization that had been a somnolent social register with little impact on the Dallas business scene.
That’s not the way Gates operates. He has placed his organization in the forefront of efforts to expand opportunities for blackowned businesses. “We have to be the great balancing force in a community like Dallas,” Gates says. “We have to make sure the information about black businesses is getting oui there and information about opportunities is getting to our members.”
ROLAND PARRISH WENT TO MISSISSIPPI IN 1979 TO DIRECT RETAIL marketing operations for Exxon without knowing he had two major problems facing him. First, the office was disorganized. Second, he recalls. “Ninety percent of the people who worked for me were middle-age rednecks who resented having a black man as a supervisor.”
Parrish, with an MBA from Purdue, was content to climb the corporate ranks of Exxon’s domestic operating company-until they began downsizing. Which is what led him to Hamburger University, the McDonald’s franchise training program.
Parrish opened his first McDonald’s in 1989, next to a new Exxon station. That store proved successful, and he opened a second in Pleasant Grove. Then he opened two more in American Airlines’ Terminal 2-E at DFW Airport.
Parrish helped establish the first organization of black McDonald’s franchise owners. “Our focus is to make sure we have parity and equality with the other owners and make sure there is adequate representation of African-Americans within McDonald’s at all levels.”
Now Parrish works with area churches, providing food and financial support for outreach efforts. He’s a booster of the Lincoln High School athletic program, provides Thanksgiving turkeys for the needy, and helps underwrite health fairs for the Southeast Division of the Dallas Police Department. “This year I got bikes for their bike patrols. I do what I can for the community.”
MARVIN ROBINSON IS A ONE-MAN SERVICE INDUSTRY.
If you want food at Reunion Arena or the Convention Center, you buy from Robinson’s concession stands. If you want food and something to read at Love Field or DFW, chances are you buy snacks at a Robinson store and a book or magazine from Hudson News.
But Robinson is mostly known for helping other small black firms get business. State Rep. Helen Giddings says, “There are any number of small black businesses who got their foot in the door because of Marvin Robinson-and they don’t always know it. He works hard to see that there are opportunities for others.”
It was Robinson who recently engineered a meeting between Mavericks President Terdema Ussery and several small businesses to discuss possible opportunities at the new sports arena. Robinson, a former president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce, says, “I try hard to see that black businesses achieve a piece of the business in this community.”
WHEN THE CAST OF “DALLAS” FINISHED FILMING, THE FICTIONAL magnates’ Turtle Creek office reverted to its real owners-Bill and Annette Hamilton-and served as the headquarters for Annette Hamilton Cosmetics.
Theirs was a new company marketing cosmetics designed for and sold by black women. Within 18 months of their 1978 move to Turtle Creek, they had a sales force of 500-and were out of business. A loan default forced the Hamiltons to abandon the company and sent them home “with three kids and four college degrees and S2.50 between us.”
They returned to the Xerox Corp., where Annette resumed her job as a personnel manager and Bill was manufacturing manager. But this time, they lived on one salary-hers-and banked his. In 1982. Bill again left Xerox, and they launched Annette 2 Cosmetics and never looked back,
By the end of the decade, Annette 2 had grown to become the nation’s largest network marketing company owned by African-Americans, with 5,000 sales “associates” peddling a line of black women’s cosmetics.
Three years ago, the Hamiltons changed direction, reducing their sales force to 500 and taking care of their existing customers primarily through direct mail orders. They moved big time into the self-help business. They are now directors in TPN, “The People’s Network,” a satellite marketing network which shows only motivational speakers and self-help shows.
TPN, says Bill, now has a sales force of more than 70,000 “and has the potential to be larger and better known than Amway.”
WILLIS JOHNSON COULD BE JUST ANOTHER DALLAS DISC JOCKEY. But the KKDA-AM 730 host doesn’t know how, and he claims it isn’t his fault.
He used to work for an operations manager named Chuck Smith, who insisted that “radio ought to be a voice for the community. I have merely been an extension of that.”
“When someone has a pothole and no one has repaired it, when there is a drug house or a crack house in the neighborhood and the people don’t know where to turn, they tend to call us because we can make a call or two and get the job done,” Johnson says. Last summer, Johnson was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators. Fort Worth Star-Telegram associate editor Bob Ray Sanders, who presented the award, says “Willis has been able to make KKDA a true community station…. He’s been our conscience, our friend, and elder brother. You can’t ask for more from a radio guy. Willis has done it all.”
A DECADE AGO, ST. PHILLIPS SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY CENTER was a struggling private school in the middle of the highest crime neighborhood in the city. Boarded up or dilapidated apartments in the neighborhood were open havens for drug dealers and users.
To some observers, it seemed folly that the school would embark on the construction of a new playground and try to develop a community garden area on its grounds. It may well have been, if its director, Terry Flowers, had not met with many of the neighborhood’s residents and told them that they, too, had a stake in this community and needed to ensure that this was a haven for the children who wanted to learn there.
And to the surprise of everyone but Flowers, the lowlifes left St. Phillips alone. Now St. Phillips is one of the city’s better private schools. “Our kids leave here and go on to some of the most prestigious schools in North Dallas,” Flowers says. “We did a study of our graduates, and we had no high school dropouts- they were all in college or college bound. I see results in everything we do with the students and the neighborhood.”
JIMMY PORCH, FOUNDER OF J.P. AND ASSOCIATES AND CO-PUB- lisher of Onyx Magazine, is a man that fills needs. J.P. and Associates, his executive search company, fills permanent positions within organizations such as IBM and Southwest Airlines.
Porch was transferred by the Air Force to Texas in 1989 and four years later left the military for Dallas. That year, he started his recruiting company. Porch says it has been a very rewarding career because “the entire business is about relationship building. You are dealing with someone’s livelihood.”
Two years later, in 1995, Porch and his longtime business partner, Vernon North, started the Triad First Fridays, a monthly networking event for professional African-Americans. “A lot of what has happened to me is because I’ve met great people,” Porch says. “If people believe in you, they’ll bend over backward to help you.”
It was through the Triad First Fridays that Porch and North surveyed people to see if there was a need for a magazine for people of color. The surveys turned out to be “very favorable.” The first issue came oui in December 1997.
Onyx makes “people aware of the riches here in the Metroptex and to profile hard-working men and women,” says Porch, who adds, “Everything I’ve ever done has been to meet a need in the city…. Dallas has treated me well.”
CHERYL BERGMAN STILL WANTS A RIDE ON AN F-16.
“I was promised a ride at the end of last year,” Bergman says. “But then I got pregnant and they said ’No. Some other time.’ So I’m still waiting.”
For the past decade, Bergman has made her mark as the expert in flight simulator engineering for Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems, which makes the F-16. In lay terms, it’s Bergman’s responsibility to teach the pilots the latest in “switchology”-the latest switches and buttons on the fighter’s control panel-and design modifications to meet pilots’ needs and capabilities.
’There’s a lot of things that I know about the switchology that [the pilots] don’t know,” she explains. “And they have other concerns- they have to keep from crashing. That’s why they learn it with me.”
IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT TO GO INTO ANY REGION OF THE COUNTRY with a sizable minority population and not find the tracks of AI Wash, the former defensive tackle for the Denver Broncos and Houston Oilers. Since leaving football, Wash has become one of the nation’s most influential impresarios of black-oriented entertainment.
There are the football games, like the AI Lipscomb State Fair Classic, which brought 70,000 fans to the Cotton Bow! last year.
There are concerts, featuring entertainers such as Rick James. B.B. King, Bobby Blue Bland, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Sinbad, and Anita Baker. The trade magazines say Wash is one of the 20 most influential people in the entertainment business.
“The things we put together are shows that no one else is going to take a gamble on,” Wash explains. “There are no bad shows, just bad deals. I like doing something new and different, like the Black Circus or Kirk Franklin’s tour. I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing. That’s what keeps us motivated.”
TWO YEARS AGO, THE U.S. Department of Commerce was looking for an underwriting firm to help finance a $300 million economic development program. The government agency turned to The Walton Johnson Group, the Dallas partnership of Alfred “Chip” Johnson and John A. Walton, to spearhead the project.
This success was not unusual. Last year, the firm-the only black underwriting firm in Dallas-participated in $41 billion in financial transactions. They are one of the bond advisers to DFW Airport and handle equity transactions for Southwest Airlines, Kimberly Clark, Exxon, and other corporations.
The partners are also involved with kids. Johnson is on the board of the YMCA, the Dallas Education Center, and Big Brothers, which has entrusted Johnson to guide a 14-year-old through his teenage years. Why Big Brothers? “There are a lot of kids who need someone to say ’I care,”’ says Johnson. “Big Brothers gives you a chance to make a difference.”
When Walton is not making deals or working with the Dallas Historical Society, one can usually find him leading a Cub Scout Pack or helping other neighborhood kids.
“There are a lot of young boys out there who are not affiliated with organizations like the Scouts,” Walton says, “and 1 tend to grab three or four of those and keep my eye on them until they reach adulthood. I help where I see help needs to be given, and then I stay involved.”
“I’M JUST A PUBLIC SERVANT,” SAYS HARRY ROBINSON.
Robinson was trained as a librarian and historian at Clark Atlanta University and came to Dallas nearly a quarter of a century ago to bring a dream to fruition. “Milton Curry, the president of Bishop College, said he felt the college had gotten more from the community than it had given back,” he says. “He wanted me to build a library and museum of African-American life and culture. That’s what I came here to do.”
It wasn’t easy. “It was worse than lean,” he recalls. “The peopie here really wanted a museum, and I felt obliged to stick with it, to see it through. And this community has responded-even when times were rough, people stuck with us.”
The S6.5 million African American Museum in Fair Park is now a tribute to the single-minded dedication of Robinson. “I want the museum to be a transformation center, where we transform people in their thinking and their behavior. If you provide new information to people, they will develop new attitudes.”
KNEELAND YOUNGBLOOD, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN AT Baylor University Medical Center, has been active not only in medicine, but also in politics. He raised $265,000 for Ann Richards, making him her largest single Texas fund-raiser, and she nominated him to the Board of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, which oversees a $65 billion investment fund.
The Clinton Administration was impressed with Youngblood’s business acumen, which led to his appointment to the U.S. Enrichment Corp., which had been privatized out of the Department of Energy. Youngblood was also on the board of the Texas Growth Fund and currently sits on the board of AMR Investments.
But if you ask him about accomplishments, Youngblood talks about the internship program he initiated with the Bank of New York, which takes undergraduate business majors from historically black Texas colleges, trains them in various aspects of finance, and provides employment on Wall Street after graduation.
“In order for black folks in America to succeed, they have to succeed in the business of business,” Youngblood says. “We will be marginal citizens as long as we remain on the fringes.”
“I LOVE SCIENCE,” DR. BEVERLY MITCHELL BROOKS SAYS. “MY whole career was all science and research.”
These days, you can find Dr. Brooks in Dallas high schools, lecturing and listening. As president and CEO of the Urban League, she’s made her life a matter of helping the disadvantaged here. In 1990, when she took the helm of the Urban League, the organization needed someone who could win support from an increasingly tight philanthropic community.
Brooks was able to win support from corporate giants like Exxon and. more importantly, funds and professional support from Texas Instruments and EDS. Last year, the league’s educational programs reached 30,000 students and adults.
“We developed a tremendous outreach program by going into places where other people would not dare,1’ she says. The league provides housing assistance for people defaulting on their payments. It also recently formed a Community Housing Development Corp. to rehabilitate abandoned apartments and build private housing.
Brooks’ most ambitious venture is a nearly completed, S4.5 million capital campaign which will enable the league to build a 30,000-square-foot, $2.3 million building near Fair Park. “Hopefully.” she says, “we will be among the first predominantly black, nonprofit organizations to own our own facility. I’m here because I enjoy seeing visions realized and, hopefully, we are making a difference.”
TERDEMA USSERY IS ONE OF THE MORE NOTABLE PRODUCTS OF Watts. The tall, soft-spoken Ussery took the best from that urban area’s public schools and then went East to Princeton and Harvard, then West to secure a law degree from U.C. Berkeley. With that pedigree, he practiced law in the Los Angeles office of the San Francisco-based firm of Morrison and Foerster.
Then fate stepped in. In 1991, Ussery became commissioner of the Continental Basketball Association, the developmental league for the NBA.
Three years later, he left the CBA to become president of Nike Sports Management, which handled shoes for athletes such as Ken Griffey Jr. “We restructured that side of the business,” says Ussery, “and it evolved into what is now Nike Sports and Entertainment.” Last year, Ussery was brought to Dallas to be President and CEO of the Mavericks.
Ussery was involved in more than sports when he was in California. “I was on the board of the Boys and Girls Clubs, the board of the California Museum of Science and Industry, and we just built a $275 million children’s museum,” he says. “I like working with kids, and now that we’re here in Dallas, I want to be a part of this community, too.”
Carolyn Davis’ soul has always been in South Dallas, but it wasn’t until 1990, when she joined the South Dallas/Fair Park Inner City Development Council, that she made the area her prime concern. She began helping the long-neglected area by promoting economic development and working to accommodate low-to moderate-income families with affordable housing.
In 1994, Davis formed Queen City Neighbors in Action, a partnership with Allstate Insurance and the ICDC. The effort resulted in neighborhood cleanups, refurbishing senior citizens’ homes, and a Queen City Home and Garden Show to teach people how to beautify the community themselves.
In 1996, Davis became the co-chair of the Connectional Alliance, which, she says, is “a coalition of residents working together in the South Dallas/Fair Park area to address neighborhood concerns such as housing, business development, and code enforcement.”
With this philosophy in action, Davis says, “South Dallas has improved as a community. I like my neighbors; we watch each other. South Dallas has come a long way.”
FRANK SIMMONS USED TO BE A COMMODITIES TRADER, BUT HE decided that selling cars might be a bit more rewarding.
His Hilltop Chrysler dealership in Lancaster is rewarding indeed, with annual sales around $17 million. But moving a lot of cars is not the only thing for which Simmons is known.
Simmons is a board member of the Chrysler Minority Dealer Association and has steered its community efforts to raise money for educational causes. In the past five years, the area minority dealers have given $250,000 to the United Negro College Fund.
Simmons is vice chairman of the board of Volunteers of America, a statewide outreach program working with inmates and others enmeshed in the criminal justice system, as well as the handicapped and disabled. The Volunteers provide training and rehabilitation programs in halfway-house environments.
“You can only do so much in life,” Simmons says. “So you do what is important. The most important thing to me is education, so I try to do those things which will educate and uplift people.”
JEROME CAULK IS A NATIVE OF NEW JERSEY, BUT HIS INFLUENCE in Dallas has been great. After nearly two decades in sales with AT&T and Boeing Computer Services, he is the assistant vice president of Merrill Lynch.
After the stock market closes, you can find Caulk with organizations involving children and the arts. “My intent was to do as much community service as I could, and il led me more and more to do things with kids,” he says.
Caulk was an influential member of the Lemmon Avenue Bridge, a program providing a plethora of social, educational, and medical services to at-risk teenagers. The program’s services are now being expanded to provide services to youths through the DISD. He is also on the board of Promise House, he says, “where we help parenting teens leam to make it in the real world.”
He has served on the board of the Dallas Museum of Natural History and is currently on the board of the Dallas Symphony Association, serving on its education committee. “Hopefully,” he says, “we will make the symphony more representative of the community that it’s trying to serve.”
AT THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR, JAMES A. WASHINGTON took a gamble. He stopped giving away the black newspaper. The Weekly, and put it on the newsstands for sale.
It was a novel move. Black newspapers in the Dallas area have, for decades, been known as mere advertising vehicles and social calendars for the black community.
“Now, across the country, there is a renaissance of some degree among black newspapers,” Washington says. “I like to think we are now headed down a road where professionalism is part of what we offer.”
Washington has revamped the staff and design of the newspaper, dropping the name Dallas from the logo “so we can cover more of the Metroplex. African-Americans are from everywhere and live everywhere, and for us to serve that marketplace we have to go where the consumers are.
I gave an edict to the staff.” Washington explains, “that this is a war and we have just arrived onshore and burned the boats. We have to go forward.”
IN 1987. EDNA PEMBERTON. AN ASSISTANT manager at KMart on Ledbetter Drive, saw an elderly woman gel out of a cab and enter the store. *’I asked her why she look a cab to the store, and she said there was no bus route,” Pemberton says. So she went to the employees and asked them to sign petitions supporting a bus roule for the area. Then she went Id DART and asked what she needed to do to get a bus route for the area.
DART officiais told Pemberton she needed to get the community involved, so she Started a petition drive from Concord Church and solicited the help of the Ledbetter Neighborhood Association. “We turned out 1369 signatures,” Pemberton says, “and that was the beginning of the Loop 66 bus route.”
That was typical Pemberton: recognize a problem, team how to solve it. roll up the sleeves, and work-in 1990, before the levee system along the Trinity had been extended to protect black residential areas. Rochester Park flooded. “I had never seen water so high. When you see it. it shocks you,” Pemberton says. “1 went to the store manager and he agreed to sponsor a clothes giveaway along with Concord Church, and we served 3,000 people who had been flooded out. Now. we do it every year, but the emphasis is on education. So at the beginning of (he school year we have a baek-to-school giveaway where we provide free school supplies. In all, we serve more than 66.000 people, and we take care of the needy, not the greedy.”
1991 WAS A DIFFICULT YEAR FOR DALLAS’ LEGAL COMMUNITY. Business was sluggish and the major firms were retrenching. For Sharon K. Simmons, a specialist in commercial real estate law and one of the few black attorneys a( Jenkens & Gilchrist, the big-firm problems were reason enough to move on. She spent the next two years with the minority law firm of Chapman & Reese before starting her own firm with Rosa Rodriguez Orcnstein. She has never looked back.
Today. Simmons represents some of the largest real estate interests in the area, including Isenberg Management Associates, with more than I million square feet of commercial space in shopping centers and office buildings. Her firm has also handled the disposition of more than $100 million in property for the Resolution Trust Corp. and commercial closings and related legal work for Bank One, Chase Bank of Texas, NationsBank, and Wells Fargo Bank.
What spare time she has is spent either with Girls Inc., which provides mentoring and developmental programs for young women, or heading the Dallas Bar Association’s Lawyers and Kids: Growing Together.
“That’s a special project,” she says. “We pair lawyers with fifth graders who could use an adult friend. We all grow from it.”
THE BEST PLACE TO FIND BILLY RATCLIFF IS AT ALBERT SIDNEY Johnson Elementary School on a Saturday morning.
“I’m there every week.” says the former DART board chairman. “It’s a mentoring program which helps kids with their studies as well as provides relationships.” Ratcliff says. “We work with kids for several years, and that allows them to interact with people in key positions in the city as well as individuals who came from their same environment.”
Ratcliff was appointed to the two-year term on the DART board in 1993 by former mayor Steve Bartlett and has been re-appointed to successive terms since.
He tries to avoid engagements which do not involve children, the church, or DART. “I’m careful or I could be running around a lot and doing nothing. I like to be able to sit down occasionally and watch a football game.”
TO MANY PEOPLE IN THE DALLAS AREA, BrKNDA ,JACKSON /S TU Electric.
Jackson, the utility company’s senior vice president, heads a staff of about 340 and is responsible for customer and community relations; municipal support for all governmental entities using their power: and economic development in assisting the chamber of commerce in luring businesses to the area.
But when Jackson is not working for the power company, she is the ubiquitous volunteer. For the past 25 years, she has worked for the United Negro College Fund telethon, taking phone calls. She volunteers for the YWCA. raising money for its capital campaign. She is apart of the International Women”s Forum, an organization of businesswomen from around the world, and a board member of the Dallas Forum, its local chapter. Jackson didn’t have to be here. She was born into a military family and lived in New Jersey, Hawaii, and a host of places in between.
“But I like Texas,” she says. ’Texas is God’s country, You hear people say they were bom somewhere else, but they got here as soon as they could. That’s me.”
WHAT BARBARA WATKINS HAS LEAST OF IS TIME. THE DALLAS native is senior vice president of public affairs and patient services at Parkland Memorial Hospital-a day job which is demanding enough. In addition, she heads the hospital’s foundation and auxiliaries and is in charge of the legislative lobbying for Falkland’s hospital district.
“1 got involved with Parkland in 1980,” says Watkins, ’’when it was attempting to be more responsive to the community. I came aboard to be a part of that process. I felt I could make a contribution.”
Yet, when you talk to Watkins about her community involvement, Parkland isn’t mentioned. Watkins is the director of The Links, a black women’s service organization which, for decades, has run educational, cultural, and civic programs for the community in general and women in particular. Four Dallas-Fort Worth chapters help organizations-from the New Tomorrow battered women’s shelter in Grand Prairie to hospitals in Haiti.
“We’re the first black organization to give $1 million to the United Negro College Fund,” says Watkins, “and we have funded the purchase of black art for the African American Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art.
WHEN FORMER COUNCILWOMAN DIANE RAGSDALE BEGAN THE South Dallas/Fair Park Inner City Community Development Corp., many viewed it as merely a political vehicle for the feisty nurse and political activist. It could have become that-just another ineffectual organization-except for two factors: Ragsdale really wanted it to work, and its former executive director, Art Weddington, knew how.
Though Ragsdale is an active board member of ICDC. Weddington is its driving force and public persona. In eight years, the ICDC has grown from a community idea to a business incubator, providing office space and training for start-up companies.
Explains Weddington: “We bring to the table some resources in a centralized place that the businesses need: a central secretary, computer access, printer access, technical assistance, seminars from accountants and lawyers, and they pay nominal rent for the services. This allows them to keep a low overhead, and their chances of success are better.”
The ICDC has entered the housing market, securing dozens of abandoned FHA and VA-owned properties, rehabilitating them and offering them for sale. Weddington secured mortgage funds from NationsBank, Chase Bank of Texas, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America.
“We are securing grant funds, public monies, and finding the clientele who want to live in this housing while the banks provide the expertise on architecture and mortgage financing. The partnership is working well.”
WHEN CITY ATTORNEY SAM LINDSAY WAS NOMINATED FOR THE long-vacant federal judgeship, it disappointed several Dallas-area blacks who had signed a petition sponsored by State. Rep. Terry Hodge in support of the nomination of attorney Kevin Wiggins.
Wiggins had built his legal reputation at Strasburger & Price, moving up to partner in the mid-“80s-the first black man at that level in a downtown firm. He became involved in Democratic polities, supporting candidates with community fund-raisers and forums on local issues.
In 1991, Ann Richards appointed Wiggins to an unexpired term on the State Court of Appeals, the first black judge to serve at that level in Dallas. Wiggins won the 1992 Democratic primary for the spot but lost in the general election.
Rather than rejoin Strasburger & Price or another downtown law firm, Wiggins teamed with H. Ron While. Don Hill, and Robert Sims to form what is now the largest black law firm in North Texas.
His spare time is spent with young musicians. Wiggins is vice president of the Greater Dallas Youth Orchestra and helped organize its two European tours. He served on the Dallas Symphony board and founded the Young Strings program, which identifies young black and Hispanic musicians, pairs them with orchestra members, and provides funds for music scholarships.
MAKING BUSINESSES GROW IS WHAT GREGORY A. CAMPBELL does best.
Campbell moved to Dallas in 1984 with Frito Lay’s marketing department. In 1988. he decided to develop his consulting business, Campbell Consulting Group, providing the same sort of assistance to a host of minority firms. Just last year, he joined the board of the Dallas-Fort Worth Minority Business Development Council.
1LWhat I do is help companies grow,” says Campbell, “We figure out ways to do what they do better.” Campbell has been just as active in Dallas’ civic scene, particularly the arts. He was a member of the Dallas Alliance and a principal consultant for the Dallas Plan. He was president of the Shakespeare Festival for two years, walking that organization through its decision to remain in Dallas but leave Fair Park. He has also served on the boards of the Dallas Zoological Society, the Dallas Black Dance Theater, and the Dallas Arboretum.
“I like the arts,” Campbell says. “You can do some really great things in the arts through board service that you can’t do in other parts of your career.”
FOR RAMONA AUSTIN, ASSOCIATE CURATOR OF AFRICAN ART AT the Dallas Museum of Art, putting on exhibitions of African art is about more than culture; it’s about understanding the world from a wider perspective. And in a sense, it is a telling gauge of Dallas’ commitment to success: “No city can have world-class institutions if their citizenry doesn’t support it,” Austin says. Dallas seems to have met the challenge. “People are interested,” she says. “[They] let me know that they support what I’m doing, and I’m enormously grateful for that.”
After leaving the Art Institute of Chicago for Dallas, Austin has established a permanent collection of African art at the DMA and is planning a second African exhibition for 1999. She hopes to make the collection one of the museum’s strongest.
Austin’s civic accomplishments go beyond the museum, though. She is a member of the Public Arts Committee, the Urban Design Committee, the Dallas Women’s Forum, and a fellow at The Dallas Institute of Culture and Humanities. “I feel that I’m very much into the Dallas community,” she says.
PRINTICE GARY SPENT SEVERAL YEARS MAKING AND MANAGING money for some of the nation’s largest residential real estate developers. Now. he does the same for himself.
Gary is founder, CEO, and managing partner of Carleton Residential Properties, a firm he began in 199!. Since then, he and his partners, David Kelly, an African-American, and Neal Hildebrandt, a Korean-American, have built or acquired 3.400 apartments in the North Texas region.
“We grew the company from our own capita! and the reinvestment of profits,” says Gary. “We may now be the largest minority residential developer in the country, though that’s nothing to be proud of because we are small compared to the large national developers.”
They intend to grow. Two years ago, Gary teamed up with Lincoln Property Company, which manages some 40,000 apartment units across the nation, and created a joint venture called LinCar Realty Advisers to jointly manage apartment complexes.
RICHARD KNIGHT, THE CITY’S FIRST BLACK CITY MANAGER, returned to Dallas a year ago as a citizen and independent businessman.
He had presided over the city during a tumultuous period in the 1980s, when the savings and loan collapse led to wholesale changes in the city’s financial power structure and fiscal base. Controversial police shootings and a racially fractured City Council made the city a difficult place to govern or work in, and Knight won praise for steering the city through the difficult times before leaving for an executive position with Caltex Petroleum.
Since then. Knight has quietly put together Knightco Oil Company, which packages and distributes oil to corporate customers throughout the Southwest.
When he is not managing his petroleum farm and dealing with clients. Knight can be found with the Boy Scouts. Goodwill Industries, or St. Phillips School and Community Center.
“I believe that black folks have a responsibility to give back to their community,” says Knight, “and I always tried to do that.” EMMA RODGERS WAS FRUSTRATED. SHE WAS SHOPPING FOR PARTY favors for her son’s 10th birthday party and wanted to give away books instead of candy and easily broken trinkets. But in 1977, there were no black bookstores in the area, and she had to go to several stores just to find a handful of books with black children in settings that she did not consider demeaning,
“I wanted positive images of black children,” she says, “and it was hard to find.”
In those days, Rodgers and her best friend, Ashira Oy Tosihwe, were social workers who shared a love of books and a frustration in the lack of books about and by blacks.
They started a mail-order house in 1977, with a list of about 100 titles. The two women set up tables and booths at conferences and churches, selling a growing list of black works on a variety of subjects, while holding their day jobs as social workers. In 1984, they moved to a flea market at Wynnewood Village. Two years later, their list had grown to 2,000 titles and they opened Black Images Book Bazaar in the same shopping center.
Black Images, which now carries nearly 26,000 titles, celebrated its 20th year in business last December, with support from the five other black-oriented bookstores that have opened in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in recent years.
“We work together,” Rodgers says. “We have a cooperative buying program which helps us all, and we lend books back and forth. Black Images gave us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children. Outside of being the mother of Derrick and Candace Rodgers, Black Images is the good thing I do.”
WHEN ALPHONSO JACKSON LEFT TEXAS TO ATTEND COLLEGE, HE says, “I had told my mother and father I would never come back to Dallas.” He adds that it was the racism of Dallas that had convinced him to have “’no intent on returning.”
After finishing undergraduate and graduate programs in Missouri and getting his doctorate from J.D. Washington University’s School of Law, Jackson entered the work force with no real experience. That would soon change.
In 1977, Jackson became the St. Louis director of public safety, and by 1981, he had been named interim executive director of the St. Louis Housing Authority.
By 1989. Jackson had distinguished himself enough that former Dallas mayor Annette Strauss and former chairman of the Dallas Housing Authority Board Dale Keslar began courting Jackson to come back home. Their efforts worked, and Jackson returned to Dallas to become the president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the city of Dallas, a position he kept until 1996, when he took an executive position with Central and South West Energy and International Corp. This January, Jackson became president of the company. He is responsible for two subsidiaries, 2,600 employees, and $1.6 billion in operating revenue.
Still, with all of this corporate and civic success, one of Jackson’s greatest sources of pride is his 1992-93 appointment by former president George Bush to serve on the National Commission on America’s Urban Families.
Now, Jackson says that Dallas has come a long way since he left for college. “I’m happy to be back home,” he says.
PETTIS NORMAN VIVIDLY REMEMBERS BEING AN 8-YEAR-OLD sharecropper’s kid who played in the red dirt of Lincolnton, Ga., with Ray, the son of the white family who owned the grocery store. “We literally grew up together,” Norman recalls. “He was older than me, but I was bigger, and we did everything together.”
That relationship ended when Ray told his black friend they’d reached the age where Norman needed to call him “Sir.” “Early on,” says Norman, “I knew there were some things that weren’t right and had to change.”
For years. Norman has worked for that change. After nine years as a tight end with the Cowboys, Norman went on to be successful in hanking, residential development, and the fuel industry.
Throughout it all, he has stayed involved. “Over the years I sat on more commissions to deal with race than I care to remember. We defined race relations by the absence of tension.” He was instrumental in the 1988 formation of Dallas Together, a committee appointed to examine race relations in Dallas.
“I have a need to see the city progress, to see all the people participate in the best the city has to offer,” Norman says.
IN 1981, COMER COTTRELL WAS FUMING. HIS PRO LINE HAIR CARE products company had increased sales to nearly $ 12 million, and he needed to increase his line of credit with the Bank of America. Unfortunately, says Cottrell, the bank provided financing to black businesses through its limited community affairs budget, “and the guy used to take me to lunch and be real nice, but he didn’t have the authority to do anything.”
At the time, however, Cottrell was attempting to buy land in Dallas with financing from Republic Bank (now part of NationsBank). “The guy called me from Republic Bank to ask when I was going to close the deal, and…I told him I needed another $500,000. He asked for my account number and said he’d wire it into the account that afternoon, and I could sign the note the next time I was in Dallas. I said, ’Dallas is the place to be.”’
And Dallas has been good to Cottrell. Pro Line has grown into a S50 million cosmetics corporation. Cottrell became one of the largest shareholders of the Rangers baseball team and owner of a luxury box at Texas Stadium.
But there is more to Cottrell than business savvy. “Comer probably gives to more causes than anyone else in town,” says City Manager John Ware. “And it’s usually done out of the spotlight.”
Cottrell shelled out $1.5 million for the physical plant of the defunct Bishop College and gave the facilities to Paul Quinn College, a struggling black school. According to Ware, “Comer has preserved the legacy of one college that had gone out of existence and made a home for another. He will have an impact on young people’s lives for the next 100 years.”
WHEN LEE EVERETT MONROE JR. came to Dallas in 1993, he took the helm of a financially and academically troubled college. Paul Quinn College had potential, but its survival was in question.
The school was academically on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Several of its buildings were condemned, relations with the business and philanthropic community were strained, and its enrollment, at times, contained a majority of foreign students with wildly varying credentials,
At the end of 1997, Paul Quinn had an operating budget surplus of $500,000, full accreditation by the SACS, and an entering freshman class with an average SAT score of 850. The bulk of the campus’ infrastructure had been overhauled or replaced, and the school had raised $23 million.
“We just opened a major in journalism,” Monroe says. “We hired one of the best principals in the city, Robert Watkins (from the Arts Magnet), to head our teacher education program. That is enlightened self-interest. As we can turn out more and better teachers, we should get more and better students coming in from our public schools.”
Says Monroe, “I’m just trying to position us to better serve the needs of the community.”
THE EASIEST WAY TO FIND MAJ. GEN. (RET.) HUGH ROBINSON IS to visit the site of four prefabricated homes under construction in the Texridge neighborhood of South Oak Cliff.
These are three bedroom houses, containing about 1,200 square feet of living space. They will sell in the neighborhood of $50,000 to $55.000. The homes are a far cry from the 160 CityPlace commercial development homes Robinson built just north of downtown when he was vice president of Southland Corp. and president of its CityPlace Development Corp. And the Texridge project is certainly dwarfed by the billions of dollars in construction Robinson controlled as the general in charge of the entire southwestern United States for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Yet, the West Pointer and former military liaison to President Lyndon B. Johnson pays as much attention daily to the installation of every segment and connection made in these four homes as he ever did with the gleaming CityPlace office tower. The prefabricated housing venture is a development of Robinson’s The Tetra Group, an engineering development and management firm which has a built larger projects for DFW Airport, DISD, and the South Dallas/Fair Park Inner City Development Corp.
If you ask Robinson what he wants to be known for, he mentions none of his business expertise. “I’m proudest of my work with the African American Museum and the Dallas Youth Services Corps,” Robinson says of the two ventures he has helped establish.
LEADERSHIP IS AN ELUSIVE QUALITY. SlMPLY BEING in a position to lead does not, in itself, make someone a leader. There are those who make nothing of their position; there are moribund organizations living on past glories rather than present-day contributions. There are individuals whose actions are nothing but disruptive.