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A Daily Conversation About Dallas

Clyde Barrow’s family once owned a service station in West Dallas, at 1221 Singleton Blvd., in a neighborhood called the Devil’s Back Porch. That structure stood until April, when it was hastily bulldozed before the city’s Landmark Commission could intervene.

Given the long lead times of a monthly magazine, I didn’t know how or whether D Magazine could address the matter. (Although Bethany Erickson wrote about it for our website.) But then an artist who has written for us, Laray Polk, alerted me to the fact that another artist in town, Michelle Mackey, had spent years studying and painting and thinking about the Barrow service station. Which is how I came to find myself in Michelle’s studio back in May, looking at some of her work and talking about how she might do something in the pages of the magazine.

The result is a story titled “These Walls Could Talk,” illustrated, in part, with Michelle’s paintings of the Barrow service station. It published in our November issue and went online today.

We waited till this month to publish the story because Michelle has an exhibition of new paintings inspired by Enchanted Rock titled “Beyond Measure” at the Holly Johnson Gallery, in the Design District. It will be up through February 11, but the opening is this Saturday, November 19, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Go here for more details. A taste from the press release:

Dallas History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: When Royalty Came to North Texas

Brandon Murray
By |
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Prince Rainier III, of the tiny principality of Monaco (left), is greeted by Neiman Marcus Co. president Stanley Marcus (center) after flying into Dallas to open Neiman Marcus' Fete des Fleurs in 1971. From the Clint Grant Collection, Dallas Public Library

On September 8, the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96. Her reign of 70 years and 214 days was the longest of any British monarch. As the world honored her passing, and the beginning of the reign of her son, King Charles III, I searched through the archives of the Dallas Public Library and discovered that Texas, and Dallas for that matter, was no stranger to the House of Windsor and other royal lines. 

Members of royalty who have visited Dallas in decades past include King Charles III, when he held the title of Prince of Wales, and other members of the British royal family and Prince Rainier of Monaco.  

The attached gallery of images depicts royalty who came to Dallas, as seen through the photograph collections of the Dallas History & Archives Division. The royal titles of those depicted in these photographs correspond to the titles held when the photograph was taken.

Dallas Public Library has many other images related to life in Dallas in years past. You can learn more by searching through the library’s online catalog. Go to “Advanced” and use the “Limit By” option to select “Digital Archive” then type in your topic. 

Last week, as we put online a fun historical piece about the Longhorn Ballroom that ran in the September issue of D Magazine, I told you about a meeting of the State Board of Review to assess the nomination of the Longhorn for the National Register of Historic Places. Well, friends, I have news to report. There are details, and I am lazy, so I will quote directly from Greg Smith, the federal programs coordinator of the History Programs Division for the Texas Historical Commission. Smith said in an email:

“The State Board of Review is an advisory board that reviews National Register nominations in Texas and provides comment to the State Historic Preservation Officer (in Texas, the SHPO is the THC Executive Director, Mark Wolfe). Federal regulations (36 CFR 60) require that each state have a review board as part of the National Register process.

“The board unanimously approved all eight nominations on its agenda on Saturday, and members were very complimentary on the Longhorn Ballroom nomination. The next step is for THC staff to review the board’s comments and edit the nomination to ensure that it meets the technical standards necessary for listing. We will submit the nomination to the NPS within 90 days of the SBR meeting and expect the NPS to approve it within 45 days of receipt.”

The bold text is my doing. Because it deserves emphasis. I considered also changing the color of the text to blue or red but decided it didn’t need that much emphasis. Now I’m second-guessing that decision.

In any case, Edwin Cabaniss goes before the Dallas City Council on September 28 with his plans to redo the Longhorn; he’s asking for about $4 million in economic incentives. Stay tuned.

Dallas History

Sermon on the Hilltop: First Baptist Confronted By the Sins of Its Past

Matt Goodman
By |
Revs. Michael Waters and Robert Jeffress
Rev. Michael Waters, left, holds a Ku Klux Klan hood and a MAGA hat during a panel discussion with Dr. Robert Jeffress, the lead pastor at First Baptist. Bret Redman

Monday evening at SMU’s Dallas Hall, Dr. Michael Waters, a reverend who earned his doctorate from the university, elicited gasps from an audience of about 150 as he produced two props while speaking on a panel about the city’s history of racism. In one hand he held a Klansman’s hood; in the other a red MAGA baseball cap. The hood, he said, was an authentic artifact from the second rise of the KKK, in 1915, after the Methodist preacher William Joseph Simmons marched to the top of Georgia’s Stone Mountain to set a cross aflame. Simmons, Waters said, “put down a Bible, an American flag, a sword, and said he heard the very angels of heaven rejoicing as the Klan was born again.”

“I would suggest that this is the reincarnation of this symbol from a generation ago,” Waters said, referring to the red hat. “There are churches, both near and far, who advocate and express a vision of Christianity that is not the vision of the Christ that I serve, who came to liberate the oppressed.”

Waters, the senior pastor at Abundant Life A.M.E. Church, shared a stage with Dr. Robert Jeffress, the longtime pastor of First Baptist Dallas downtown; Rev. Virzola Law, the senior minister at Northway Christian Church in Preston Hollow; and Rev. Richie Butler, the senior pastor of the St. Luke Community United Methodist Church and the evening’s moderator. The occasion was one of the 40-plus events scheduled to discuss The Accommodation, retired journalist Jim Schutze’s 1986 book that explored how Dallas’ power structures—from political to business to ecumenical—worked to suppress the stories of racist violence that existed here during the civil rights movement.

The pre-panel buzz was that Jeffress—who has spent much of his life at First Baptist, first attending and then leading—wanted to address what the book detailed about his church in the 1950s and 1960s. A three-page chapter in The Accommodation focuses on W.A. Criswell, the former First Baptist pastor and, for many years, a fierce and vocal supporter of segregation. Under Criswell’s leadership, First Baptist became the largest Baptist congregation in the country, and Criswell was among the Southern Baptist Convention’s most respected voices. He was “speaking directly and specifically against court-ordered desegregation,” Schutze wrote.

The Morney-Berry Farm, located about 20 miles south of Dallas, is quiet now. That wasn’t always the case. Its patriarch, James Morney, bought the land in 1876. He and his descendants worked it hard for four generations. Though they operated just a few steps ahead of survival, the Morneys were duty-bound as a family to hold on to the land. They turned the inhospitable, craggy acreage into a thriving spread of pecan and cedar trees, harvesting hay and corn crops.

Driving up the long dirt road to the farm, you no longer see miles of hay fields or pecan tree orchards. But you will see cows and horses and some replicas of one-room quarters that housed the formerly enslaved people who first worked the land. There is a main house. The original smokehouse. Two pavilions.

It was James’ great-great granddaughter, Murdine Berry, who wanted to document the family’s history in this way. But the land came first. When some local land grabbers tried to claim parcels of the farm, Murdine fought back with litigation that went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. It took 10 years. In 1990, the court ruled in her favor, ensuring the land would stay in the family.

As of June 24, a different Texas Supreme Court ruling could wipe the farm out of existence.

Dallas History

I Got Lost, Then I Found Loryland

Will Maddox
By |
Lory Masters
Trevor Paulhus

The best part of writing this profile of Lory Masters was the road trips. Sometimes she drove, sometimes I drove, but after only speaking to her a couple of times, it was like we were old friends cruising Dallas and reminiscing about the good old days.

During one of our first visits, she drove me around Loryland, the neighborhood in Northwest Dallas that was informally named for her. We visited her friends, saw beautifully remodeled homes, and visited the quaint pool clubs that dot the neighborhoods and provide respite for local families trying to beat the heat.

Later, I would drive us both up Interstate 35 to the University of North Texas to visit a special collection at the university library, most of which is made up of her personal belongings. It documents the history of the LGBTQ community in Dallas.

While it was amazing to look through old photos and see her motorcycle club jacket, the chat during the drive was what made the trip special. She told me stories about entertaining political leaders in her home and raising millions of dollars for causes too numerous to mention in the story, how she battled bigots and once feared that her way of life could get her arrested at any moment. But she also spoke of her daughter and granddaughter, who she described with just as much pride as when speaking about Judge Sarah T. Hughes or Barney Frank.

This, I learned, was what made Lory so special. When you were with her, you were family. No one else mattered when you were on a drive with her. She made you the center of the world no matter who you were, and it was impossible not to feel like you had been friends for decades. On our road trips, I shared the feeling. As I interviewed those who knew her, friends and family told me they all felt the same way.

Somehow it made sense that she would be at the center of so much North Texas history, from a fiery speech at the Texas Republican Convention and starting on the defensive line for Dallas’ women’s professional football team to starting her own realty business and founding a lesbian motorcycle club.

I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I did reporting it. It’s a wild ride, and the story from the July issue of D is online today.

Dallas History

David Witts Got to Terlingua 50 Years Too Early

Tim Rogers
By Tim Rogers |
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Photo courtesy Elane Witts Hansen

Texas Monthly today published a great story titled “Farewell to the Last Frontier,” about the land rush underway in tiny Terlingua. It’s hard to imagine. I’ve been to Terlingua just once, about a decade ago. If someone had told me then to buy land because soon enough the place’s popularity would inspire “Don’t Marfa My Terlingua” bumperstickers, I’d have assumed the heat had gone to his head. Lo, here we are.

In May, D Magazine published a story, “The House With the Roses,” that has a Terlingua connection. It’s about a Preston Hollow house that was recently torn down and the family that once lived in it. The paterfamilias was a man named David Witts who led a full life: flew 50 missions in the Pacific theater, busted gambling rings with the FBI, and bought 150,000 acres of land in the Big Bend area with his buddy Carroll Shelby, he of Ford v Ferrari fame. The story spends just a couple paragraphs on that land and how Witts’ ownership of it led to the Terlingua Chili Cookoff. But then, after the story published, a reader who knew Witts wrote in with some more details. As he said, this is really a Dallas story.

Opal Lee is known around the world as “the grandmother of Juneteenth,” but she thinks of herself as “just a little old lady in tennis shoes meddling in everyone’s business.”

June 15 will mark one year since she received the pen that President Joe Biden used to signed Senate Bill S. 475 into law, making Juneteenth the eleventh recognized national holiday and the first since Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in 1986. This was an effort Lee has spent her entire life working toward. In 2016, she laced up her sneakers and made her first 1,400-mile walk to D.C. to formally ask President Barack Obama to do what would take another five years to accomplish.

During our chat in early May, she reflected on that moment, how much work it took to get there, how much work remains. But first, she said she was looking forward to catching up with an old friend, a now-valuable pastime.

“We’re meeting for lunch and a good talking,” she said. “I’m doing very nicely,” she added, “as busy as a cat on a hot tin roof.”

Juneteenth marks June 19, 1865, the date Union soldiers arrived in Galveston to inform enslaved Black people of their freedom—two-and-a-half years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Opal Lee’s efforts to recognize the day began many years earlier. Her appearance at the signing of the Juneteenth law was the culmination of decades of ingenuity and resilience.

Lee has always been a connector of people and someone in pursuit of outreach. She was born in Marshall, Texas in 1926. After earning her Master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance, Lee worked as a counselor for the Fort Worth Independent School District until her retirement.

After leaving the district, she finally had the time to devote to her Fort Worth community. She served as a member of the North Texas branch of Habitat for Humanity and was a founding member of Citizens Concerned with Human Dignity, a nonprofit that helps residents find affordable housing.

Lee helped found the Tarrant County Black Historical & Genealogical Society, a community-based effort committed to preserving and upholding the histories of Black people in Fort Worth. Her advocacy around Juneteenth sprouted from this work.

“The one word I’d use is persistence,” Lee said. “I’m just somebody’s grandmother.”

Dallas History

Saying Goodbye to a Preston Hollow Landmark

Tim Rogers
By Tim Rogers |
Image
Courtesy of Elaine Witts Hansen

Did you ever drive by the white house on Glendora, the one with the wooden fence and all the rose bushes? When a writer named Claire Collins told me it was going to be torn down, I encouraged her to do a little digging on the people who had lived there. Turns out, the Witts family history involves World War II, the FBI, the Terlingua Chili Cookoff, and Carroll Shelby (of Ford v Ferrari fame). Claire’s story was published in the May issue of D Magazine, and it went online today.

As you read the story, pay special attention to all the family photos that accompany it. They all came from Elane, who was the third generation of Witts to live in the house. She grew up there. And she has a storage unit absolutely jammed with photo albums and documents and furnishings that span the 75 years that the Witts family owned that house.

If I were in Elane’s shoes and I’d just packed all my dearly departed parents’ stuff into a storage unit, and if some magazine editor asked to come see it all, I think I’d tell him to pound sand. Instead, Elane drove to Carrollton and met me and our creative director, Lesley Busby, on a sunny Thursday in March. Naturally, she forgot the key and had to get the storage unit company to cut the lock on her unit. That would have put me in a foul mood. Not Elane. I learned something about patience that day as she spent three hours with us digging through boxes, poring over old pictures.

So cheers to Elane. Thank you for helping us make this story so fun to look at. And now we wait to see what will replace that white house at 6007 Glendora—without the roses.

Dallas History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: The J. Erik Jonsson Central Library Turns 40

Brandon Murray
By |
Image
From the Dallas Public Library Archive Collection, Dallas Public Library

Dallas has been in the national spotlight many times, but this month marks the 40th anniversary of one such shining moment that continues to impact the city: the opening of the Central Library building on the corner of Young and Ervay. 

Though the dedication occurred on April 18, 1982, the building owes its existence to a legacy that reaches back to 1901 with the opening of the original Dallas Public Library, a single building funded in part by Andrew Carnegie and numerous civic-minded Dallas residents.

The Carnegie Library building served as the hub of a growing library system that saw branches built in various parts of Dallas in the decades that followed. After 53 years of service, the deteriorated and overcrowded Carnegie Library, which was located at Commerce and Harwood, was torn down. A six-story Central Library building designed by architect George Dahl was built in its place.

However, by the 1970s, the Commerce Library was overloaded and under-equipped for the emerging technology of the time. A bond election in 1972 included the preliminary design funds. The City Council soon approved a 114,000-square-foot site at Young and Ervay across from Dallas City Hall to be the location for the future library. Fisher and Spillman Architects Inc. were selected and worked on a design to complement City Hall’s brutalist architecture style.

Dallas History

Dig Dallas History? Kevin Costner Has an App for That.

By Leslie Fuentes |
Image
Courtesy HearHere

When I heard about an app that makes it possible to drive around as a familiar voice recounts the history of the very road I’m driving on, I thought, “I could go on driving forever.” Not literally forever, but the first time that I used HearHere, I found myself taking the long way home. I was on 67 learning about Duncanville’s transformation from a settlement community to a transportation hub to a suburb. I saw my exit approaching, but the lesson wasn’t over. History went on for miles and miles ahead of me.

I now know about Crawford’s Tornado Graveyard, a place forgotten and lost for about 100 years. And I know about Raymond Hamilton, a sidekick to Bonnie and Clyde who robbed the First State Bank of Cedar Hill in 1932, only minutes away from my home.

Since the app’s launch in 2020, HearHere’s stories have grown and expanded throughout the United States. It now has a database of more than 8,800 lessons about culture, history, nature, music, sports, and more.

My first impression using it around Dallas? I learned by the mile, and I didn’t even have to leave my car. The storytelling voices are familiar, and then they’re not. Kevin Costner and John Lithgow do not recount all the stories, but the other voice actors won’t let you down. Use HearHere when you’re driving alone, unless the people traveling with you are in for a few history lessons and don’t mind riding around in a classroom.

We’ve been publishing D Magazine since 1974. Over the years, we’ve had women on many of our covers. Models, for the most part. Airbrushed. One wearing nothing but whipped cream in a visual reference to a vintage Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass album cover. (Clever!) Lots of blondes. LeAnn Rimes. Jessica Simpson. We did feature the Honorable Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on our July 1995 cover, but her face was photoshopped onto a model in a red-white-and-blue bikini. She’s a media pro and laughed it off. (Still.)

As a business unit, these covers were about newsstand sales and merchandising. But they also suggest that we’ve not always taken the women in our city seriously. We’ve improved over the past few years, but, just like Dallas, we have a ways to go. I credit our entire editorial staff for seeing beyond the stale paradigm of Dallas as owned and operated by a nameable male few and instead filling our pages and website and events with a full range of complicated, brilliant, surprising, and remarkable individuals from every part of the city, men and women.

What makes our previous casting of women even more wrongheaded—beyond the outright objectification—is that, on a local basis, it was a false projection. There is nothing and no one more powerful than a Texas woman. I know. Years ago, when we moved our four daughters down from New York, I worried I would have to blow-dry their hair and take them shopping all the time. I wondered who their role models would be. But what I discovered were my own role models with every new acquaintance. My friends are bold, hilarious, audacious forces of nature. Whether they were driving carpool or block-walking for candidates or running Fortune 500 companies, these women showed me what it is to be strong and resilient. Raising our daughters in Texas was the greatest gift my husband and I could have given them.

Last September, we presented 78 local giants, legends, and emerging leaders, who are but a sampling of the hundreds of thousands of women who have made Dallas the city that it is today. We held off publication until our new website went live, so that it would benefit from its new design capabilities.

To honor Women’s History Month, which began today, we’re proud to finally put the feature online. You can read it here.

Had we the pages, we could have filled volumes with the names and achievements of the women who create and fund our cultural institutions; innovate in technology; fight for social justice; create new businesses; break athletic barriers; establish our aesthetic standards; teach and advocate for our children; rescue and harbor those in need; lead our churches, temples, and synagogues; toil in the civic arena; revolutionize healthcare and research; and stir the soul and conscience of a city all too often concerned only with appearances and wealth.

I hope you enjoy meeting them.

Of course, this story didn’t just happen. The final product was made possible by the efforts of members of every division in our company, the majority of whom are female. I adore our team (our guys are the best, truly). But it is the women who inspire me every day. This issue is dedicated to them.