Old City Park, Dallas’s first public park and one of the largest green spaces near downtown Dallas, today announced that Michael Meadows has been named interim CEO of the Dallas County Heritage Society, the nonprofit organization that has managed Old City Park for more than 50 years. In his role as interim CEO, Meadows will lead the effort to transform Old City Park from a living history museumto a free public park that celebrates the history of North Texas.
Earlier this year, the Dallas County Heritage Society Board of Trustees adopted a new mission for the organization: provide a recreational space where visitors can connect with the past, inspire the future, and celebrate Dallas’s rich diversity. Underscoring the significance of this new mission, the Society’s board changed the name of the local attraction from Dallas Heritage Village back to Old City Park and eliminated admission fees, thanks to a generous grant from The Eugene McDermott Foundation. Both decisions have been widely applauded by supporters and the community.
“As a native Dallasite, I have grown up watching Old City Park, and the neighborhood around it, evolve. I am honored and delighted to have the opportunity to work alongside our dedicated board and staff, neighbors, community supporters, and City of Dallas officials to successfully transition Old City Park back to being a lively public park that attracts a much greater number and broader diversity of Dallas residents and tourists,” said Meadows. “Our goal is to make Old City Park a top-of-mind attraction and place of vibrant activity and public recreation for our community.”
This is the second time that Meadows has managed one of the institutions owned by the City of Dallas. He previously served as president and CEO of the Dallas Zoological Society for 14 years. During his tenure, he successfully led the effort to privatize the management of the Dallas Zoo and helped transform it into one of the nation’s top 10 zoological parks.
“We could not have selected a better interim CEO than Michael Meadows,” said Board Chair, Michael Duty. “He has already been working behind the scenes as we reimagine Old City Park. His experience and talent will help lay a solid foundation for the future of the park.”
About Michael Meadows
Michael Meadows is the President and CEO of Meadows Family Consulting Group LLC. Prior to founding his consulting firm in 2019, Meadows held the role of Senior Vice President/Private Wealth Advisor at Westwood Wealth Management, where he led the company’s foundation and philanthropic advisory services. He led the Dallas Zoological Society from 2004 to 2014 and earlier from 1994 to 1998. Meadows has also held positions as Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for Southwestern Medical Foundation, Director of Development for The University of Texas at Dallas, and Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations for The University of Texas at Austin.
This year, Old City Park invites you to celebrate Women’s History Month by supporting local, women owned businesses. Below you can read about 9 businesses and the impressive women who run them. If you are interested in reading more about important women in Dallas history, visit our previous blog post entitled “This is Dallas.”
Sandwich Hag: Owned and operated by chef Reyna Duong, and located in an old cigar lounge in the Cedars district, Sandwich Hag serves up a take on Vietnamese home cooking. Although she initially hated cooking, Duong has fond childhood memories of her mom in the kitchen. When her parents were in their 80s, Duong assumed custody of her brother Sang, who has down syndrome. When their parents died, Duong began cooking Vietnamese food for the two of them to honor their mother’s memory. Cooking for Sang, she realized that working in food was more appealing to her than her corporate job. To Duong, food is only one part of Sandwich Hag’s mission. She uses the restaurant to advocate for individuals like Sang, who now works alongside his sister at the restaurant. Though there are complications that come from employing a workforce of differently abled individuals, the food and long lines speak for themselves. If you are interested in ordering from Sandwich Hag, click here.
Sue Ellen’s: Founded in 1989, Sue Ellen’s is named for Sue Ellen Ewing of Dallas fame and is considered the sister bar to nearby JR’s. One of the oldest lesbian bars in Dallas, it has been managed by Kathy Jack since it opened. Now it is the only lesbian bars in Dallas, one of the few in the state, and one of just over a dozen left in all of the U.S. Located in Dallas’s “gayborhood” of Oak Lawn, the iconic two-story nightclub features two covered patios, full service bars on both levels, and the largest game room on the strip. The bar closed its doors in June 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 shutdowns, but in June 2021, it reopened to the cheers of the Dallas LGBTQ+ community. Longevity is important to Jack, who says the secret to running Sue Ellen’s now that she’s in her 60s is listening to the younger generation about what what events to do and how to ensure the bar continues to support the community. If you are interested in learning more about Sue Ellen’s, click here.
The Plant Project: Founded in 2020 by Bree Clarke, The Plant Project is an extension of her work with the Iman Project, which has long hosted creative workshops that encourage inclusivity. Clarke says that plants are therapy and she wants to bring people back to seeing the beauty of what plants can do. It is the first black woman owned plant shop in Dallas and is located on Uptown’s Routh Street. The physical shop itself is located in the historic State Thomas area of Dallas, once a Freedman’s Town settled by formerly enslaved peoples after the Civil War. Years of road building and gentrification has rendered the neighborhood’s rich history largely hidden. Rooted in diversity, The Plant Project was created to celebrate community, culture, and plants. Clarke believes that in order to grow a strong community, we must root for each other. If you would like to learn more or are interested in ordering from The Plant Project, click here.
Arch by Suki: Sukhee Suwal grew up in Nepal dreaming of having a beauty business. Since 2008, Arch by Suki has been doing Brow 101 and proudly serving the DFW area. Located in Deep Ellum, the brow studio specializes in brow shaping, via threading and microblading, and makeup artistry. Their Brow 101 service offers guests a chance to learn, ask questions, and address issues about their eyebrows. In 2017, Arch by Suki was on the Best of Big D list, and now, when Sukee travels home to Nepal, she is able to share her experiences, skills, and knowledge to those who are new to the beauty industry at no cost. The dedication to quality over quantity is why the brow bar is appointment only. If you would like to book an appointment with Arch by Suki, click here.
Dondolo: Founded by Catalina Gonzalez, Dondolo is a luxury lifestyle brand that provides women and children with heirloom-quality clothing. It aims to inspire, shape, and support the journey of motherhood. By employing women in Colombia through an ethical manufacturing chain, Dondolo provides them with funds they need to help raise their children. The women in the communities Dondolo touches are typically facing extreme poverty. Recently, Gonzalez has started the Mom Empowering program that hires women to assemble her new Dondolo dolls while they also receive training on how to start and run their own business. Gonzalez’s goal from the beginning was giving back to both her native Colombia and the local Dallas community. If you would like to learn more or purchase from Dondolo, click here.
Black-Tie Babysitting: Founded and run by Hope Oriabure Hunter, Black-Tie Babysitting provides on-site luxury event childcare for weddings, conferences, company parties, and more. As professional caregivers, the staff is trained in first aid and CPR. The company exists because Hunter believes families should be able to attend formal events together and is currently one of the only companies in Dallas offering event and wedding childcare. In response to COVID-19, the company pivoted to provide off-site childcare at nearby hotels and in-home care for events. To date, BTB has served 3,000 plus kids at over 200 events across Texas, Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. If you would like to learn more or book with Black-Tie Babysitting, click here.
Rare Heart Vintage: Founded and run by Katie Randle, Rare Heart Vintage is a clothing boutique located in Oak Cliff. The shop specializes in vintage classics, staples, and statement pieces but is most known for denim and t-shirts. Rare Heart’s selection is eclectic and curated by Randle who is a one woman show. In 2021, RH was included on the Dallas Observer‘s “Best of Dallas” list. If you are interested in browsing the RH collection, click here.
Emporium Pies: Founded by Megan Wilkes and Mary Sparks in 2012, Emporium Pies is a specialty pie shop with locations in Oak Cliff, Deep Ellum, Fort Worth, and McKinney. Wilkes has a background in design and business while Sparks is the creative baker behind the pies. Their hunger for community shapes everything the shop does. Emporium Pies encapsulates Wilkes’s desire to create a place where people could spend time together and feel a sense of belonging. As with most small businesses, Wilkes credits the success of Emporium Pies to collaboration with other businesses and people in the community. If you would like to learn more or are interested in purchasing from Emporium Pies, click here.
Power BAR Women’s Fitness: Founded in 2016 by Teresa Saffold, Power BAR is a pole fitness gym that specializes in developing total body strength to be an active part of each women’s fitness success and confidence progression. Saffold says Power BAR is unique because they are positioned for fitness and trail the edge of being taboo in nature. Her classes help women, and some men, feel amazingly good about who they are and how they look. Saffold aims to use the platform of pole dancing to reach multitudes of women that are seeking to take control of their self-development and self-acceptance. Through fitness, community, and Pole Dance fun – Power BAR Women’s Fitness provides a safe and positive atmosphere for women to embrace how powerful they truly are. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in booking a class, click here.
This year, Old City Park invites you to celebrate Black History Month by volunteering your time to organizations that support or are run by members of the Black community in Dallas. Below, you can read about five organizations, their history, mission, and find the links to their volunteer pages. If you are interested in reading about some important Black figures in Dallas history, visit our previous blog post entitled “This is Dallas.”
The Afiya Center: TAC was founded in 2008 with the purpose of bringing education and resources to Black women living with HIV/AIDS. As the center grew, it began meeting the needs for education about reproductive rights and maternity care. TAC is the only Reproductive Justice organization in North Texas founded and directed by Black women. The center’s doula training program, Southern Roots Doula Services, has played a large role in improving maternity care for Black women. TAC now works to provide ongoing support and programs to ensure Black women have access to all reproductive health services. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in volunteering with TAC, click here.
House of Rebirth: Launched in 2019, The House is a housing option and community founded in memory of Black trans women Muhlaysia Booker, Chynal Lindsey, and Merci Mack. The House provides resources and information for Black transgender women in North Texas about how to access health care, change their name and gender on identification documents, and more. They have partnered with the Afiya Center to provide a safe space for Black cis- and transgender women to learn skills to advocate for necessary healthcare. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in volunteering with the House of Rebirth, click here.
Dallas CASA: Founded by the National Council of Jewish Women, the agency was established in 1979. CASA volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children in order to help them gain safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible. The agency serves children and families of all cultures, identities, and backgrounds; however, only 15% of Dallas CASA volunteers are Black. Volunteers of color are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system despite the fact that children of color are more likely to form deeper relationships with volunteers who are comfortable having conversations with them about issues unique to their racial and ethnic identity. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in volunteering with Dallas CASA, click here.
African American Museum of Dallas: Founded on the campus of Bishop College in 1974, the museum was and was originally called the Southwest Research Center and Museum of African American Life and Culture. Eventually moving to Fair Park, the museum received funding for a new building that opened in 1993. The African American Museum of Dallas is dedicated to the research, acquisition, presentation, and preservation of visual art forms and historical documents that relate to the life and culture of the African American community in Dallas. It holds one of the largest African American Folk Art collection in the U.S. and has become one of the most successful museums promoting and preserving African American history and culture. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in volunteering with the African American Museum of Dallas, click here.
Mothers Against Police Brutality: Collette Flanagan founded MABP after her son, Clinton Allen, was shot to death by a Dallas police officer in March 2013. The organization unites mothers who have lost their children to police violence in order to fight for civil rights, police accountability, and policy reform. Additionally, MAPB works to restore trust between the police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve. Their overarching goals are to instate a federal standard use of force so that all police are trained the same and for the laws on qualified immunity for officers to be changed. If you would like to learn more, or are interested in volunteering with the African American Museum of Dallas, click here.
A message from our Director of Education and Interpretation, Heather Rodriguez:
This blog post is a part of a larger exhibit entitled “This is Dallas” that includes both a satellite exhibit, which will be on display in the Dallas Galleria from December 3, 2021-December 31, 2021, and an on-site exhibit at Old City Park, which will open January 17, 2022.
The goal of the exhibit is to tell the stories of historically marginalized individuals (people of color, women, and the LGBTQ+ community) within the history we are already interpreting at OCP. My hope is the exhibit will reflect how the history of disfranchised individuals and groups is relevant and impactful to “big picture” history.
The exhibit will highlight the stories of 8 individuals, and below you can find short biographies of each with a bibliography at the end if you are interested in learning more about any topic.
Marcellus Clayton [M.C.] Cooper 1862-1929
Cooper was born, enslaved to the Caruth family, on February 12, 1862, to Sallie Lively, also a slave, and a white man, also named M.C. Cooper. He spent his childhood on Caruth Farm and attended school in East Dallas in the black settlements near White Rock Lake. After high school, Cooper got a job at Sanger Brothers Department Store in Dallas. He worked for 11 years saving money in order to study dentistry at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Cooper returned to Dallas in 1896 and opened a dentist office on Commerce Street. By 1900, he had moved his practice to the same building as Dr. Benjamin Bluitt, the first black surgeon in Texas. Cooper died on December 19, 1929, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery, now L. Butler Nelson Cemetery, in South Dallas. The M.C. Cooper Dental Society in Dallas was founded and named in his honor in 1954; Cooper Street in South Dallas also commemorates him.
Anita N. Martinez 1925-Present
Martinez was born December 8, 1925, to Anita and Jose Nanez, and she grew up on Pearl Street in the area of Dallas known as El Barrio. In 1946, she married her husband, Alfred, whose family owned the El Fenix Café. Martinez became involved in her husband’s business by way of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Dallas Restaurant Association (DRA) eventually leading to her candidacy and election to the City Council. In 1969, Martinez was the first Hispanic elected to serve on the Dallas City Council. She focused her political agenda on sanitation, health, and infrastructure for the poor West Dallas communities. In 1973, she was asked and accepted a position from President Richard Nixon’s administration to serve as a Peace Corps Advisor. When she left office in 1975 West Dallas named their new recreation center “The Anita N. Martinez Recreation Center” in her honor. To this day, the ANMRC is one of the most used facilities of its kind city-wide.
Rodd Gray [Patti Le Plae Safe] c. 1958-Present
Gray was born in West Memphis, Arkansas around 1958. He studied business and computer programming before enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1979. By 1985, Gray had taken a job with a company in Dallas, and he joined the Cathedral of Hope, located at the time in the building that is now Resource Center Dallas off of Cedar Springs Road. Gray connected with the Dallas Gay Alliance – now the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance – that came to speak during a church service and was inspired to get involved with the AIDS Resource Center. Patti Le Plae Safe, Gray’s drag persona, was born in 1986. She began writing a regular “Ask Patti” column for the AIDS Update discussing safe sex practices and how gay men could limit their risk of exposure to the HIV infection. Within a year, Patti was the United Court Empress and was traveling to events all around Texas as a missionary spreading the “play safe” message and raising money for AIDS.
Maggie Wu c. 1984-Present
Wu was born around 1984 and grew up in a small town in China’s Fujian province. She graduated from Xiamen University before moving to Enid, Oklahoma to work for a family business. Wu married in Oklahoma before moving to Dallas for her husband’s fuel company in 2011. After arriving in Dallas, she realized the only place she could find something written in Chinese was in the Chinese newspaper. She wanted to fill the gap she saw, so Wu started writing a Chinese language blog, whose title translated to “Dallas Foodie.” Though she did not have any formal training in journalism or writing, she quickly became successful. By 2014, her success convinced her to take a risk and move into print. The Asian Magazine, based out of Plano, Texas, covers food and drink, travel, lifestyle, fashion, and entertainment. 90% of the writing is in Chinese, but Wu hopes to add more English in the future.
Alexander Sanger 1847-1925
Sanger was born on May 8, 1847, in Obernbreit Main, in present-day Germany. He was apprenticed at 13 to a dry goods businessman. In 1865 Sanger followed his older brother to the United States, and in 1872 he joined the family business, Sanger Brothers, in Corsicana, Texas. He moved to Dallas later that year to open and manage a branch of the company. From 1872 to 1902, Sanger took charge of the firm’s wholesale business, assuming the retail responsibilities in 1902 and the office of company president on December 28, 1918. After arriving in Dallas, he helped to organize one of the first synagogues in the city. His Hebrew Benevolent Association grew to become Temple Emanu-El. Sanger served as city alderman from 1873 to 1874, made one of the first major donations toward the establishment of the Dallas Public Library, and helped organize the State Fair of Texas. Despite his business success, Sanger maintained a key interest in civic affairs throughout his life. He died in Dallas on September 13, 1925.
Antonio Maceo Smith 1903-1977
Smith was born on April 16, 1903, in Texarkana, Texas to Howell and Winnie Smith. Smith received various degrees in economics and business law, eventually going on to get his Master’s at Columbia University in 1928. In 1932 Smith moved to Dallas, Texas, and beginning in the early 1930s, Smith worked to promote black economic and political empowerment. By 1944 he was working closely with the legal team of the NAACP on the Smith v. Allwright voting rights discrimination lawsuit. He also participated in the NAACP’s legal campaign to end educational segregation in Texas in the Sweatt v. Painter civil suit. In South Dallas, A. Maceo Smith High School was created in 1978. It was replaced by A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School in 2011 and then the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy at A. Maceo Smith in 2018. The A. Maceo Smith Federal Building in downtown Dallas is also named after the civil rights pioneer. Smith died December 19, 1977.
Grace Danforth 1849-1895
Danforth was born on February 21, 1849, in Kenosha County, Wisconsin to David and Frances Howell Danforth. The family moved often when Danforth was a child, eventually ending up in Texas. She followed in her father’s footsteps and taught school and music in various communities in Northeast Texas. Danforth decided to enter the medical field after finding the classroom injurious to her health, and she graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Chicago in 1886. While in Chicago, Danforth claims, she became a proponent of women’s suffrage. After opening a private practice in early 1888, she was admitted to membership in the Dallas County Medical Association. Beginning in 1890, Danforth worked at the North Texas Hospital for the Insane, later Terrell State Hospital, and served as a gynecologist. In 1893, with the help of nine other women, she organized the convention that established the Texas Equal Rights Association (TERA). Danforth was elected the first president of the TERA. She died in Granger on February 21, 1895.
Quanah Parker c.1845-1957
Parker was born around 1845 to Pera Nocaona and Cynthia Ann Parker. There has been debate regarding his birthplace resulting in both Texas and Oklahoma claiming Parker as a native son. After refusing to join the Medicine Lodge Treaty in 1867, Parker’s band of Quahada Comanches held the Texas Plains virtually uncontested until 1874. Under relentless pressure from the U.S. army, the tribe surrendered their independence and moved to the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in southwestern Oklahoma. Parker made the transition to reservation life with such seeming ease that federal agents, seeking a way to unite the various Comanche bands, named him chief. In general, Parker was an assimilationist, an advocate of cooperation with whites and, in many cases, of cultural transformation. Parker died on February 23 and was buried beside his mother in Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Oklahoma. In 1957 Quanah and Cynthia Ann Parker were relocated to the Fort Sill Post Cemetery at Lawton, Oklahoma.