LGBT history project comes into focus

The Dallas Way elects board and officers, unveils model 1-page entry

history

HISTORY BUFFS | The newly appointed board and officers of The Dallas Way are, from left, back row, Jay Forte, Mike Grossman, Stan Aten, Robert Emery, Ann Faye, Mike Anglin, Evilu Pridgeon, Bruce Monroe and Buddy Mullino; and from left, front row, Rebecca Covell, Carl Parker, George Harris and Jack Evans. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

For almost a year, members of Dallas’ LGBT community have been meeting informally to begin a project to collect and archive the community’s history.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, The Dallas Way formalized itself by electing a board of directors and officers and filing for nonprofit status.

A year ago Jack Evans, now president of The Dallas Way, and his partner George Harris celebrated their 50th anniversary. The couple told their story in the Dallas Voice and on the radio, and Evans concluded that the interest people showed was really an interest in the broader topic of Dallas LGBT history.

The Dallas Way board member Robert Emery said, “We need to focus and clarify and collect our history to strengthen our community and to be a source of inspiration for the young.”

Bruce Monroe, who served as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the early 1990s, created a Facebook page to promote the group and begin collecting stories.

Emery said the final account of the events, groups and people that make up Dallas LGBT history will be scholarly studies compiled and approved by a committee.

Emery’s vision for the group is that The Dallas Way will accurately tell the story of the community and be a reliable source for researchers in the future.

“If you see our stamp in an archive, we hope that will be the definitive story on that subject,” he said.

Writing the history of the community may seem like a daunting task, but Emery said each entry will be just one page.

“I’m not asking you to write a book,” Emery said. But he added that keeping some entries to one page might prove just as difficult as writing a comprehensive history.

Attorney Rebecca Covell, who was also elected to The Dallas Way’s board on Tuesday, called each entry “a gay wiki page.”

One of DGLA’s founders, Mike Anglin, produced the group’s first entry — the story of Bill Nelson. Anglin’s one-page document summarizes the contributions of the man for whom the health clinic on Cedar Springs

Road is named. But Anglin said that links in the article will refer readers to additional one-page stories — Nelson as the first openly gay man to run for Dallas city council, his Cedar Springs store Crossroads Market, how the food pantry began as a shelf in Crossroads Market and many other contributions he made to the community.

To research the story, Anglin called Nelson’s mother, Jean, who is now in her 80s and lives in Houston. She told Anglin she was relieved that he contacted her because she wanted her son’s memory preserved. She sent him boxes of photos and other memorabilia of his activist work — from a laminated copy of a Dallas Times Herald magazine cover to a mock-up of the quilt panel she designed for her son and his partner, Terry Tebedo.

Board member Stan Aten contacted the University of North Texas, which agreed to work with The Dallas Way to help archive and digitize the material.

Two high school students attended Tuesday’s meeting who are members of the Booker T. Washington and Greenhill School Gay Straight Alliances.

Booker T. senior Truett Davis said he became interested in learning about the Dallas LGBT community beyond his GSA when DGLA President Patti Fink and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox spoke at his school.

“This will give perspective to young people about what has taken place,” Davis said. “This will tell us what has taken place and help us solve problems in the future. What’s already been done is important.”
The Dallas Way meets the first Tuesday of the month in the Park Room, Park Tower Condominiums, 3310 Fairmount Street at 7 p.m. Interested community members are welcome to attend a meeting or contact the group through its Facebook page.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 20, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Marking 50 years since JFK’s inauguration

President John F. Kennedy

I’m probably the only one in the Dallas Voice office who remembers the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, which happened 50 years ago today. I remember being inspired then and was moved watching it again.

Several weeks before the election, my father came home from work one day and told how he had met Kennedy. He was stuck in traffic on the East Side Highway in Manhattan. A limousine pulled up next to him just as they came to a complete standstill.

Kennedy was sitting in the back seat with his window open. My father unrolled his window, leaned out of the car and shook the future president’s hand, wishing him good luck.

Traffic began to move and the limo moved ahead.

Kennedy, he said, was gracious and charming. And something like that couldn’t possibly happen today.

—  David Taffet

50 years together and still going strong

Evans, Harris celebrate golden anniversary with a look back at how the world has changed

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

George Harris and Jack Evans will celebrate their 50th anniversary on Wednesday, Jan. 19. The couple met in Dallas on Jan. 19, 1961.

Evans and Harris, who tend to finish each other’s sentences, said they first met on a Sunday afternoon at the Taboo Room, a gay bar on Lomo Alto Drive across from Wyatt’s Cafeteria where Whole Foods now stands.

“We’ve been together ever since,” said Evans.

“And lived within 2 miles of where we met for 50 years,” added Harris.

At the time, Evans had recently moved back from Houston. He had been managing the antique furniture department at Neiman Marcus in the Houston store, but Edwin Marcus found out he was gay.

He lost the job, he said, because Marcus said they were afraid that if others found out, he’d be blackmailed and begin to steal from the company.

“They ‘allowed’ me to resign,” Evans said.

Harris had moved to Dallas from Washington, D.C. He had been in the Army and, for a time, had been assigned to the CIA.

“I never did basic training,” he said. “I did stenography.” (Before recording equipment became common, stenographers, who wrote in shorthand code, took transcriptions of meetings.)

“They sent me to Washington,” Harris said. “They couldn’t find male stenographers. I lived off base. That wasn’t a good thing. I was having too much fun.”

Toward the end of his enlistment period, Harris said, he was arrested.

“They rounded up 27 of us,” he said. “But they waited until the end of my three years. They wanted my skills.”

Among the group was a man who was dating Marlon Brando, Harris claimed. Those arrested were charged with fraudulent enlistment. At the time, there was a question on the enlistment form that asked if you were “homosexual,” Harris explained.

“I put no,” he said.

During interrogation, he said, officials seemed most interested in whether he had ever had sex on base or with an officer.

Harris’ three-year enlistment period ended in August, but he remained in detention until the following February when he received a dishonorable discharge.

The discharge was upgraded 20 years later, he said, with the help of the American Red Cross.

After release from the Army, Harris moved to Dallas with one of the other men that had been arrested and who was from Seagoville. That soldier had been accused of having sex with a guard at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.

Harris went to work as a manager for McLean Trucking. He said that job lasted until trucking deregulation occurred in the 1970s.

Evans had also served in the military. He spent three years in the Coast Guard and was stationed at headquarters in St. Louis and in Honolulu.

“I never once encountered anyone I thought was gay,” he said.

But Evans was 32, he said, before he admitted to himself that he was gay. He said he had been with men, but always told himself he wouldn’t do it again.

Harris was just the opposite: “I came out when I was 7,” he said. “I had a boyfriend in the first grade.”

Getting into real estate

Harris and Evans met, they said, when a mutual friend who worked at Neiman’s antiques department in Dallas invited them to a party.

In 1964, they bought their first house in Oak Lawn.

“We paid $14,500,” Evans said. “It just sold for $350,000.”

“The thing that solidified our relationship — George owned the refrigerator,” Evans said.

“And he owned the dishes,” Harris added.

After leaving Neiman’s, Evans became department manager for a savings and loan and worked there for 14 years.

For company events, he said he always found a lesbian to go with him.

“I decided I went as far as I was going to go,” he said.

With deregulation in his industry as well, Harris also thought his job would be coming to an end.

So when they were buying another property, Evans approached their broker to sponsor him for his real estate license.

In 1976, they opened an office in a small building facing Lemmon Avenue, in the same shopping center as the Taboo Room. That building was torn down in the 1990s to build a bank drive-thru.

Evans-Harris eventually became one of the largest real estate companies in Oak Lawn. Evans did the selling. Harris did the paperwork and handled the money. That arrangement continues to this day.

“I’m the president,” Evans said. “He gets the checkbook.”

He described selling property back in the time before multiple listings and secure lockboxes.

“If you wanted show a property at that time, you had to go to the listing office and pick up the key,” Evans said.

He said that since they began their business they have seen four downturns in the housing market. During one of those downturns about 15 years ago, they decided to align themselves with a stronger office.

“We tried Betty Abio,” Evans said. “We told her we were together 35 years. She said, ‘I don’t think I’ve had a woman up here who’s been married that long.’”

The group is now known as Ellen Terry and is a division of Ebby Halliday Real Estate.

A changing world

The couple describes their relationship with their families as always being good, although they never officially came out to them.

“No one ever questioned or commented on our relationship,” Harris said. “Jack’s mother always introduced me as her other son.”

They talked about how times have changed in Dallas for the LGBT community. Harris had a newspaper clipping from the Oct. 29, 1961 issue of Dallas Morning News.

The headline was “29 nabbed in raid on apartment.”

Two men were charged with sodomy and the others booked on morals charges — but what happened is unclear from the story. Evans and Harris filled in the details.
The vice squad set up parties with food and drink at apartments, they explained. Then the undercover officers went to the bars and invited everyone to come to their party after the bars closed at midnight.

When a crowd gathered, a paddy wagon drove up and whoever didn’t flee fast enough was arrested.

The Morning News story listed professions, but the Dallas Times Herald would print names and ruined quite a few people’s careers, the two men said.
Harris said an attorney they knew moved to Canada, the only place he could continue practicing law.

Teachers were fired as a matter of policy.

In addition, Harris described a bar with picture windows on Skiles Street in East Dallas.

“Kids would throw rocks through the window regularly,” he said,

They said people would drive around the block a few times before parking and going into a bar to make sure things looked safe that evening.

Community involvement

Evans and Harris have been continuously involved in the community. Harris was one of the early board members of the AIDS Resource Center.

Having lunch one day in the early 1990s with John Thomas and several other community leaders, Michael Doughman, now executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, commented, “Now this is what they call a power lunch.”

From that comment, the Stonewall Professional and Business Association began and Evans and Harris later became two of the founding officers of the North Texas Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

They served on the Turtle Creek Chorale advisory committee and on the founding board of the Fort Worth Men’s Chorus.

They received the Texas Human Rights Foundation Robert Schwab Memorial Award in 1996, given to community members who worked toward equal rights in Texas.

And in 1997, they were given the Extra Mile Award, the first men to receive that honor.

Harris served on the Black Tie Dinner committee for five years and in 1998 the group honored the couple with the Kuchling Humanitarian Award. In 2008, DIFFA named the couple Legends in the Fight Against AIDS.

About being together for 50 years, they said, “In light of Joel Burns, we want to be encouragement to people who don’t think it can be done and a model for straight people.”

In April, the couple will celebrate by going on a Mexican Riviera cruise with 14 of their friends.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Jan. 14, 2011.

—  John Wright