Today’s Dallas Morning News featured a giant front page picture of Blackie Sherrod, arguably the best  sports writer in Texas history. He died yesterday (4/28/16) in Dallas at the age of 96. The word “legendary”, so often too loosely applied, was truly created for him. His journalist mastery of wit and wisdom won him every state and national award in the land . His columns in the Fort Worth Press, Dallas Times- Herald and Dallas Morning news over a half century were must reads for legions of fans who prized fine writing.

I was privileged to work for Blackie as a cub reporter at the Fort Worth Press 71 years ago before leaving to found a tiny public relations firm. That period of working alongside him and such future greats as Dan Jenkins, Bud Shrake, Jerre Todd and Gary Cartwright was almost spiritual in its creative energy. We really were oblivious to the collective journalism talents.

Blackie went on to the Dallas Times-Herald where  he developed a cult of followers so powerful that he became the prize of a bidding war for his talents between the Herald and the Dallas  News.
The News finally won in 1985, and remained his adoring home until his retirement in 2003. Always an introvert despite his journalistic brilliance, Blackie declined any retirement party that the News sought to schedule..

Most fans were not aware that Blackie also was a talented visual artist. Over the years, he painted scores of often sardonic pieces in his home. Many of them had an American Indian theme, reflecting his own part Indian heritage. About three years ago, I joined other friends to work with Blackie’s wife Joyce to help stage an auction of his works at the Meadows Museum at SMU with proceeds going for journalism scholarships. My favorite painting depicts Pilgrims meeting native Indians at Plymouth Rock, bearing gifts to demonstrate their friendliness. Members of the Pilgrim delegation are pictured with extremely long noses.

Ever modest, Blackie would cringe at the front page spread on his passing in today’s News. He would have wanted the story to be farther back in the paper. He will remain a joyful memory for two generations of friends and admirers.

–Julian Read

04/29/16

Arts patrons in Fort Worth may not appreciate the New York Times weekend description of the city’s Hotel Texas suite where President John F. Kennedy and first Lady Jacqueline Kennedy spent their last night before his assassination.

In the Sunday edition (April 17),  critic David Allen described the challenges faced by
composer David Little and librettist Royce Vavrek in staging their new opera.,
‘JFK’, opening this weekend at Fort Worth’s Bass Hall. For one, Allen described them as saying, was that “they (the Kennedys) spent most of their time in the bland Suite 850 of the hotel, sleeping.” That was not great material for their effort.

But that brief reference to their stay overlooked an interesting back story that became a highlight of the 1963 50th Anniversary observance of the tragedy.. As I wrote in my book (JFK’s Final Hours in Texas), the Kennedys were supposed to be in the grand Will Rogers Suite. But the Secret Service vetoed that plan for security reasons, assigning that space to Vice President and Lady Bird Johnson instead.

The suite selected for the Kennedys was indeed drab until horrified leaders of the city’s arts community heard that news. Then, with leadership of Ruth Carter Johnson, daughter of legendary Star-Telegram publisher Amon G. Carter, art patrons quickly rounded up more than a dozen widely-scattered pieces of world class art and sculpture and re-decorated the suite. And when the first couple arrived that fateful evening, they were greeted by a dazzling mini-museum. The couple were so impressed that the President telephoned Mrs. Johnson at home  the next morning to thank her.

Fifty years later, Amon Carter Museum Director Dr. Andrew Walker and Dallas Museum of Art curator Olivier Meslay teamed up to reassemble  most of the pieces for exhibitions at the two museums during the 2013 50th Anniversary  observance.

–Julian Read