Dallas-Fort Worth Black Living Legends: Civic/Social

Kathlyn Gilliam, 1987

Kathlyn Gilliam (1930 - 2011) was a civil rights activist and was active in the Dallas Independent School District throughout her life. She was a leader in groups like the Dallas Council of Colored Parents and Teachers and fought for the desegregation of schools in her various roles. She was also a member of many other civil rights organizations, including founding the Political Congress of African-American Women. In 1974, Gilliam was the first Black woman elected to the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees, and in 1980 was elected the first Black woman President of the Board of Trustees. She served on the board until 1997, at which time she established Clean South Dallas/Fair Park Inc., an anti-litter and beautification initiative.

More information on Kathlyn Gilliam can be found on the Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas.

J.B. Jackson, 1991

J.B. Jackson (1928 - 1998) studied at Morehouse College in Atlanta, attended law school at the University of Texas at Austin, and eventually became a real estate broker. His passion was for politics, and he became a leader and educator in local Dallas politics. Jackson fought against racism within Dallas by protesting the inequities in public projects like the construction of Interstate 45 not providing access to the South Dallas community. Jackson was a founding member of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Board, and served from 1983 to 1988. Jackson mentored many Dallas community members who took on political appointments and won elections over time. He cared deeply for the City of Dallas, and the Black community, and made those into his life’s work.

More information about J.B. Jackson can be found on the Texas State Historical Association Handbook to Texas.

John Clarence Phelps Jr., 1992

John Clarence Phelps Jr. (1902 - unknown) was a community activist all his life, founding and serving in a multitude of organizations in Dallas, such as being a founding member of both the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Dallas Homeowners League, Vice President of the Progressive Voters League when it was first organized, and was an early member of the Dunbar Social Club. In 1940, Phelps led the campaign of Maynard Jackson Sr., the first Black candidate for the Dallas Independent School District Board, from his Atlanta Life Insurance office. Phelps also spearheaded the cause of getting the first Black mailman in Dallas hired. During World War II, Phelps acted as the Chairman of the Black Division of the War Bond Campaign in Dallas, and sold over five million dollars in Bonds. Phelps served on advisory boards for various Dallas schools, and was active in homeowners organizations throughout his life. Phelps has been recognized for his lifelong commitment to the Dallas community by various organizations, including the renaming of the Magna Vista Park & Recreation Center to the John C. Phelps Park & Recreation Center.

Bishop C.C. Berry, 1993

Bishop C.C. Berry (1930 - ) became a pastor in 1948 in Henderson, TX, and has served congregations in Lufkin, Massy Lake, and Dallas, TX. In the 1960s, Berry founded the General Assembly Church of the Living God, PGT in Dallas, with a focus on serving his congregation and supporting the Black community. To do this, Bishop Berry created low-income housing, organized youth programs, founded the Jeanetta Foundation supporting education, and other charitable causes. The church currently offers a home health care program and computer classes for community members among their many programs. In 2002, Bishop Berry saw the opportunity to create the General Assembly Institute which is in the process of creating an accredited college base curriculum to train ministers and laypeople so that they may grow in their faith and careers. The General Assembly Church of the Living God, PGT has grown over the years into a series of churches across North Texas.

Mittie Dow Wise, 1994

Mittie Dow Wise (1932 - 2005) studied to become a businesswoman, earning a degree in Business Administration from Prairie View A&M College, and later taking on additional graduate work at Texas State University. Wise worked at the Fort Worth Mind Newspaper and the Thurman Printing Company, which inspired her to create the Wise Way Printing Company, with her husband in a small room in their home. The company was founded in 1960, making Wise Way Printing the first female-owned Black printing company in Fort Worth. Her first customers were Black community churches and funeral homes, but many of her customers did not have the funds to pay for her services. She worked with them despite the financial burden, wanting to support her community however she could. She was honored for her business acumen, earning awards such as the F.D. Patterson Award from the NAACP, F. Brooks and Gray Club Award, Pioneer Businesswoman Award from the Greater Fort Worth Area Negro Business & Professional Women’s Club, the 1986 Vendor of the Year award from the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Business Development Council and the Fort Worth Local Funeral Directors Association Award.

Dr. Francine Morrison, 1995

Dr. Francine Morrison (1935 - 2016) began her work spreading the Christian faith as an internationally known gospel singer. She was invited to be the guest soloist at many events such as political conventions and the opening of Houston’s Astrodome. She sang for Martin Luther King Jr when he visited Fort Worth, and was the first Black performer at a Texas governor’s inauguration, that of John Connally in 1971. Morrison earned her Doctorate of Divinity, becoming an evangelical minister, and founded the Everywhere Church in South Fort Worth in 1980. She had her own radio and TV shows and toured around the world regularly to spread the gospel. Morrison recorded three best selling gospel albums, and appeared in concert and on recordings with gospel greats like Ethel Waters, Mahalia Jackson, and James Cleveland. Morrison was awarded numerous honors throughout her life for her career in gospel music.

Rev. Ivery Lee Callicutt, 1996

Rev. Ivery Lee Callicutt (1905 - 2000) has served his Dallas community since he moved to the Joppa neighborhood in 1928. Rev. Callicutt served as a pastor for over forty years, and served as the Associate Pastor at Good Street Baptist Church for many years. Rev. Callicutt was instrumental in helping to build up the Joppa area, petitioning the City of Dallas for basic utility services like sewage lines and paved roads. His work both within the church and in the community has been honored throughout his life, through awards, resolutions, and certificates.

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