Atlantic Cities
Archives

Dallas, 1963: 'City of Hate'?

In the wake of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Dallas earned a new moniker -- the "City of Hate." It's a damning nickname. Is it fair?

Fifty years ago, Dallas was the nation's right-wing "center for resistance," says Steven Davis, one of the co-authors of the recently released Dallas 1963. The city had a handful of radical Kennedy opponents, including congressman Bruce Alger. Alger once organized an anti-Lyndon Johnson rally that ended with the Texas senator and his wife being spat upon.

It also served as the headquarters for gubernatorial candidate and John Birch Society supporter Edwin Walker, who organized an anti-UN protest in 1963 that ended with ambassador Adlai Stevenson being hit in the head with a sign post. Ted Dealey, publisher of the Dallas Morning News, once told President Kennedy (at a White House luncheon, no less), "we need a man on horseback to lead this nation, and many people in Texas and the Southwest think that you are riding Caroline's [Kennedy's daughter] tricycle." The city did not even desegregate its schools until 1961.

After President Kennedy's assassination, Dallasites faced years of trouble while traveling around the country. They were sometimes even denied service because of their hometown.

What most non-Texans didn't realize was that the city had a more glamorous and cultured side as well. It was home to new luxury apartment towers, a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed theater and the flagship location of Nieman Marcus. The Fort Worth hotel Kennedy stayed at on his final night transformed his suite into a room filled with sculptures and paintings by Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh.

As the decade progressed, the stars of Dallas's extremist culture faded. Alger lost reelection in 1964, Walker never held office, and Dealey passed away in 1969. As racial and political tensions brought turmoil to other cities across the country in the following years, it became clear that while Dallas certainly had an ugly side, the "City of Hate" nickname was perhaps unfair. 
 


Vice President and Mrs. Richard M. Nixon are shown as they paraded through downtown Dallas, Sept. 12, 1960, en route to Memorial Auditorium where Nixon spoke to an estimated 11,000 persons. (AP Photo)


Senators John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson acknowledge cheers from the crowd as they parade through downtown Dallas on Sept. 13, 1960. The pair have been on a campaign tour of the Lone Star State. (AP Photo/CEL)


John F. Kennedy campaigning in Dallas, September 1960. Photograph by Shel Hershorn. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


Three African-American first grade students, accompanied by adults, and followed by white students and members of the press, walk toward Thomas Edison Elementary school in Dallas, Texas on Sept. 6, 1961, as integration of eight previously all-white schools commenced. Eighteen African-American students entered the schools without incident. (AP Photo)


Snow and sub-freezing temperatures accompanied by high winds left this downtown street in Dallas almost deserted Jan. 10, 1962. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)


"Looking east at downtown Dallas, Texas shows the changing skyline with the new buildings that are changing Dallas' face. At left is Southland Life and the Sheraton Hotel. At center, Republic National Bank and 50 story tower to the left, Aug. 18, 1963." (AP Photo)

 
 Left: "Fashionable Turtle Creek Boulevard takes on a new look as super-elite apartment buildings rise on some of the "hottest" property in Dallas, Texas, June 18, 1963." (AP Photo). Right: Congressman Bruce Alger protesting LBJ in Dallas with the mink coat mob shortly before the 1960 presidential election. Richard Nixon would later refer to Alger as “that asshole congressman.” Photograph by John Mazziotta. Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.


The Reverend Rhett James hands out literature in front of the H.L. Green drugstore in downtown Dallas while the Reverend E. W. Thomas carries a picket sign. James pushed for a more forceful approach to integration than most black Dallas leaders were comfortable with. Photograph by Marion Butts. Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library.


Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell, left, welcomes General Edwin Walker to Dallas with an official proclamation and a cowboy hat. Many ultra-conservatives viewed Walker as America’s “man on horseback” who could defeat Kennedy. Photograph by Shel Hershorn. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin


Stanley Marcus gives Coco Chanel a tour of his family’s store, Neiman Marcus, in downtown Dallas. Marcus tried to broker a peace between Dallas ultra-conservatives and President Kennedy. Photograph by Shel Hershorn. Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


An unidentified demonstrator is held on the hood of a car by police after he tried to get at Adlai Stevenson, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, as he left the Auditorium Theatre in Dallas, Texas on Oct. 24, 1963. Two men were arrested during scuffles as Stevenson left after making an address. (AP Photo/Carl E. Linde)


U.S. President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy are riding in the backseat of an open limousine as the presidential motorcade moves through downtown Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Only moments later the ride ends in the president's assassination. Texas Gov. John Connally, who will be wounded in the ambush attack, and his wife Nellie are seated in the limousine's jump seat. (AP Photo)


This photo looks west of Dallas, Texas, 1964. The street on the back side of the block is Record Street. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)


U.S. President John F. Kennedy traveled down this street and the shots claimed his life. Building at left is the Texas School Book Depository Building where Oswald is reported to have been when he fired the shots. Building at right is the Dallas Criminal Courts Building. May 22, 1964 photo. (AP Photo)


This long line of African American students and civil rights workers march from the Dallas County Courthouse, Feb. 3, 1965, after their arrest for demonstrating as part of a mass voter registration drive. (AP Photo)


George Lincoln Rockwell, commander of the American Nazi Party, spoke to a small crowd at a downtown Dallas, Tex., park on April 3, 1965. He blasted Jews, African Americans, and government officials and urged that "fighting men, like my boys, be put into public office." (AP Photo/Carl E. Linde)


A seven-year curse was lifted from the city of Dallas, Sept. 4, 1970 by a “white magic warlock” who claimed the time ripe for outwitting a malignant black coven which imposed it. Gene De Jean, left, is in action on a downtown street. His acolyte is Lee Thompson, holding the bell. Both men are from Houston. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)

Keywords: Dallas, Texas, History

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

Join the Discussion