In Dallas we’re so very fortunate to have legends living among us. Last year we celebrated the 100th birthday of one of those people, when Ebby Halliday entered her second century of life with mega-festivities that raised money for numerous groups.
Today we are witnessing the way a second generous legend enters her next 100 years: Margaret Milam McDermott. While the uber-private widow of Eugene McDermott will be surrounded by friends, family, cards, flowers and best wishes, she’s demonstrating yet another way of growing older without getting old.
Speaking of legends, years ago when electric typewriters were considered high technology and weddings were written up for anyone who submitted a form, a story was passed down through the then-Women’s Section of the Dallas Morning News. According to the tale, a young society writer who had covered her beat professionally and diligently in the late 1930’s/early 1940’s received a call from a not-so-happy, mother-of-the-bride. She was not pleased at all with the coverage of her daughter’s wedding. As the story goes, the writer politely took the call and the bruising complaints. Upon hanging up with the mother, the writer called her travel agent, told them that she had saved up $200 and asked how far that would take her. They said she could get a round-trip-cruise to South America. Without hesitation she booked the trip, handed in her resignation and walked out the door. For decades young Women’s Section writers who followed in getting complaints from MOB’s lived with that heroine in their hearts, souls and fingers as they typed and typed all types of engagement and wedding announcements. Who was that writer? The legend claims it was Margaret Milam, who eventually married Texas Instruments co-founder/philanthropist Eugene McDermott.
Still another story that took on a life of its own was during the 1980’s and 1990’s when such powerhouses as Ralph Rogers were building the foundations of so many institutions that separate Dallas from the rest. It was during this time that the Dallas Morning News had a section called “High Profile” which weekly had a cover story on the biggest of the boldface types. So, many paid publicists hoping to be the subject of the much-vaunted cover story. One pr group even charged their clients by the column inch if they scored a story. And yet there was a cluster of extremely great men and women who shunned all attempts by the staff to be the subjects of these lengthy interviews. After digging into why they rejected overtures, the explanation was often, “Margaret doesn’t think it would be a good idea.” Whether this was the case or not, it was in keeping with the legends that have grown up around this woman, who has showered Dallas with generosity and grace.
Today may be her 100th birthday, but we are the ones who have been gifted with her presence.