Tornadoes were tearing through the Midwest and occasional drips were hitting windshields locally. But the threats of morning showers on Thursday, April 9, just didn’t happen. Still, the humidity and occasional raindrops didn’t make for wonderful.
Didn’t matter to the friends of James “Jim Bob” Graham and the Friends of Fair Park, since the Spirit of the Centennial Award Luncheon was honoring him for his support of Fair Park for more than 30 years and chairing the 1994 Dallas World Cup Bid Committee that brought the FIFA World Cup to Fair Park, among other achievements.
With the luncheon originally scheduled to take place in the Cotton Bowl, Luncheon Chair Melissa Rieman had made the gut-wrenching decision to move the scheduled fundraiser to the former home of the Women’s Museum because of weather predictions earlier in the week. In hindsight, it was the right choice, since off-again, on-again showers sprouted up throughout the day.
Looking like a lottery winner, Jimmy was congratulated by old friends, city leaders and those who had worked with him in bringing soccer to the Dallas forefront.
It was a record-breaking crowd with friends coming from near and far — Carol Reed, Joan and Alan Walne, Max Wells, Kristi Hoyl, Bryon Sanders, Sarah Jackson, Dwight Emanuelson, Ed Hawes, Jeannie Terilli, Willis Winters, Key Coker, Olivia and Jeff Kearney, John Scovell, Donny Anderson, Mike and Deborah Montgomery, Billy Dean, Mary Suhm, Tyler buds Lonnie Holotik and Cam McIarty, Houston pals Suzanne and Richard Brown with Gary Weber and Sam Glast, who flew in from Seattle.
Adding to the crowd was the Graham clan, which included wife Pamela (Pam and Jim had just celebrated their 40th anniversary by vacationing in the Caribbean), sons Jace Graham with wife Hilary and Tyler Graham with fiancée Jessie Walling, Pamela’s brother Bill Loaring-Clark with his wife Barbara and nephew Chad Cook.
After a brief appearance and serenade by a faux Elvis, the crowd adjourned to the buffet with returns for seconds of the banana pudding and cobbler.
Following lunch, Melissa introduced a video that had been compiled and produced by Pamela, Jace and Tyler. It was memorable, highlighting the Grahams’ love of kilts, bull dogs and Fair Park.
Then the tributes got underway, with white-haired Craig Holcomb, former Dallas Park Department Director Paul Dyer and former State Legislator Terri Hodge. It was a close call, but Terri’s talk was memorable. She told how Jim had gotten her to go door-to-door handing out fliers in the Park Cities.
At one point it was remembered that Jim had requested a slight change to a plaque honoring the family. Craig said that since the Grahams had been so supportive, it would be considered. The change was to add the Graham’s bulldog to the plaque. The revision was made.
Jimmy then took the podium and admitted that it was going to be hard to follow Terri. But he indeed held his own.
He recalled when, as a boy living in Tyler and following his mother’s death, his father decided the two should head to Dallas for the Fair to take their minds off of their loss. Then he remembered how disappointed he was later when they painted over the voluptuous art deco ladies that adorned the buildings. And then there was that chicken. Jim Bob had prided himself as a youngster for his talent in playing Tic-Tac-Toe. That was until he encountered a chicken at the Fair that won each time. Jim was indeed humbled by the feathered player.
In closing his acceptance speech, Jim accepted the tribute graciously. Still, he had a request. He didn’t want any more plaques or platitudes. He just wanted another chance to play Tic-Tac-Toe with that chicken.
* Photo provided by Pamela Graham