It seems that in recent years, developers and other forward thinking types have discovered West Dallas. Perhaps it was the creation of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the long-range plans for the Trinity River or just the plain fact that it was so close to the CBD area and ripe for development.
However, it wasn’t always like that. Way back in 1902 it was known as “Devil’s Door.” According to Dallas Gateway, its reputation was enhanced by the presence of gangsters like Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and brothers, Ray Hamilton and Floyd Hamilton. When Ray was sentenced to be executed in the electric chair, newspaper articles about his grieving mother caught the attention of a church worker named Hattie Rankin Moore. She drove her Model A Ford to the West Dallas home of Ray’s mother and comforted her. In the following days, she continued to support the mother and prayed with her the night of Ray’s execution in May 1935. Hattie even helped make arrangements for his funeral.
As a result of spending time in West Dallas, Hattie found her calling and started holding church services and Sunday school classes. She didn’t wait for people to come to her. Nope. Hattie went door-to-door inviting folks to attend. One of those who accepted the invitation to attend services at the Eagle Ford Mission was Cumie Talitha Walker, the mother of the late Clyde Barrow.
Over the years, Hattie fiercely held her own with criminals and law enforcement and earned their respect for her efforts. When Floyd was locked up in Alcatraz, she asked a young Baptist pastor, W.A. Criswell, to go to California and speak with Floyd, which he did. The result was a total transformation of the hardened criminal to a model citizen, who ended his days in Dallas working for W. O. Bankston at his car dealership for 16 years with the blessing of Sheriff Bill Decker. W.O would reflect, “From the time he got out of prison to the time he died, he was one of the finest men I’ve ever known.”
But she wasn’t always so successful. As she wrote in a letter to the editor, “Folks wonder why so many West Dallas boys turn out to be criminals… they haven’t a dog’s chance to be anything else. We have no parks, no playgrounds, no handy schools, no lights, no water, no gas. The dogs in Dallas are housed better than our boys and girls.”
Still Hattie soldiered on inspiring others to carry on after her death through the United Methodist mission, the Wesley-Rankin Community Center (WRCC).
Today WRCC “partners with our West Dallas neighbors providing education and resources to drive community transformation through such services as
- The Children’s Education Programs (Beakers, Base Ten and the Beat; Peak, Ascend and Summit Afterschool Programs; and Girls of Hope, Girls of Honor),
- The Senior Citizens Program and
- The Adult Academy.
But such programs require funding. On Sunday, October 21, Co-Chairs Mari and Don Epperson and Kay and Duncan Fulton are holding “A Taste of West Dallas” at 3015 at Trinity Groves. They’ve arranged to have Texas Capital Bank as the presenting sponsor, a VIP cocktail reception with Chef Sharon Van Meter, followed by a tasting of Sips and Savory Bites from such restaurants as 3015 at Trinity Groves, Amberjax Fish Market Grille, Beto And Son at Trinity Groves, Luck – Local Urban Craft Kitchen, Oak Highlands Brewery, Odom’s Bar-B-Que, Pura Vida Tequila, Saint Rocco’s New York Italian at Trinity Groves, Snappy Catfish and Steam Theory Brewing Company.
So, why not watch the Cowboys meet up with the Washington Redskins and then head over to West Dallas to support Hattie’s mission.
* Graphic courtesy of Wesley-Rankin Community Center