The Dallas Historical Society adjusted its annual Awards For Excellence Luncheon at the Fairmont on Thursday, November 21, to streamline the presentation of the Dallas History Makers. Gone was the VIP reception. Instead, the awardees were part of the pre-luncheon reception in the lobby outside the Regency Ballroom with portraits of the recipients by Holt Haynsworth.
Looking over the crowd in the lobby, DHS Board of Trustees Chair Mary Suhm said, “I hope we can fit everyone in.”
DHS Executive Director Karl Chiao made his way through the crowd greeting people like Honorary Co-Chair Mary Jalonick, Board of Trustees President Veletta Lill, Louise Caldwell, Mary Brinegar, Robyn Flatt, Lyda Hill, Kit Sawers, Tom Dunning, Rena Pederson, Lareatha Clay, Dr. Gail Thomas, Ken Malcolmson, Delva King, Nora McCaa, Sharon McCullough, Gail Sachson and Tincy Miller.
Promptly at 11:30 chimes called the guests to their tables, with emcee Stewart Thomas welcoming the audience saying that since the world of video looked like it was going to stay, the presentation of awards would be via video.
Following the invocation by Rev. Katherine Glaze Lyle, there was a video introduced by Joe Goyne of Presenting Sponsor Pegasus about the DHS’s plans for the future. When the video finished, guests took their cue from the empty stage that lunch was on.
Luncheon conversations included Honorary Co-Chair Linda Perryman Evans reporting that she was looking forward to her official retirement from the Meadows Foundation on December 31. She added that she was also in the final stages of repairing her home… Marnie and Kern Wildenthal were leaving for London that night to spend Thanksgiving with their kids.
The presentation of awards started with Stewart’s reporting that History Awardee Frances “The Cemetery Lady” James, who had spent years preserving and chronicling historic cemeteries, had passed away unexpectedly at the age of 96 in August. But before her death, she had videotaped her acceptance in which guests learned that for decades she had been an advocate for those who had been a part of Dallas history by drawing attention to the need for maintenance and recognition of neglected graveyards. From her efforts and research, she had written more than 50 historical-marker applications for “many forgotten or underserved cemeteries” and three volumes of Dallas County History: From the Ground Up.
Other recipients included Arts Leadership Awardee Joan Davidow, Creative Arts Awardee Mary Vernon, Education Awardee Michelle Kinder, Dr.Giuliano Testa accepting the Health/Sciences Award for the Baylor Scott and White Health Uterine Transplant Team, Ben Leal accepting the Humanities Award for Jubilee Park and Community Center, Philanthropy Awardee Dr. Ernie Michael Fernandez, Sports Leadership Awardee Norm Hitzges and Volunteer Leadership Awardee Peggy Oglesby Allison.
In accepting the 2019 Jubilee History Maker Award, former WFAA anchor John McCaa told the crowd, “You know, history is important. Perhaps more important now that ever before because the world is looking for leadership. But in some cases looking in the wrong places. Vladimir Putin has been going around telling people that liberalism … I’m not talking about liberal or conservative… but classical liberalism has outlived its purpose and it’s obsolete. And indeed if you look at all the confusion and tension that’s going on in places like Washington, D.C. If you look at the debate that’s going on in Europe over Brexit. If you look at the clashes on the streets of Hong Kong. Maybe perhaps there is something to what he has said. But I am reminded and would remind Mr. Putin of another leader of his part of the world, who said many decades ago ‘We will bury you.’ It turns out that we actually buried Mr. Khrushchev, who made those comments.
“I am reminded of naysayers. While we rejoice with the rest of the world on a recent landing of a spacecraft on the opposite side of the moon, we in this country actually sent people to the moon and brought them back not one time, not three times but six times and we did that a half century ago. And every one of the people who went to the moon talked to people who live in Texas.
“History reminds us of our triumphs and tragedies. In February 2003, I covered the shuttle Columbia disaster as the shuttle disintegrated over Texas. Twenty years ago this month, 12 people were killed, 27 hurt when the A&M bonfire collapsed. In July of 2016, of course, there was an attack on our Dallas police officers and we lost five first responders. I covered all of those for WFAA and I hope that we were able to provide you with some comfort in the time we were doing it.
“History gives us content. And history gives us an understanding of who we are, where we’ve been and, hopefully, it gives us a direction of where we should be going.”
He recalled being a boy living outside of Madrid, Spain, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. To John, no event between Pearl Harbor and 9/11 shocked and shattered people more than that. “But it happened on our streets, and we are the custodians of how that event and how those times will be remembered. I am a proud board member of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. I think we have done an exceptional job there in memorializing the tragedy and giving the entire world some understanding of that time period and who Dallas really is.”