University of Texas Arlington

Dallas Charter League Records:

A Guide



Descriptive Summary

Creator: Dallas Charter League.
Title: Dallas Charter League Records
Dates: 1961-1969
Abstract: The Dallas Charter League was established in 1961, to protest the closed-door meetings of the Dallas City Council, a practice that violated the city charter. Other issues that received the league's attention were excessive issuance of traffic tickets, revitalization of the city's slums, expansion of Love Field, fluoridation of city water, mass public inoculation, reorganization of voter districts, and raising educational standards in Dallas public schools. The Dallas Charter League disbanded in 1967 due to public apathy. Records contain correspondence, legal documents, financial records, membership lists, speeches, press releases, brochures, educational and campaign material, and newspaper clippings produced and collected by the Dallas Charter League.
Identification: AR292
Extent: 3 boxes (1.25 linear ft.)
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository: Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries

Historical Note

The Dallas Charter League came into being in February 1961 as a result of growing displeasure among certain leading members of the citizenry of Dallas over city government practices at the time. Some of the issues which led to the League's formation were the widening of Turtle Creek and the commonplace practice of the mayor and city council to conduct meetings concerning the city's welfare behind closed doors, a violation, according to the Dallas Charter League, of the city charter, hence the name of the newly formed organization. The League, in its brief history, went on to tackle other controversial topics in the Dallas city government, such as excessive traffic ticketing by the Dallas Police, the revitalization of the "slums," Love Field expansion, fluoridation of city water, massive public inoculation, conflict of interest in the city ambulance contract, reorganization of voter districts, public housing, minority interests, public transit systems, and raising educational standards in Dallas public schools.

The League not was originally intended to be a political party, but rather a catalyst for more responsive and responsible city government. It viewed its opposition to be the mayor and city council and the force that stood behind most city government then, the Citizen Charter Association (CCA). The CCA had held, for all practical purposes, a monopoly on city government for thirty years. It was composed of mostly businessmen and hence represented the interest of the business community, particularly that of central or downtown Dallas. In theory, the CCA stood for "unity without uniformity," but this translated to going with the majority and not rocking the boat. The Dallas Charter League, at its inception, conceived of a 12-point program of principles which aimed at a more "democratic" form of government.

The first president of the group, and one of its founding members, was Arch Swank, a well-known Dallas Architect at the time. It was Swank who became so outraged at the policy of the city council to conduct closed-door meetings that he published a list of questions aimed at the council and created public controversy. As a result, Swank formed the Dallas Charter League along with cofounders Maurice Carlson and Barney Johnson, both of whom would later serve as presidents of the organization. Other key members of the Dallas Charter League were Joe Moody and Elizabeth Blessing.

Mr. Carlson was president of Reliance Life and Accidental Insurance Company of America in Dallas and a staunch "Jeffersonian" when it came to politics. He possessed a strong personality and a talent for the written word, which the documents contained in this collection will bear out. His relentless attacks on the Citizen Charter Association helped establish the League's presence in the Dallas political arena early on. Carlson had been a professor at Louisiana State University before taking a position with the Reliance Insurance Company. He held degrees in English, Greek, and philosophy from Southwestern at Memphis, Vanderbilt, and Brown University. He was strongly influenced by the political ideas of the ancient Greeks as well as those of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He was, in many ways, the backbone of the Dallas Charter League.

Barney Johnson also served as president of the League and was a prominent attorney in Dallas. He resigned his position in 1964, and a year later he backed mayoral candidate J. Erik Jonsson, who was endorsed by the Citizens Charter Association.

Joe Moody served on the Dallas City Council for many years and first gained notoriety for his allegations against the Dallas Police for their overemphasis on traffic ticketing, an issue he later backed down on under pressure.

Elizabeth Blessing was a dynamic force both within the Dallas Charter League and the Dallas City Council. Her outspoken views on topics such as closed-door sessions of the Dallas City Council, undue emphasis by the Dallas Police on traffic ticketing, the need for a more democratic form of city government for Dallas, plus her plan for a more efficient and equitable ambulance service and demand for a "Master Plan" for Dallas as called for in the Dallas City Charter, made her a controversial figure in Dallas politics. She was a Mayoral candidate who ran in opposition to J. Erik Jonsson in the mid-sixties.

The Dallas Charter League's original and perhaps main purpose was to give Dallasites an alternative in the politics of the city. To this end, it can be said they were successful. In 1967, the League did not reform due to, as Maurice Carlson put it, "public apathy."


Scope and Contents

Records contain correspondence, legal documents, financial records, membership lists, speeches, press releases, brochures, educational and campaign material, and newspaper clipping produced and collected by the Dallas Charter League.


Organization

Records consist of 34 folders arranged in 2 series:
Series I. Organizational Files, 1961-1969 (24 folders)
Series II. News Clippings, 1961-1969 (10 folders)

Restrictions

Access

Open for research.


Index Terms

These materials are indexed under the following headings in the catalog of The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Persons
Carlson, Maurice (Maurice L.), 1914-1990--Archives
Johnson, Barney, 1921-1990--Archives.
Cabell, Earle, 1906-1975--Archives.
Organizations
Dallas Charter League--Records and correspondence.
Subjects
Political activities--Texas--Dallas--History--Sources.
Political candidates--Texas--Dallas--History--Sources.
Civic leaders--Texas--Dallas--History--Sources.
Civic leaders----Texas--Dallas--History--Photographs.
Political campaigns--Texas--Dallas--History--Sources.
Municipal government--Texas--Dallas--History--Sources.
Places
Dallas (Tex.)--Politics and government--History--Sources.
Dallas (Tex.)--Maps.
Alternate Titles
Historical Manuscripts Collection

Administrative Information

Citation

Dallas Charter League Records, AR292, Box Number, Folder Number, Special Collections, The University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.

Acquisition

Gift, 1978.


Administrative Information

Grant Support

The retrospective updating and conversion of this finding aid was supported with funds from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC) for the Special Collections "Documenting Democracy: Access to Historical Records" project, 2014-2015.


Container List

Series I. Organizational Files (24 folders) 1961-1969

Box Folder
1 1 Annual Financial Reports Fiscal Year, October 1, 1961 - September 30, 1962
City of Dallas annual financial report. Contents include the general fund report, special revenue fund with the subheadings of park and public library fund, interest and redemption fund, working capital, bond funds, trust and agency funds, utility funds, the general fixed assets and general bonded debts report, along with the combined statements for unrelated funds. There is a section entitled "Statistical Tables" at the end which includes tax rates, property values, statements of bond and interest requirements, etc. The report was prepared by E. Lynn Grossly, city auditor, and dated November 20, 1962.
2 Business Reports of the Dallas Central Business District
Contains four booklets published by the Dallas Central Business District Association with the goal of promoting Dallas, specifically the downtown sector. One booklet, published in 1960, deals with setting goals for the decade. Another booklet, dated September 24, 1964, reviews the process of construction in the downtown districts of American cities and is addressed to the International Downtown Executives Association. The other booklets contain information about the progress of Dallas's freeway expansion, beautification, downtown construction, etc. The fourth booklet, prepared by the Downtown Dallas Committee, is more specifically concerned with downtown Dallas. A list of offices and members appear in the booklets, among them of special interest, Angus Wynne, Jr.
3 Campaign Materials of the Dallas Charter League
Contains brochures, bumper stickers, pamphlets, business cards and a thank you card from Earle Cabell. Of special note, a promotional card for J. Erik Jonsson from the Citizens Charter Association and a Dallas Charter League membership card.
4 Candidate Questionnaires by the Dallas Charter League
Contains a "Charter" of the Dallas Charter League plus questionnaires for candidates to the city council from the DCL and League of Women Voters. Some of those interviewed include James M. Ball, Bill Dal, Earle Standlee, Maurice Tinsley, Joe Moody and Elizabeth Blessing. These questionnaires were used by the Dallas Charter League to ascertain whom the League would endorse.
5 Candidates Statements, Rough Drafts November 1963, undated
Drafts of statements from various DCL members, including Maurice Carlson, Bill Dal, M. L. Tinsley, Earl Standlee, Tom Russell and Bill Braecklin. Also included are drafts of letters to voters and Dallas Charter League Members.
6 Circulars of the DCL, February 1963 - April 1965
Contains memorandums to members, friends, potential members and the voting public concerning DCL meetings, rallies, dues and elections. Also included are questionnaires pertaining to volunteer work for upcoming campaigns, press releases, donation drives, and candidate slates.
7 Correspondence from Carlson, Maurice, August 20, 1962 - March 6, 1965
Letters expressing gratitude, introducing new members and potential members, outlining promotional ideas for the Dallas Charter League, offering organizational advice to then president of the League Barney Johnson. Also included are letters concerning candidates for city council, letters of congratulations to candidates including those who opposed the Dallas Charter League, i.e., Mr. Carlson's letter to Charles Sharp. Special notes, a confidential letter to Mr. Joe Humphreys, Attorney at Law, concerning a certain Dr. Dixon, Dickson or Dickenson and his possible ties with the Dallas underworld, and a letter of congratulations to John Stemmons upon his election to the Dallas Citizens Council. Other topics include comments on lectures, editorials, and speeches. Also included are Maurice Carlson's DCL membership and Texas taxpayer's card.
8 Correspondence to Carlson, Maurice, January 7, 1963 - March 10, 1969
Letters of gratitude and appreciation for support of candidates. A letter from Earle Cabell concerning promotion of progress in Dallas. A letter from E. R. Nesmith of the Texas Taxpayers Inc. expressing concern over tax swindle. Also a letter from A. V. Grant demanding an apology for Mr. Carlson's stand on poll-tax to all Texas conservatives.
9 Correspondence to the Dallas City Council, December 20, 1962 - January 9, 1965
Letters to the Dallas City Council from the DCL, mostly originating from Maurice Carlson. The letters concern Love Field expansion, the difficulty of getting information about the transit situation, the erection of a memorial to John F. Kennedy, reports on community improvement and creation of a citizen watchdog committee. Of note is an application to the Ford Foundation/John Hopkins University to study the methods employed by the CCA to induce votes and have their members perform exactly as ordered.
10 Correspondence from Johnson, Barney, Februrary 1963 - April 1963
Letters of appreciation for contributions and donations to various Dallasites from Barney Johnson, plus a letter to Mayor Earle Cabell considering the situation with the city attorney and a plea for endorsement of the Dallas Charter League city council candidates.
11 Correspondence to Johnson, Barney, February 26, 1963, March 5, 1963, December 18, 1964
Included are two letters from Cecile Wilcox concerning candidate endorsement and voting and one letter from Edward Winn expressing regret over Mr. Johnson's resignation from the presidency of the Dallas Charter League.
12 Correspondence Miscellaneous, May 23, 1962 - February 13, 1967
Letters addressed to various individuals and organizations concerning poll-tax, politics, Dallas City Council, and candidates. Also included are several press releases, an ambulance report, a letter from Elmer Wheeler turning down an offer by the DCL to run for mayor in 1965 and a letter attacking the press for their attack on a responsive government.
13 Dallas City Council District Maps
Contents include 1 City of Dallas street map and 1 city of Dallas Council District map.
Box Folder
2 1 Development, Beautification, and Management Proposals, undated
Three booklets concerning the development of downtown Dallas. One booklet deals with open areas and parks. Another lists accomplishments for 1961 in developing the downtown area and forecasts for the year ahead. The third booklet addresses the way in which Memphis, Tennessee, manages its city.
2 Educational Material by David Switzer, 1946, 1953, 1954, 1959, undated
Contains eight booklets about Dallas, Dallas County, and the form of government used in both. Some of the booklets are published by Mr. Switzer's Company while the others are published by the Dallas Morning News and sponsored by the Dallas Citizen Club.
3 Election Returns for Dallas Mayoral Races, 1961 - 1965
Returns for Dallas mayoral races, city council races and bond elections. Most of these are done by hand and include returns by precinct. Included also is a list of federal election voting strength, an example of a ballot and a run-off ballot.
4 Legal Documents Concerning the Dallas Charter League, 1966 - 1967 undated
This file contains the appeal to the Fifth Supreme Judicial District of Texas (Swank vs. Sharp) concerning the closed sessions of the ambulance committee. A brief from the accounting firm of Peat, Marwick & Mitchell about the internal check and controlling procedures of Dallas internal auditing, an antilitter ordinance and a bill automatically establishing a city planning or zoning commission for a city having a population of 300,000 or more.
5 Materials Addressed to the Dallas Charter League, August 18, 1961 - March 22, 1965
Several memos (internal) concerning prospective members, a suggested city council candidate list, a study of the city cemetery, recommendations by Earle Cabell on slum clearance and a letter from Maurice Carlson to Dallas city officials as well as business and civic leaders about Love Field. Also includes a memo concerning the indictment of four teachers and a registrar of the Southwest School of Business on false financial claims which is of interest due to the fact that George Allen is involved. A memo regarding "negros" serving on Dallas boards and commissions plus a study of the power structure of Dallas and on the voting patterns of Dallas County are included.
6 Members, Guests, and Key Individuals of the DCL, undated
This file includes a guest book, a list of thank-you letters to donors, rosters of different meetings held by the Dallas Charter League, a list of advisory board members of 1961, lists of members between 1963-64, and a mailing list from 1962.
7 Organizational Material of the Dallas Charter, 1961 - 1963, undated
Included and of special interest is a "charter" of the Dallas Charter League with founding principles and philosophy. A text of questions asked by Arch Swank regarding the closed door meetings of the Dallas City Council on the emergency ambulance meeting. A list of what Dallas has to offer, such as a zoo, museums, etc. Press releases, campaign schedules, executive meeting agendas plus the results of the DCL interviewing committee of 1965.
8 Photos of Dallas Charter League members, Dallas City Council Members and Mayor 1965, undated
Photos of Earle Cabell, Elizabeth Blessing, Tom Russell, C. E. Bunkley, Bill Dal, M. L. Tinsley, Joe Moody, Earl Standlee, and Bill Braecklin plus a group shot of the Dallas Charter League slate of candidates for 1965.
9 Press Releases of the DCL, 1961 - 1965
Items covered are the poll-tax, manipulation of the black vote in Dallas, and political statements from DCL backed candidates. Three statements from Maurice Carlson, one placing blame of the Love Field crisis of 1962 on the Citizens Charter Association backed city administration, another on the way the CCA handled the fluoridation of the city water in 1966, and a third attacking then Mayor J. Erik Jonsson for his attacks on Mr. Carlson. Also included is a release by Barney Johnson, then president of the DCL, on alleged paying of Dallas Chamber of Commerce debts for Love Field studies with taxpayers money.
10 Printed Material Concerning Dallas Charter League, 1946, 1961 - 1965
Included is a letter from H. L. Hunt defending his "open mind". An endorsement for the Texas Taxpayers Inc.. Numerous KVIL editorials plus several press releases from the Texas Taxpayers Inc.. In addition, there are various political editorials, a newsletter from the Citizens Business District Association regarding the Dallas North Tollway and a platform of public education issues.
11 Receipts of the Dallas Charter League, March 28, 1961 - May 7, 1964
Receipts for business cards, dues, donations, contract clerical work plus the usual course of business.



Series II. News Clippings (10 folders) 1961-1969

Box Folder
3 1 News clippings, 1961
Clippings from assorted Dallas area papers concerning issues of the Dallas Charter League and Dallas politics among them, the birth of the DCL, the public transit study, and articles on Maurice Carlson.
2 News clippings, 1962
Topics covered are city improvement bond issue, public transit, Citizens Charter Association reorganization, Dallas North Tollway, Turtle Creek widening, and government housing.
3 News clippings, 1963
Articles regarding the Love Field airport expansion and closed door sessions by the Dallas City Council.
4 Newsclippings, 1964
Includes the 1964 mayoral race, Earle Cabell's resignation, J. Erik Jonsson replacing Earle Cabell, Dallas Area Transit fare hike, resignation of Barney Johnson from the DCL and the backing of black candidates by the Dallas Charter League and Citizens Charter Association.
5 News clippings, 1965
Contains a list of Dallas City Council Boards and Commissions, election of Maurice Carlson as president of the Dallas Charter League, the traffic ticket controversy, Elizabeth Blessing's bid for mayor plus several articles on Ms. Blessing and the city council campaign.
6 News clippings, 1966
Clippings cover an editorial about the need for the Dallas Charter League and a two party system.
7 News clippings, 1967
Topics covered are the rising crime rate in Dallas and a bond issue election.
8 News clippings, 1968
Organization of political groups to oppose the Citizens Charter Association following the demise of the Dallas Charter League in 1967, plus an article on Mayor J. Erik Jonsson welcoming opposition.
9 News clippings, 1969
Articles on support of J. Erik Jonsson by Maurice Carlson and opposition by Don Fielding, head of the newly formed Citizens for Representative Government.
10 News clippings Undated
Numerous undated articles regarding the building of new freeways, Walnut Hill widening, Dallas slums, runway addition to Love Field, preservation of trees on Turtle Creek and ambulance operations in Dallas.