Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price Given Kudos, Birthday Wishes in a Resolution by County Judge Clay Jenkins and Many of the “Firsts” in Dallas County, as Testament to a 43-yr Legacy …

Judge Clay Jenkins’ Resolution
Re-purposed by: Maria Arita Chief PIO Dallas Count

Today’s Commissioners Court started off with the reading of a few resolutions by Commissioner John Wiley Price honoring the work and retirement of Donna Garner, Karin Petties and Paul Williams. It continued with a Resolution by Judge Clay Jenkins proclaiming Saturday June 15, 2013 as SERVE-A-THON Day in Dallas County, urging citizens on behalf of the Volunteer Center of North Texas, to volunteer at a public school.

But the BIG story came moments later when Judge Jenkins began with:

WHEREAS, John Wiley Price was born by the river in a little tent; the son of a Baptist Minister, the late Holman Coleman Price, and the late Willie Faye Price, on April 24, 1950; and,

4-23-13Price1

Do we hear a song coming?!…

The look on Commissioner Price’s face was “Priceless” as he leaned in and it dawned on him – I am about to be roasted.  If it is possible to make this Commissioner blush in acceptance of a life’s work and a birthday wish roundly celebrated, this was the moment! Judge Jenkins continued…

WHEREAS, John Wiley Price was reared, jeered, and cheered in nearby Kaufman County, Texas, and graduated from Forney High School, the home of the “Fighting Jackrabbits,” a mascot whose personality he would later assume; and,
WHEREAS, John Wiley Price soon traded in the cotton fields of Forney for the bright lights and big sights in “Big D” where he enrolled in college and found employment at the Sanger Harris Department Store. Meanwhile, he was seeking life’s finer things as he walked daily by his favorite dry goods store, also known as, Neiman Marcus; and,
WHEREAS, John Wiley Price became a Dallas County employee on September 16, 1970, in the Public Works Department. He was later promoted to Chief Clerk for Judge Cleo Steele on December 1, 1975. A tireless worker, he served the Justice of the Peace court by day and moonlighted for the same court by night…

And the fun began; Constable Cleo Steele rose up and it became abundantly clear – this was NOT going to be your run-of-the-mill Commissioners Court…

4-23-13Price2

Constable Cleo Steele: “I have been meaning to talk to you about that.You do realize that I was the one appointed as JP by CommissionerTyson? You worked so hard as an employee, some people thought youwere actually the one holding the gavel. ”

WHEREAS, In 1984, a minority opportunity district was created on the Dallas County Commissioners Court, providing citizens of color the first opportunity to elect the person of their choice. After a hotly contested six person primary race, John Wiley Price was elected as the first African American County Commissioner in the history of Dallas County, taking office on January 1, 1985. Following the advice of his late father, “If you see a good fight, get in it,” John Wiley Price became a sought-after speaker, and championed justice by fighting every institution in Dallas where equality wasn’t being practiced and was soon heralded as “Our Man Downtown” as he opened doors for other minority leaders in this county; and,
WHEREAS, Commissioner John Wiley Price remains just as committed to his elected office as he was to his previous positions at the County and has gained respect from the workforce by his unique understanding of their position as entry-level and managerial employees. In addition to managing a Road & Bridge District, John Wiley Price found himself as an advocate for equality and change using his powerful voice to be a champion of many good causes. Prior to his election, Dallas County had only recorded a total of $50,000 annually in M/WBE contracts in goods and services. Since his investiture, Dallas County’s M/WBE began publishing annual results in 1998 and have an aggregate total of $420 million through 2012; and,
WHEREAS, As one of Dallas County’s first African American leaders…..

4-23-13Price3

Ruth Wyrick

Ruth Wyrick, a longtime friend of Commissioner Price’s read for Dr. Harry Robinson: “Excuse me. Excuse Me…but history reflects the first African American woman to be appointed to the bench in Dallas County was Joan Tarpley Wynn, who was appointed by Governor Mark White…Then Governor Ann Richards appointed attorney  H. Ron White. And, don’t forget about the appointment of the late Berlaind Brashear as judge or the election of the late Jesse Dawson as constable. Don’t forget that Commissioner Jim Tyson appointed both Cleo Steele and George Allen as Justices of the Peace and George Brewer as constable. We’ve come a long way….

4-23-13Price4

John Warren: Don’t forget about me. I’m the first African American County Clerk in Dallas County.”

4-23-13Price5

Dr. Elba Garcia: I am proud to be the first Hispanic woman to serve on the Commissioners Court.”

4-23-13Price6

Lupe Valdez: It is also an honor for me to serve as the first Hispanic female Sheriff in Dallas County – and in the state of Texas.”  In fact, Sheriff Valdez is the 1st Hispanic female Sheriff in the nation!

Darryl Martin: Look around this room. This courtroom is filled with many historic firsts. I serve as the first African American Administrator and …

4-23-13Price7 4-23-13Price8 4-23-13Price9

L-R: Dr. Terry Smith, Alberta Blair, Gordon Hikel, Shannon Brown | Dr. Mattye Mauldin-Taylor, Stanley Victrum, | Chief Robert de los Santos

… lead a team of highly qualified, competent department heads, including Dr. Terry Smith, the first African American director of our Juvenile Department; Dr. Mattye Taylor, the first African American director of our Human Resources Department; and Stanley Victrum, the first African American CIO; Shannon Brown, the first woman to lead the Purchasing Department; Virginia Porter, the first female Auditor; Robert de la Santos, the first Hispanic county fire marshal; and Alberta Blair, the first African American and female Public Works director; and Gordon Hikel, the first African American Assistant Administrator.”

4-23-13Price10

Lynn Pride Richardson, Darryl Martin, bottom right

Lynn Pride Richardson: I am  the first African American Chief Public Defender in Dallas County and the only female African American Chief Public Defender in the state of Texas.

4-23-13Price11

Craig Watkins, D.A.

Craig Watkins: I’m proud to serve as the  first African American District Attorney in the state of Texas and Heath Harris is the first African American to serve as the First Assistant District Attorney in Dallas County’s history.

(Judge Jenkins bangs the gavel lightly to proceed.)

WHEREAS, John Wiley Price has been honored to have a school in Africa named for him, a library in the states and, more importantly, has seen the fruit of his labor spread throughout Dallas County, as evidenced by the strong, qualified, experienced, and diverse workforce and department heads; and,
WHEREAS, Since becoming a Dallas County employee, John Wiley Price has rarely missed any days off of work or Commissioners Court meetings, including his sabbaticals at the Lew Sterrett Resort, where he continued to work and even vote. After an emergency appendectomy, he discharged himself from the hospital to be in his seat for Court (although he sat with a pillow under his bottom). During times of inclement weather, Commissioner Price takes advantage of his short commute to the administration building to arrive early allowing employees of further distance to safely arrive later. He will answer phones, stuff envelopes, inspect the jail or other detention facilities, chair committees, or preside in the absence of the chair. On official County holidays, he spends his time at the jail and juvenile detention center serving meals to those away from their families. He is, without question, committed to his work and to his calling.

NOW THERFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT that the Dallas Commissioners Court does hereby wish our senior member, Commissioner John Wiley Price, a very happy birthday tomorrow and applaud him for 43 years of service to Dallas County making him one of our longest tenured employees at Dallas County…

4-23-13Price12

Janet Butcher: “Well, actually, I did an audit and Commissioner Price you are the longest tenured employee and because you left so many hours of vacation on the books when you became a County Commissioner, we may have a surplus this year.”

4-23-13Price13

Ryan Brown: “I’m not so sure about that, Janet. Let’s not get carried away. I might need some of those vacation hours from those 3:00 a.m. trips to the jail.”

Judge Jenkins: Are there any more interruptions?

4-23-13Price14

Alberta Blair in the middle

Alberta Blair: “Commissioner Price, since you began your career in the Public Works Department, we thought it only fitting that we hang this resolution in our department in the Commissioner John Wiley Price cubicle which will make a strong statement to the employees in my department and across the county.”

Public Works Employee:  “It is a privilege to work at Dallas County. It’s inspiring to know that leaders once sat where I sit and went on to achieve great things.” 

Then, Dallas County’s pride and joy 7-yr-old Noah Cathey, who many might say has already begun a career in public service since the ripe age of four reading Barack Obama speeches wherever he can – rose up and read perhaps the most utterly profound statement of the day:

4-23-13Price15

Noah Cathey: “Commissioner Price, remember what you told my Daddy. “There’s pride in being the first. There’s shame in being the only.” Look around you, you are not “the only” anymore. I look forward to being in your seat one day and following the trail that you have blazed for so many people, even kids like me.

It was a moment when the Court saw what might be described as a child prodigy, coming from a long line of public servants, speak (as he often does), from the heart.

Judge Jenkins: Are there any more interruptions? If not, I move adoption of this resolution. Is there a second?

All did rise with applause, recognizing the Commissioner and a legacy of many FIRSTS in Dallas County. They were honoring the work of Commissioner Price on behalf of minorities, building a “progressive bridge between the privileged and underserved,” fairness in the workplace, equitable development in the County and a more than four decade long career in public service.  On this, his 63rd Birthday, the Commissioner couldn’t help but smile.

4-23-13Price16

The Dallas County Group of FIRSTS                                  
This entry was posted in Press Release, Stories. Bookmark the permalink.