The hard work paid off as Dealey became a big deal in Big D

Cities are often known by the newspapers they support and the opportunities their residents find. When an English immigrant arrived in Dallas in 1885, he became known for both. George Dealey became the driving force behind the Dallas Morning News from its founding and became an important figure in the city’s early growth.

George Bannerman Dealey was born in Manchester, England in 1859. He was the fifth of 10 children born into a modest family in the growing industrial city. The family soon moved to nearby Liverpool. He started attending school and also worked as an apprentice at a local grocer. In 1870 the family made the decision to move to America in search of a better life.

Bridges

The family arrived in Galveston where Dealey continued his education and took on a series of jobs in the new town. His older brother had taken a job as an office assistant at the Galveston Daily News. When his brother left in 1874, he took the job. Dealey rose through the ranks, eventually taking classes at Island City Business College and becoming a journalist.

In 1885, Daily News owner and publisher Alfred H. Belo saw Dallas growing rapidly. In fact, the city would more than triple in size during the 1880s, passing Galveston. He saw a valuable opportunity and decided that Dallas needed a new newspaper to serve the city although there were already others in operation. Belo sent Dealey to Dallas to serve as business manager for the new publication, which will be called The Dallas Morning News. Belo and Dealey agreed that a morning publication would be an advantage over the afternoon papers in the city by first providing breaking news from the previous day. This was an unusual approach as most newspapers in the country still printed and distributed their newspapers in the afternoon, which would continue into the 1970s and 1980s.

The newspaper quickly becomes a success. The newspaper brought world news to residents’ doorsteps, and Dealey actively promoted the city through his reporting. Dealey was promoted to superintendent in 1895. In 1899 he campaigned for the Cleaner Dallas League, a civic organization dedicated to improving the city’s appearance and services, which became the Dallas Civic Improvement League.

He was placed on the board of directors of the AH Belo Corporation in 1905 but continued to lead the growth of the Morning News. Agreeing with other city leaders that Dallas needed a university, he supported the establishment of Southern Methodist University, which opened in 1911. He used the newspaper’s growing influence to lobby for that Dallas would become the site of the new Federal Reserve Bank in 1913, beating Houston. .

He became president of the A. H. Belo Corporation in 1919. As radio became increasingly popular and the city of Dallas established its own public radio station in 1920, Dealey pushed for a station owned by the Belo Corporation. In 1922, radio station WFAA went on the air and would maintain a close relationship with the newspaper for decades. He purchased the newspaper and became a majority shareholder of the Belo Corporation in 1926. For his efforts to promote Dallas, he was appointed vice president of the National Municipal League in 1923 and president of the Dallas Historical Society in 1933. He served as then sat on the boards of directors. of the Children’s Hospital of Texas and the Commission on Interracial Cooperation.

Dealey insisted on integrity in reporting and in publicity. He refused to run advertisements for liquor sales and, even in the midst of the oil boom, refused advertisements for tankers because he could not verify the honesty of speculators descending on the area. He also denounced the Ku Klux Klan in editorials and news stories, including stories written by his son, future publisher Ted Dealey. In the early 1920s, The Dallas Morning News was one of the most important newspapers in East Texas and a strong rivalry with the other local newspaper, the afternoon Dallas Times Herald and with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram West.

In honor of his work to improve downtown, Dealey Plaza opened in 1934 as a park on the west side of the old Dallas County Courthouse, along Elm Street and bounded by Houston and Commerce streets. It has become a popular downtown feature with its trees and sloping hills.

Dealey died in February 1946. Until the end, at age 86, he continued to work as an editor for the newspaper he had worked to build. Upon his death, he was hailed by colleagues across the country as the “Dean of American Newspaper Editors.” A statue honoring Dealey was placed in Dealey Plaza in 1949. However, the Dealey Plaza area later became synonymous with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Dealey continued to be remembered for his contributions to the city. Years later, a public Montessori school in North Dallas bears his name. By 1991, The Dallas Morning News had become Dallas’ only daily newspaper and is still one of the largest newspapers in the state.

Ken Bridges is a writer, historian and native Texan. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas. Bridges can be contacted by email at [email protected]

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