A City-sanctioned prostitution district, the rise and fall of the Ku Klux Klan, and the failed effort by organized crime to bribe a County sheriff are all a part of Dallas’ colorful history, says neighborhood resident Darwin Payne.
Payne, a journalism professor at Southern Methodist University, has compiled five years of research about Dallas into his latest book, “Big D: Triumphs and Troubles of an American Supercity in the 20th Century,” published by Three Forks Press.
The book follows life in Dallas from 1907 to the present day, focusing on race relations and desegregation, the influential figures who have dominated City politics, crime, and boosterism.
“I grew up in Dallas,” Payne says. “I spent my whole life here. I was curious to find out what made this City what it is. I wanted to explore the 20th century because no one had done that in any detail. There are a lot of books on the early days of Dallas.”
Payne, 57, was brought to Dallas by his parents in 1937 at the age of six months. He has worked as a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald (which folded a few years ago), the Dallas Morning News and KERA-TV.
In the summer of 1989, he and his wife moved to our neighborhood with their two daughters, who both attend Merriman Park Elementary.
Since Big D was published in July, Payne has been fielding calls from newspapers, radio stations and curious neighbors interested in his work, he says.
“The response has been real positive,” Payne says. “The book hasn’t created a lot of controversy. I thought it would, because I’m critical in it.”
Big D explores the problems that underlay Dallas’ accomplishments during this century. It concludes by addressing what Payne says are the struggles for the future.
“We’re in a very difficult period,” he says, “with the tax base eroding, with new industry going to the suburbs, with the need for greater services and less money, with downtown having a 33 percent vacancy in the office buildings.”
There are high notes, though, Payne says.
“I’ve seen remarkable progress in race relations,” he says. “I see how far we’ve come.”
Payne has written several other books. Big D is his second devoted to Dallas. The first, Dallas: An Illustrated History, was published in 1973.