Kathlyn Gilliam, Dallas ISD Pioneer and South Dallas Activist, Has Died at the Age of 81

KathlynGilliam.jpg
Dallas Independent School District
Kathlyn Gilliam
Friends and allies of former Dallas School board president Kathlyn Gilliam quietly mourned her death early Sunday afternoon. She had fought a 13-month battle with cancer.

Gilliam, 81, was the first black woman in history to serve on the Dallas school board, elected in 1974 after a court battle to end white domination of the board. Her 23-year tenure on the board included a two-year term as the board's first black president serving from 1980-'82.

Before joining the board she was a stalwart of the long battle to desegregate Dallas schools, a process that dragged on longer here than in cities in the Old South.

On the board, Gilliam was always decorous but strong-willed and assertive, a style that often infuriated the old leadership and earned her a number of well-financed opponents, all of whom she defeated until finally losing her seat to Ron Price in 1997.

Gilliam remained active in community organizing in South Dallas through groups she helped found and lead, including Clean South Dallas/Fair Park and the Dallas chapter of the Political Congress of African-American Women.

This year the school district opened a new college preparatory high school adjacent to the University of North Texas at Dallas named the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy. Joyce Foreman, a friend and political ally of Gilliam, said Sunday evening that Gilliam's family and friends, who all knew she had been suffering, were gratified she had lived long enough to attend the October 8, 2011, dedication of the school named for her.

"She never forgot South Dallas," Foreman said.

According to trustee Carla Ranger, services will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Christian Chapel CME "Temple of Faith" Church.
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A voice in the wilderness
A voice in the wilderness

Today's irony:  The DMN did a story on Gilliam's passing.  And it just posted on its webiste a list of the 500-odd worst schools in Texas.  Is it any wonder that Gilliam, who McNaughten notes was named the Worst Public Official by D Magazine in 1996, engaged in tactics whose fruits are resulting in 10% of the state's worst schools.

The DMN article related to Gilliam's passing noted that she actively recruited the Nation of Islam and the Black Panthers to shut down Board meetings.  D Magazine described her as "hateful", "dumb", and "racist."

In 20 or 30 years will we all be lionizing Flores, Hiney, and their cronies as monuments to Dallas education also?

For once, can we get someone at the DISD that will stop the cronyism, nepotism, racism, and sucking up to business interest so the DISD can get beyond its disfunction? 

Church Lady
Church Lady

The Honorable Mrs Kathlyn Gilliam made a difference for the studentsof Dallas and beyond.  It was a blessing that she knew that a schoolwas named in her honor.  She was a LADY in every sense of the word.

cp
cp

I worked with her on a lot of neighborhood improvement projects at Clean South Dallas. She had a deep understanding of what's wrong with South Dallas and at times seemed like a one-woman force, doing the work of a thousand people. I will miss her and I hope that there is at least someone who will fill the void. 

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

I never met Ms. Gilliam but I think I would have liked her very much.

Breaking the racial barriers in Dallas required courage, tenacity and persistence that eventually made the path for other minorities easier - for that alone Ms. Gilliam should receive kudos.

However Ms. Gilliam was not so globally revered as exampled by Wick Allison's commments in D-Magazine's 1996 "Best and Worst" issue naming Ms Gilliam the Worst Public Official.

1996 Best and Worst: WORST PUBLIC OFFICIAL Kathlyn Gilliam: Racist, Hateful and Dumb

FOR 24 YEARS-24 years!-she has used her seat on the Dallas School Board as a weapon against educators, parents, administrators, fellow board members and anyone else who even halfheartedly has tried to make the public schools work. Combining meanness with stupidity, as one observer put it, she has stirred the racial cauldron, boiling up an ever-frothy stew of divisiveness, anger and hostility. Of course, she does it all for the children. "We have to be vigilant and persistent about seeing to it that we provide the best opportunities for our children," The News recently quoted her as saying. Her vigilance and persistence have produced spotty results. Whites appalled at the breakup of neighborhood schools and put off by the bickering and racial mau-mauing instigated by Gilliam have fled the district, leaving the public schools almost totally resegregated. Middle-class blacks appalled by the deterioration of educational standards and equally put off by the bickering she's caused, have sought better choices for their children in districts such as DeSoto, Duncanville and as far away as Grapevine. The effect of this brain drain on Gilliam's district in South Dallas has been spiraling urban decay. To think: All of this carnage has been wreaked by one person in less than a quarter-century.

Eszpresszo
Eszpresszo

Well, it wasn't just Wick Fowler and D Magazine who had a problem with Kathlyn Gilliam. None other than Laura Miller, wrote a characteristically scathing article about Gilliam in the pages of the Dallas Observer, some years ago. In her typical condescending style, Miller picked Gilliam apart and basically inferred that the woman was up to  no good. Gilliam didn't take too well to Miller's inquiry. Can't say that I blame her. However, as insufferable as I found Laura Miller to be, she was usually accurate when it came to pointing out crooks and malefactors. 

EdS
EdS

Wick Fowler? 

Lucyphouston
Lucyphouston

The problem with the priviledged in our community is  they are opposed to any effort that removes them from a privileged position.  Thats exactly what the courts attempted to do in response to Ms. Gilliam's efforts to exposed segregation and inequity in Dallasisd and provide equal education for African American students. The White backlash is usually the same; flee from an area rather than stand as equals.  Of course there are blacks who still believe, "white folks ice water is colder than ours" so they follow.  As for spotty results, they are, when you consider what still needs to done to compensate for laws prohibiting anyone from teaching African Americans to read, legalized "separate but unequal schools" and the misrepresentation of African American History and culture in textbooks.

JimS
JimS

That just means the administrative assistant to one of Wick's investors called Wick's secretary and said, "Carl wants Wick to attend the Chamber breakfast where he will be speaking and do a story. He wants that Lexus back at the end of the month. And let's see. What am I forgetting? Oh, yeah, he wonders if it's too late to hatchet-job the shit out of Kathlyn Gilliam for the next addition."

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

yeh--vitriol just dripping from Wick's dentures there...wonder who shoved the stick up where the sun don't shine.

fairview kid
fairview kid

And why would the Dallas Morning News put her obit behind the pay wall?

she deserves better treatment from those slugs at DMN

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