Dallas: 50 Years of Progress Since JFK's Killing

11.22.2013

By Michael Regula

Dallas, the site of JFK's assassination, will mourn the death of a president but celebrate 50 years of positive change since that awful day.

As the city of Dallas prepares to honor slain president John F. Kennedy, the mood across the city is expectedly solemn. But just as one event a half century ago brought shame to the city, the 50 years since has seen Dallas change and grow in unexpected ways.

On November 22, the nation's eyes will focus on Dealey Plaza, where the legacy of Kennedy’s death will be analyzed as much as the legacy of his policy. And though the architecture within the plaza, where Kennedy was assassinated, hasn’t changed much in five decades, it only takes a few minutes in the Texas sun to see just how much the culture has shifted in and around the city itself. The stereotypical Texas façade, it seems, is just that.

For a city once roiling with racism and xenophobia, the anniversary now forces a bit of introspection. Dallas has aged at the same rate as the rest of the South, yet this metropolis has progressed more than many of its neighbors. Just one of a handful of cities within Texas that voted for President Obama last year, it’s difficult to remember that mere years after Kennedy’s death, thousands were still marching through the streets in downtown demanding that everyone, black and white, have equal access to voting.

If there’s one indicator of change that stands above all others, it's that of the three-time elected sheriff of Dallas County. Sheriff Lupe Valdez surprised the nation and ushered in a new era within Dallas, doing so as an out, lesbian latina nine years ago, and now three elections running.

In an interview given to the GA Voice before her grand marshal appearance at Atlanta Pride last month, Valdez spoke candidly about the change she’s personally witnessed since first elected in 2004.

“People hated my guts,” she said. “At that time, it was a big thing. Now it's not anymore. The first couple years, any media reports about me said I was 'Lupe Valdez, the lesbian sheriff.' That stopped about five years ago and I hope there will come a day when we don't have to brag about things like this.”

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