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Five-minute history: The rise of representation in 1970s Funkytown

The 1970s saw the first African American and Mexican American representatives on Fort Worth’s city council and school board.

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The downtown we know today was starting to take shape in the 1970s.

Bell bottoms, sideburns, and tie-dye were the name of the game in the 1970s, but fashion wasn’t the only thing Fort Worthians found groovy. We’re jumping back into our five-minute history series with a look back at the rise of diversity and representation in Funkytown.

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Members of the 1977 City Council included (back row, left to right) Louis Zapata, Jim Bradshaw, Woodie Woods, Walter Barbour, Richard Newkirk, (front row, left to right) Shirley Johnson, Hugh Parmer, Jeff Davis, and Jim Bagsby.

Seats at the table

Dr. Edward W. Guinn ushered in the decade as the first elected African American councilmember, serving from 1967 to 1971.

In 1977, City Council held its first single-member district election, which prompted increased representation among city policymakers. Louis J. Zapata Sr. became the first Hispanic councilman, serving District 2 until 1991, and Walter Barbour became the first Black councilwoman, serving District 4 until 1979.

Soon after the city elections, Fort Worth ISD opened up single-member district elections for board seats in 1978 and added its first Black female trustee, Maudrie Walton, and first Mexican American trustee, Carlos Puente.

A head for business

The Mexican American Chamber of Commerce — now known as the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce — was chartered in 1973. With 30 initial members, it was only the fourth Mexican American chamber in the state. Dick Salinas served as its first president.

The Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1979, working “to make Fort Worth a better place to work and raise a family” through education and economics.

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Lenora Rolla (right) looks through a newspaper of Juneteenth celebrations at the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society in 1986.

Photo courtesy of Joe Williams/UTA Libraries

Who’s who

Check out some of Tarrant County’s 1970s pioneers of inclusion:

  • Lenora Rolla | Founded the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society in 1977 with Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”
  • L. Clifford Davis | Advocated for school and park integration, single-member districts, and fair housing access through the Fort Worth Black Bar Association (which is now named after him)
  • Gilbert Garcia + Sam Garcia | Advocated for scholarships and equal hiring of Latinos with the Fort Worth Historic Chamber of Commerce, American GI Forum, Chicano Luncheon + League of United Latin American Citizens