Woodall Rodgers Portrait Mystery Solved

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    UPDATE: According to Associated Press, relatives on Wednesday confirmed the photo is of Henry C. Beck Jr. His family's construction company helped build landmarks including the Adolphus Tower and Medical City Dallas. Beck died in 2007.

    City hall officials are investigating the photo flub.

     His son, Peter Beck, says he thinks his father would have gotten a kick out of the mixup.

    For perhaps a decade, the color portrait has hung outside the mayor's office in Dallas City Hall, taking its place among all the other photographs of the city's former mayors.

    It purports to show Woodall Rodgers, whose four terms as mayor ran from 1939 to 1947, and whose imprint on the city includes such civic improvements as Love Field and Central Expressway.

    But if you compare the photo with other photos of Rodgers, they don't look much alike.

    And one recent visitor to City Hall, who knew Rodgers, says there's a reason for that.

    "That's not Woodall," says 82-year-old George P. "Buddy" Macatee III, who happened to be browsing the mayoral photographs last month while waiting to speak with a council member.

    Since then, city staffers have been trying to figure out if the photo really is of Woodall Rodgers.

    And if not, who is it?

    Macatee, a retired real estate developer, says he caddied for Rodgers on the golf course when he was a teenager. His father and Rodgers were friends.

    "The guy whose picture is up there has a more serene look about him," Macatee says. He describes Rodgers' look as more "pugnacious."

    "It wasn't tentative at all," Macatee says. "It was pretty firm. He had a firm countenance."

    He mentioned this to city staffers, and together they began looking into it.

    Macatee got old photos of Rodgers from the Dallas Bar Association and the Dallas Historical Society. They don't look quite like the man in the portrait. More hair, for one thing. Maybe a slightly more hooked nose.

    There's also an old painting that includes Rodgers that hangs in City Hall's lobby. That likeness doesn't quite match the portrait in question, either.

    City staffers asked a 77-year-old man who was a friend of the Rodgers family and used to call Rodgers "Uncle Woodall." Nope, the man said of the portrait, that's not him.

    City Secretary Deborah Watkins says the mayoral photos were hung sometime in or shortly after 2000. The city's archivist is looking into the situation.

    Watkins says the city got the portrait then from the Gittings photography studio.

    "That's where we received it from with the understanding it was Mayor Woodall Rodgers," Watkins says. "And now we'll have to do our due diligence to confirm whether it was Mayor Woodall Rodgers."

    A manager at Gittings, Barry Benton, says it's unlikely that the studio confused the photo.

    "This is an instance of a portrait that was created many, many years ago and then somehow has gotten misidentified, I suppose, somewhere within the confines of the city," Benton says.

    "If the city of Dallas would like us to do research, we can certainly commence that research on their behalf," Benton says. "It is a long, cumbersome process because we do have 80 years-plus worth of images."

    So for now, the identity of a man who has found a place among city titans remains a mystery. Is it Rodgers? And if not, who is this impostor?

    Says Macatee: "This guy could be, heck, he could be some guy that owns a shoe store or something."