Ron Kirk Reflects on Being Dallas' First Black Mayor

During Black History Month, NBC 5 is taking a closer look at the men and women who broke barriers and shaped the future for North Texas.

Ron Kirk

In May, Ron Kirk will celebrate the 25th anniversary of being elected the Mayor of Dallas. That election in 1995 also came with another title: the first Black mayor of Dallas.

“It’s humbling,” Kirk said. “I have always tried to keep it in context of the wisdom of my parents. This was everything they fought for. We should always be mindful of all the people who came before us. The people who could have been the first, if they were given the opportunity.”

He said it was always about doing what was best for the people of Dallas and making opportunities possible for everyone, not just a select few.

“Don’t challenge me with making history, challenge me with making a difference,” Kirk said.

NBC 5’s Johnny Archer reports on Ambassador Ron Kirk who made history as the first black mayor of Dallas.

Kirk refused to take all the credit for his historic election. Rather thanking the Black mayors who were the first in their respective cities before him.  

“Tom Bradley in Los Angeles, Emanuel Cleaver in Kansas City, MO and Maynard Jackson in Atlanta. All of them came before me,” Kirk said.

When asked about his biggest accomplishments, Kirk was very humble and didn’t want to say much, even though he is credited with doing so much in Dallas.

“Changing the culture in City Hall was important to me and I think we did that,” Kirk said.

He was also instrumental in the construction of the American Airlines Center, an entertainment venue for different genres of music and the home of the Dallas Mavericks and Stars. The multi-purpose venue opened in 2002.

In a phone interview with NBC 5, Kirk said he hoped his legacy would be one of inspiration.

“I want other people to be inspired for public service. They will look at how I conducted myself and see that if we focus on our common dreams and aspirations, we can get past the labels we put on each other," Kirk said. "At the core, many of us have the same hopes and dreams for our kids. Focusing on common ambitions is a great way to bring people together to get things done.”

As for the direction Dallas is headed in right now?

“Dallas has the opportunity to be an incredible city and one that prospers for years to come, but we are still challenged to some degree. We must find a way to have a more equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity. I love the fact that [Eric] Johnson is acutely focused on closing that opportunity gap.”

Following his time in the mayor’s office, he served on President Barack Obama’s cabinet.

Now, Kirk said he is enjoying life, while still working hard as an attorney with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm in Dallas. One of his greatest joys is seeing his adult daughters live out their dreams. It's a full circle experience, because just like his, their success is a testament to the work the people did before them.

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