Down on Sherman Street

In the old neighborhood, Joe Lee Calloway played dominoes and hung out with his buddies. Until a Grand Prairie cop killed him right there

"When I was a boy, my parents' house was right over there. Joe's mom lived a few yards away. This used to be Texas Street," says Hemphill, pointing to an area off to the left that has been converted to grassland. "That's why Joe felt serene here. He grew up here."

Chandra Calloway grew up here too, and she recalls how good life was in the old neighborhood. Back then, its bustling streets were filled with young families who would drop by each other's homes to catch up and gossip. No one locked their doors, and the sight of a police car was rare.

"It used to be a neighborhood where our family would hang out by the park. It used to be a comfort zone," Chandra remembers.

Today, Dalworth residents are living on an urban death row, waiting for the day their advancing industrial neighbors swallow them up. Dalworth is now completely hemmed in--Poly America to the south, railroad tracks to the north, and warehouses on the east and west.

Semi trucks barrel through the residential area hourly, and weeds thrive in vacant lots where homes once stood. City buses do not serve the area, so residents without cars are stranded.

In recent years, many of Dalworth's youth have taken up careers as drug dealers. Offering crack cocaine to virtually anyone who passes by, they don't attempt to be discreet about their business. Nor were they troubled when Governor George Bush recently visited Dalworth as part of an anti-drug dog-and-pony show.

Four days before Calloway was shot, Bush walked through Dalworth with members of Grand Prairie's gang control unit, pimping his proposal to enact a "stop-and-frisk" law.

For his part, Calloway wasn't afraid of the growing number of dealers and users in the neighborhood. In fact, he opened his door to them whenever they needed a place to stay.

Calloway lived in the duplex on Sherman Street until December 1995, when the city demolished the building and four others nearby. The buildings had been cited for "hundreds" of violations, according to Mike Foreman, the senior code enforcement officer for the city of Grand Prairie.

"The owner could not keep them in a state that met the city's ordinances. He released them to the city for demolition," Foreman stated.

Because he was on disability, Calloway was eligible for a housing certificate that would have covered his moving costs. But Foreman says Calloway never came into the office to complete the necessary paperwork. Instead, he chose to spend more time in the streets.

Chandra Calloway shakes her head and laughs as she recalls her father's stubbornness.

"My father, he's not militant, but he'd take a shower at Ed [Hemphill's] house, get his chair and say, 'Edward, this is my protest because they knocked my house down.' That was how people in the neighborhood saw him," she says.

Firing up his engine, Hemphill cruises through the neighborhood, nodding at several friends he sees along the way. As he drives up Manning Street toward Sherman--the same route Governor Bush walked--he points out a group of loitering teenagers who he says are drug dealers. Even though it is a Tuesday morning, no one bothers to ask why the kids aren't in school.

"Joe used to get one of those chairs and sit right here and read his Bible," Hemphill recalls as he parks the car and joins the men gathered at the dominoes table under the mimosa tree. Hemphill grabs a chair and hunkers down to watch his friends Eddie and James square off in a friendly showdown.

A square of plywood placed across the round Formica table top functions as a score card, its rough surface covered with white chalk marks. They reveal that James and Eddie are in a dead heat on this brisk November morning.

"To me, [Calloway's] just a good person. A decent person. He loved the challenge at the dominoes table," says James, who divvies up the blue and white plastic dominoes with the speed of a Las Vegas pro.

"Joe will tell you he was the reigning champion," Eddie says, slapping down a big six and laughing so hard his belly wobbles.

Robert Carroway hovers in the background, tugging at a cluster of unwrapped cigars stuffed in the front pocket of his blue corduroy jumpsuit. Every time he squared off against Joe, Carroway says he took second place.

"Joe really inspired me, and I'd like to remember that," he says. "To see him survive, it inspired me and others. Everybody. He inspired."

At this table, the discussion of Joe Lee Calloway quickly turns into one about how bad the neighborhood has become and how poorly the police are responding. Several men cite various examples of how they have been stopped by the police for no reason.

"We've all been victims of circumstances at one point or another," Eddie says, a circle of heads nodding in agreement.

The men wonder who will be the next "Joe."
"I could leave, but this is where I was raised. Joe was around people he knew here. I'm a Joe," says the soft-spoken Carroway. He then asks the question that lives on as the most disturbing legacy of Calloway's death.

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