His own man

Sore losers say the white establishment bought and sold Ron Price. Don't believe it.

And when he popped into his house moments later, pulling on a suit to attend his next function, he spoke freely about his religious faith--as well as some of the errors he's made.

Like fathering a son out of wedlock. Today, six-year-old Caleb Price lives with his mother in the Washington, D.C., area. Ron hasn't seen his son for two years.

"I learn from my mistakes," Price said. "I give my love to other children to make up for the son I lost."

On his living-room wall, he's hung a painting of a black father reaching out for his toddler son. Seemingly as an afterthought, Price has wedged snapshots of his son into the bottom of the picture frame.

Other parts of the house reveal more about Price. In the back room, beside an old desk erupting with papers, Price has posted dozens of certificates he's earned for community service with and without his Pearl Guards.

One of them, awarded in 1992 "for continued support of the beautification efforts of Clean South Dallas," is signed by none other than Kathlyn Gilliam.

Later that day, I witnessed a sorry little spectacle outside district headquarters. Twenty-three people lined up behind a borrowed DISD podium and, metaphorically speaking, peed into the wind.

There was New Black Panther groupie Thomas Muhammad, who handed out an incomprehensible press release. There was former Dallas city councilwoman Diane Ragsdale, dressed in a hot pink pantsuit. And there were other all-too-familiar faces: former DISD trustee Thomas G. Jones, assorted Panthers, Gilliam sidekicks T.L. Youngblood and Johnnie Jackson.

One of the last to arrive was Yvonne Ewell, who stood silently at the fringes of the gathering.

Kathlyn Gilliam, doffing her dark sunglasses, solemnly read the press release before the cameras. Representatives of all of the area's major media recorded the moment.

The next day, it merited all of two paragraphs at the bottom of a story on the News' Metropolitan page.

Yep, these are the people who've set Dallas' racial agenda for the past seven years. These same 20-plus people--and that's being generous. Most of them had wandered back into oblivion by the start of the 6 p.m. board meeting.

And what a meeting it was. The atmosphere was remarkable--a reporter next to me tagged it a "lovefest," with more than a little sarcasm.

There was board president Kathleen Leos, laughing mirthfully beside superintendent Yvonne Gonzalez. There was rookie trustee John Dodd, an amiable doofus of a man, making clueless comments about this and that which weren't met with derision.

At one point--I swear--trustee Lynda McDow actually uttered the words "beauty of the flowers."

Trust me, the context of her remark wasn't significant; I stopped taking notes and looked up, momentarily stunned.

Ron Price looked at ease. He got loose, he spoke well. He leaned back his leather chair and rocked when the meeting began to drift amidst all this strange merriment.

When trustee Jose Plata thrust his increasingly ornery self into one discussion, Price got perturbed. I remembered something he'd told me earlier in the day. "I'm not on this board to be part of a show," he said. "Show-and-tell got to go."

But other than Plata's nitpickings, which, Price assured me, had already been hashed over and resolved in committee meetings, the meeting progressed with uncanny kindness.

Price seemed in his element.
Sure, he's got a lot to learn--lots of things to cram into "my little bitty brain," as he self-effacingly puts it. But he'd already made an enormous difference--because for the first time in 23 years, we benefited from Gilliam's absence.

You can e-mail comments or news tips to Julie Lyons at julie_lyons@dallasobserver.com.

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