Former Dallas City Council Member Don Hill Dead at 65

Don Hill, center, in 2009.
Don Hill, center, in 2009.
Sam Merten

Former Dallas City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill died Saturday at 65. Federal authorities released Hill from prison Friday, commuting his 18 year sentence on bribery charges, due to his terminal prostate cancer. Hill is survived by two daughters, Erika and Kristin, and his wife Sheila Farrington-Hill.

In 2010, Hill went to prison for coercing bribes from developers who wanted votes from the council member and his appointee to the city plan commission, D'Angelo Lee. Those votes favored developers building low-income housing projects in South Dallas. In one instance, housing developer Brian Potashnik hired Farrington-Hill, to a $14,000 a month, no-work job in exchange for Hill's shepherding a project through the city council. A jury convicted Farrington-Hill for her role in the scandal, as well. She received compassionate release from a nine-year prison sentence last year and is currently in a Chicago nursing home, suffering from multiple sclerosis and dementia.

Hill was scheduled to get out of prison in December 2025 until Assistant U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham, who prosecuted Hill, filed a motion to allow Hill to live with his brother and niece in DeSoto, due to the extent of his cancer. "The defendant’s terminal medical condition and limited life expectancy constitute 'extraordinary and compelling reasons' warranting the requested reduction," Meacham wrote in an order signed by U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn. "His prognosis is poor, his condition is terminal and deteriorating."

Before being accused of corruption, Hill was known, along with John Wiley Price, as one of the two most powerful black men in the city of Dallas. During Laura Miller's run as Dallas mayor from 2002 to 2007, Hill may have been the most powerful person in the city, frequently outmaneuvering Miller, most notably when he led the fight against a ballot measure that would've converted Dallas municipal government to a system with a strong mayor. Hill also secured $43 million in funding for Victory Park, over the mayor's objections.

As word of Hill's death spread Sunday, current Dallas City Council members Casey Thomas and Rickey Callahan remembered Hill on Facebook for always being approachable, while Carolyn Arnold said that she would "certainly miss him, especially that smile." Price, who escaped conviction in Dallas' largest, post-Hill corruption trial, posted a picture of a grinning Hill late Saturday on the social media network. "My condolences to the Hill family. This community is praying for you," Price said. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk told WFAA he hoped Hill would be remembered for more than his crimes.

“I only ask that people look at the fullness of his life,” Kirk said. “At his core, he was a very kind and decent man.”


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