7 Vintage Dallas Jerks Who Add Up to One Trump

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Nothing about Donald Trump is new. In any major American city, no one need dig far to find people who exhibited the traits that make Trump so appealing to the Republican electorate, and Dallas is no different. None of its residents may have had all of Trump's charms rolled into one classy, elegant package quite like the Donald, but Big D can make a pretty convincing Frankentrump all on its own.

1. Start With the Hubris of Henry Wade — Pride, until you're busted for not having earned the right to have it, is a helpful thing. Henry Wade served as the Dallas County district attorney for 36 years, taking office in 1951 before voluntarily retiring in 1987. He was involved in two of the most famous court cases of the 20th century — he prosecuted Jack Ruby for killing Lee Harvey Oswald and is the "Wade" in Roe v. Wade. He also believed that punishment, even of those who might not have actually committed a crime, helped create a more civil society. Wade's office prosecuted Randall Dale Adams, whose wrongful murder conviction and death sentence was chronicled in Errol Morris' Thin Blue Line. Since Wade has left office, Adams and dozens of other men convicted under Wade's watch have been set free thanks to DNA evidence.

2. Stir in Jerry Jones' Megalomania — Like Trump, Jerry Jones believes that absolute power is the only power worth having. Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys in 1989. Almost immediately, he saw great success, culminating in three Super Bowl victories between 1992-1995. Jones couldn't help himself, though, and fired the architect of those victories, Jimmy Johnson, before the 1994 season. Jones said that any of 500 coaches could lead those Cowboys teams to a Super Bowl. Barry Switzer proved him right initially, when he won that third Super Bowl, but so far bringing one of the other 499 to Dallas has proven impossible. The Cowboys haven't done as much as play in an NFC Championship game since. They probably won't, either, until Jones removes himself as general manager.  

3. Add Robert Tilton's Good Looks — Robert Tilton, exposed fraudster televangelist, showed that a stunning hairdo and overwrought expression can make people do anything. Tilton, who always looks like he's suffering from a gas attack, led a Dallas ministry in the late '80s and early '90s that bilked people out of millions thanks to his prosperity gospel message. He got rich and, despite his promises, they didn't.

4. Toss in a Taste of H.L. Hunt's Wealth Worship — Dallas oil man H.L. Hunt believed that political equality would ruin American society, as he demonstrated in his crappy allegory novel, Alpaca. It argued that the rich, and Hunt was once rumored to be the richest man in the world, should be given more votes so people like John F. Kennedy, against whom Hunt helped foment resistance in Dallas before the president was shot on Elm Street in 1963, wouldn't get elected.

5. Edwin Walker Shows a Little Race-Baiting Never Hurts — Edwin Walker who, weirdly enough, was also the subject of a Lee Harvey Oswald assassination attempt, was a U.S. Army major general and cult figure based in Dallas in the '50s and '60s. He helped lead the protest against James Meredith — the school's first black student — at the University of Mississippi and distributed handbills titled "Wanted for Treason: JFK" in Dallas before the assassination. He was a leader of the infamous John Birch society.

7. Don't Forget the Hucksterism of Harry Hoxsey — It doesn't matter if it's snake oil, like Trump Steaks or Trump Water, as long as it comes in a nice package and has a nice narrative. Harry Hoxsey, a former coal miner and insurance salesman, cured cancer. At least, that's what he told everyone starting in the 1920s. Hoxsey Therapy was a mixture of herbs that didn't do anything to cure cancer, but Hoxsey's Dallas clinic, opened in 1936, became the biggest cancer center in the world. By the 1950s, Hoxsey was making more than $1.5 million a year for treating more than 8,000 patients, even though he was categorically called a fraud by the American Medical Association. The treatments Hoxsey developed are still around today, but you'll have to head to Mexico or the recesses of the Internet to find them.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.