Dallas County

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins Denies Wearing Blackface During '80s Criminal Trespass Incident

Clay Jenkins has served as Dallas County Judge since 2011.
Clay Jenkins has served as Dallas County Judge since 2011. Mikel Galicia
A report by the far-right politics website Current Revolt claims Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins was arrested in September 1983 for criminal trespass after he and others allegedly went into several apartments in blackface trying to frighten students at Baylor University.

Backing up the claim is a Waco Police Department report of the supposed incident sent to Current Revolt, according to the site. The police report says four women told Waco police that Jenkins and two other men had broken into their apartment. One of the women said the men were “dressed in dark colored clothing like camouflage” and “dark oil type or paint or dark makeup on their faces to make them look like Black people.” One of the other women in the report, however, only mentioned that the men were wearing dark makeup on their faces.

The day after the women reported the incident, Jenkins and the others went to talk to the Waco police about it, according to the report. It says the three told the police they had done the same thing to others at different apartments, claiming “everyone thought it was funny except these four girls.”

The women were awakened when the three men entered through one of their bedroom windows, according to the police report. Once inside, the three men “ransacked” one of the rooms and left through the front door “laughing, thinking it was a big joke,” the police report says. Jenkins and the others were eventually arrested for criminal trespass of a habitation with bonds set at $1,500.

Reached for comment, the Waco Police Department couldn't immediately confirm the authenticity of the police report for the Observer. However, previous news reports on Jenkins (like this one by D Magazine) have made note of a time he was arrested at Baylor for criminal trespass during a "panty raid" at a women’s dorm.

Through his spokesperson, Sean Gregory, Jenkins denied ever wearing blackface, saying what was on his face was meant to be camouflage.

“Judge Jenkins apologized then, when he was 19, and continues to be sorry for the poor judgment he exhibited at the time," Gregory said in an emailed statement. "He has never darkened his face in an attempt to appear as a member of another race. As was reported in 1983, they were three students wearing camouflage."

Jenkins' office provided a clipping from a student newspaper that covered the incident at the time. The clipping mentions that the three men were wearing camouflage clothes and had paint on their faces.

The latest details come as Jenkins runs for re-election against his Republican opponent Lauren Davis, a local business owner. She and her husband own a line of barbershops in several states, including Texas. Davis has said she decided to run against Jenkins after COVID-19 restrictions began affecting her barbershops.

As reported by The Dallas Morning News, accusations have been flying as the race for county judge heats up. In Davis’ campaign mailers she accuses Jenkins of profiting from federal COVID-19 loans, creating policy to defund the police and lying about his family’s college history.

Jenkins’ law firm received $72,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans that were forgiven. Two other businesses Jenkins has ties to also received PPP loans. Davis’ barbershop business received more than $820,000 in forgivable loans. Jenkins has claimed he’s the first person in his family to graduate from college. Davis disputed this in her campaign mailers, citing Jenkins’ stepfather, a Baylor alumnus. Jenkins has since said he meant he was the first college graduate in his immediate family.

“This is just another example of Clay Jenkins lying to the voters of Dallas County,” Davis said of the new arrest details in an emailed statement from her campaign. “He has a history of manipulating the past and providing a misrepresentation of himself to the general public.”

Davis added: “This was not a college prank but a premeditated attack that terrorized the women involved. It is clear in the police report that the women barricaded the door while he and his friends ransacked their apartment.”
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jacob Vaughn, a former Brookhaven College journalism student, has written for the Observer since 2018, first as clubs editor. More recently, he's been in the news section as a staff writer covering City Hall, the Dallas Police Department and whatever else editors throw his way.
Contact: Jacob Vaughn

Latest Stories