City Hall

Dwaine Caraway's Greatest Hits

Goodnight, sweet prince.
Goodnight, sweet prince. Stephen Young
Despite the clear and convincing evidence, not to mention the guilty plea, showing that now-former Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway took about $450,000 in cash to push the City Council to pass Dallas County Schools' bus stop-arm ticketing scam scheme scam, the Observer is going to miss the guy.

For better and for worse, Caraway was just a normal guy. He has demonstrated weaknesses for poker and fried food and, charmingly, the habit of saying just a little more than he should have, most of the time. He reminds us of ourselves — except for the part about being bound for the jailhouse. At least so far.

Caraway is going to get his, in the form of an expected seven-year prison sentence. His crimes will always be the headline on his political obituary. It's the other stuff though, the stuff that made him one of the most interesting people ever to serve at the horseshoe, for which we'll better remember him.

Here are some of his wildest moments:

1. The Fight. In the midst of a hotly contested Democratic primary for a spot on the Dallas County Commissioners Court with John Wiley Price, Caraway let his temper get the better of him during a joint radio appearance after, he said, Price repeatedly called him a bitch during segment breaks.

"I'm tired of you," Caraway says about 15 seconds into the video of the altercation. "You fucked up now, you fucked up my house."

Caraway goes on to accuse Price of "fucking his wife." At a press conference the day after the fight, Caraway made it clear that the accusations he'd made against Price applied to his first wife — he's been married twice — not his current wife, Barbara.

A man willing to use his fists to defend his honor? Not exactly statesmanlike, perhaps, but we can sympathize. Besides, President Andrew Jackson fought so many duels that he rattled like a bag of marbles when he walked, and that genocidal jerk has his mug on $20 bills.

After the fight, Price apologized to everyone but Caraway.

"I apologize to our community," he told The Dallas Morning News. "Other people want to see this stuff stirred, but unfortunately, there just seemed to have been a meltdown yesterday and we're all worse for it. I want to apologize."

2. Arthur and Archie. In an attempt to preserve his wife's good name, and the fact that he'd called police because she'd attacked him, Caraway blamed a 2011 disturbance call on two fictional characters, Arthur and Archie. They'd been arguing about the Cowboys, Caraway said, and things got out of hand.

"The same police recording that Mayor Dwaine Caraway fought bitterly to suppress actually makes him sound like a concerned husband — calm, cool and collected — trying to protect the good name of his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway," the Observer's  Jim Schutze reported after 911 tapes from the incident were released over Caraway's lengthy legal objections.

3. Pull up your pants.  In 2012, Caraway got so fed up with men not pulling up their pants in public that he held an honest to God sagging summit at Dallas City Hall. The Observer's Anna Merlan described the scene that September:

Caraway managed to pack the house, filling almost every chair with young families, church groups and a fair number of high school students. And some interesting conversations took place between Caraway, his anti-sagging panelists and the audience: How should young black men dress in a world that's often hostile to them? How do parents guarantee that their kids grow up to be productive and self-respecting? What do teens owe to their elders, in terms of the way that they dress, speak and express themselves?

In the midst of all that, though, there was a lot of ridiculousness. A teenage girl left in tears after a panelist yelled at her about her sagging boyfriend. And several of the panelists, as well as master of ceremonies, Heaven 97 host Robert Ashley, displayed an unfortunate amount of casual homophobia.

"Sagging is nasty," one young panelist opined at one point, as the adults around her nodded approvingly. "Because it means you're open to other men."
4. The bag ban. Fed up with plastic bags floating through his district like urban tumbleweeds, Caraway fought hard for a 5-cent fee for single-use plastic in Dallas. He won his initial fight, but the city quickly backed down from the fee after being sued by a group of bag manufacturers. Caraway fought the bags until the end, however, staging a last ditch effort to ban the bags entirely.

"We will eventually be known as the world class city of plastic bags if we fail to take action today," he said.

5. Thumbing his nose at the NRA. Ahead of the National Rifle Association holding its annual meeting in Dallas this spring, Caraway was the only local public official to speak out against the convention publicly. It was a stunt — there was nothing Caraway or anyone else could legally do to keep the convention out of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center — but Caraway's stand was cathartic for those who didn't want the convention in town, following a spring filled with mass shootings.

"It is a tough call when you ask the NRA to reconsider coming to Dallas, but it is putting our citizens first," Caraway said. "Who needs an AR-15 to go hunting? Who needs an AR-15 to protect their house? They talk about mental illness. Yes, mental illness is an issue, but it's not just an issue that should only be associated with guns. At the end of the day, we need to connect the dots."

6. Caraway has a wild idea for Dallas Confederate war memorial. Whether he really meant it or not, Caraway's idea to take the five figures off the Confederate war memorial that scars the landscape between City Hall and the convention center and replace them with local civil rights icons wasn't a bad one. If one really wants to use Confederate relics to teach kids about the past, as many have said, there are worse ideas than memorializing those who have worked for racial justice and equity in Dallas.

7. The poker house. Schutze can tell you about this one:

In May 2010, the city was trying to shut down a gambling house in South Dallas. Neighbors had complained about heavy traffic, day and night, at the house. The cops couldn't get inside undercover, so they started writing tickets on the parked cars that covered the lawn while code enforcement officers went after the homeowner.

Caraway, mayor pro tem at the time, complained about the enforcement activities to City Manager Mary Suhm and top police officials. He offered two arguments as to why they should lay off.

First, he said, the cops should be spending their time catching more serious crooks. Always a good thought. If a cop has got a poker player pinched by the ear in one hand and an airplane hijacker pinched by the ear in the other, he should always let the poker player go and concentrate on the hijacker.

That's not the good part.

The good part was his second reason why the cops should lay off: He and his father liked to play poker at the house.

Oh my gosh! How embarrassing for the police! Had they only known this was the Caraway family's favorite poker house, all this might have been avoided.

Somehow, it gets better. Guess what? The cops laid off. I haven't been by that place in a while, but last time I checked the cars were still all over the lawn and the place looked like it was goin' and blowin'.

He says this crazy stuff, but he tends to get his way, and that's the part that keeps me in business. He may be bizarre, but he's news. 
8. Caraway's 2015 campaign kickoff. Caraway's rally kicking off his campaign against Price in June 2015 had everything, as the Observer reported at the time.

"A group of mariachis and a smooth jazz duo were there. He danced into his rally accompanied by a drum line. He stressed connecting the dots between the cities of Dallas County so, among other things, Dallas County residents would know where to find good chicken if they wanted to find some good chicken (he really said that). He had a group of women dramatically unveil his campaign posters."

Price beat Caraway like a drum in that election, winning by a 2-to-1 margin. Price did better with the feds than Caraway, too, getting acquitted on his own set of corruption charges in April 2017.

9. The Councilman Caraway Wellness Challenge. After checking in at 300 pounds — as heavy as he'd ever been, he said, Dwaine Caraway ate one last fried chicken dinner at his beloved Rudy's Chicken before kicking off his branded wellness challenge. He lost 15 pounds during the initiative, which saw him put through his paces by Dallas Wellness director Forest Turner at the Cotton Bowl.

10. The time he inexplicably honored Michael Vick. Just before taking over as mayor — Caraway held the city's reins briefly in 2011 after Tom Leppert resigned to run for Senate — Caraway committed an inexplicable unforced error and gave an honorary key to Dallas to convicted dog torturer Michael Vick.

In addition to being a dog abuser, the NFL's Vick isn't from Dallas, didn't play for a Texas college or university and never played for the Cowboys. Caraway said he gave the key to Vick because he believed the ex-Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons quarterback could help kids learn from his mistakes, but the whole thing never made any sense.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young