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Mattie Nash, Former City Council Member and Housing Activist, Died Sunday at 87

Not long ago, I was re-reading Michael Phillips's White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas 1841-2001 and came upon the section dealing with the demolition of 1,000 homes in the early '90s. Most, wrote Phillips, were in predominantly African-American parts of Dallas; said Mattie Nash, on the city council at the time, "Every week we put demolition orders on house that could be saved."

Years earlier, Nash, a Corsicana native who also served on the Dallas Housing Authority board, struggled to reconcile the need to replace the decaying West Dallas projects with the potential aftershock that would result in sending residents to other parts of town: "If the residents are scattered," she told Black Enterprise in October 1987, "there goes the political clout." In the end, Nash -- for whom there's a recently renovated rec center named in West Dallas -- would ultimately be remembered for "launching petition drives to bring water, sewer service, paving, and gas to her neighborhood," and as a woman who "fought to improve housing," in the words of City Archivist John Slate provided today by Frank Librio at Dallas City Hall.

Nash died Sunday at the age of 87 of respiratory failure. Two years ago, Mayor Tom Leppert invoked her name during his inaugural address: "We are a city of people like Mattie Nash, at 85 the unofficial mayor of West Dallas, and I'll be excited to work with her and watch her community flourish when they become a gateway to the Trinity project."

Update at 1:11 p.m.: We just received the following statement from Mayor Tom Leppert, via Chris Heinbaugh: "Mattie's passion and hard work on behalf of West Dallas extended well beyond her time on the Dallas City Council. Persistent, tireless and always gracious, her efforts improved the lives of thousands and made her community and our city a much better place."

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