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Queen Crank

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Looking out from the front door of Sharon Boyd's Oak Lawn condo, it's easy to see why she thinks Dallas has tilted toward the moneyed few. The whole block across the street and down the hill toward Turtle Creek has been cleared of modest houses and apartments. Luxury flats and Mediterranean-style townhouses advertised at $800,000 and more are going up all around her.

"They put walls up around them; they'll never meet their neighbors," says the 53-year-old Boyd, who has lived on the same block since 1976. For 17 years she's been at her current address, a nondescript two-story building picketed by gray cedar fencing. "It's nice being able to live among my betters," she says in a mocking falsetto that brings what one friend calls her "Minnie Mouse voice" up into the troposphere.

"I'm a fixture here. I live on the same block in my hometown, so I really do get personal about people coming in, like Velveeta from Chicago and Ron Kirk from Austin, and destroying the city." Dallas is about "spending money and showing what you have" because so many people are from out of town, Boyd believes. "You have this image everybody is plastic. When you are living in a city that isn't your hometown, you're gonna live differently, flashier. There are things about people knowing you for 30 or 40 years that keep some balance in your life."

Inside her condo, Boyd apologizes for the four friendly cats, mostly former strays, and mentions she's just had the floors redone. They're a hip stained concrete. "I didn't want the place to look like a little-old-lady condo," she says. Her home is decorated with art that has a vaguely '70s feel, with lots of candles and wicker étagères filled with carnival glass. "It was really cheap glassware popular in the South in the '30s, '40s, and '50s," she says of the collection. "It was poor people's attempts at home decor. My family came from poor East Texas; they paid maybe 25 cents apiece for these, and as time went on they became more valuable." Her profusion of silver jewelry -- three rings on one finger, a silver cross on the other -- catches the morning light as she sets out breakfast for the swirl of cats at her feet.

Boyd was born in Paris, Texas, and raised on Beacon Street in Old East Dallas. From junior high on, she lived in Lewisville, then a small town. Her mother, a nurse, had already divorced twice when she met Billy Joe Boyd, a Dallas cop who adopted Sharon and her younger brother, melding them with his family of four kids. "He was ahead of his time," Boyd says. "He thought girls could do anything boys could -- we didn't have boy chores and girl chores." It was Sharon who got everyone cracking on floor-scrubbing patrols, her younger sister, Janell Davis, recalls: "Ohhhhh yes, she made sure. She was the organizer."

Boyd worked her way through college as secretary to the basketball coach at what is now the University of North Texas in Denton, moved back to Dallas, and settled into a job as a legal secretary. She later set up her own bookkeeping business for small law firms. "I noticed the legal assistant would be let go in the recessions, but the bookkeepers were forever," she says of her job, which takes her to the offices of several different firms every week. "Bookkeepers can be 80, and nobody wants them to quit." Single all of her life, she says she has nothing against marriage: "I just made some romantic investments that didn't work out...I'm probably real hard to get along with, you know."

Boyd's political involvement began on her street -- she tackled a problem with cruising traffic around the parks -- and grew into activism through the Oak Lawn Committee, a coalition of neighborhood groups advocating residential interests in the busy, near-downtown neighborhood. At the same time, she became president of the downtown Republican Women's Club, which met on Greenville Avenue, and was a regular delegate at state GOP conventions. That stopped in 1994. "I took part in a pro-choice rally," she says, "and they never invited me again."

Councilwoman Lori Palmer appointed her in 1989 to the city Plan Commission, where she took up the mantle of neighborhood preservation, dispersing social service agencies from their concentration in East Dallas and trying to close the crime-magnet day-labor agencies. When it came time for Palmer to endorse a successor for her District 14 seat, she picked Craig McDaniel. "Although I appointed Ms. Boyd to the city Plan Commission, I soon became aware from the reports of other commissioners that she had difficulty getting along with others, was frequently divisive, and often made up her mind before hearing all the facts," Palmer said at the time.

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