Sting Like a Butterfly: Hey, John Wiley Price, Are You Ready to Rumble?

Here's the question. Who's ever going to finally kick John Wiley Price's ass? Here's the answer: Me.

I have made up my mind. John Wiley, you better run.

I just can't take any more of his shit. One day soon—let's keep it a surprise—I'm going to go down there to his office in the School Book Depository, where Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy, and I am going to whup Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price's butt up one side and down the other.

Don't try to hide, man. I will find you.

I'm not going to put up with any more of this crap from you. Your ass is grass. You better put your boxing gloves on. The old white man is coming.

People as far away as Greenville, North Carolina, saw that damn video from KTVT-Channel 11, showing the December 1 Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting where Commissioner Price acted like he was going to beat the living juice out of County Judge Jim Foster. That's embarrassing. I'm going to put a stop to this shit.

Foster and Price have been fighting. It's some kind of political crap about an investigation. Whatever. They were arguing about it at their weekly meeting.

Price is yelling at everybody and saying, "Goddamn it." Foster kind of meekly taps with his gavel—pitty-pat, pitty-pat. Price gives him a look that says, "Don't do that again." So Foster gives the gavel a good solid whack and says, "The court will come to order."

Price whirls on him and smashes his fist as hard as he can down on the table, coming about a quarter of an inch from Foster's face, and Price shouts, "So what? Make me come to order!" From then on he's a goddamn-it machinegun, yelling at the rest of them and acting like he's going to kick all their asses.

That was the part Channel 11 caught on an amazing bit of footage, which then went viral on the Web, thanks largely to an item on our own blog, Unfair Park. Apparently people in other parts of the country and world think it's unusual for a public official to go completely meshugga in a public meeting and threaten to kick another official's ass for calling the meeting to order.

But the only thing unusual for Price was that he did it in public. He does it in private all the time. That particular gesture—pounding the table an inch from somebody's face—is part of his regular act behind closed doors. Foster has described private meetings to me in the past where Price has done his table-pounding deal. So have other commissioners.

And then you have to put all that in context with Price's whole history. In 1990 he was arrested and charged with criminal mischief for defacing billboards. Later that year he was called before a grand jury after chasing a cop, pointing a gun at him and then punching him out.

The city was trying to pick a new police chief that year. Price told The Dallas Morning News, "If you try to bring in a good old boy in this system, we're going to be in the streets, physically, literally, shooting folks. We're not going to tolerate it."

A while later the News launched an elaborate upgrade of its own security system. As in, Pull up the drawbridge and break out the telephoto lenses.

In 1991, two assault charges against Price were dismissed when officials at WFAA-Channel 8 and a California movie producer signed affidavits asking that Price not be prosecuted for attacking them.

The same year Price was sentenced to 75 days in jail for snapping the windshield wipers off a lady's car—part of a much more complicated scene that involved Price riding around on the hood of her car screaming at her while she tried to get away from a protest he was holding at a police substation.

Also in 1991, Price was arrested for breaking a construction worker's ankle during a protest. When he was on trial for that charge, three jurors and the prosecutor all told the judge they had received death threats. One juror said a caller had told her, "I saw you in the courtroom today. If you find that guy guilty, you are a dead bitch."

Price's lawyer, Billy Ravkind, accused the jurors and the district attorney of being whiners. "This isn't the first time a juror has been threatened," Ravkind said. State District Judge James K. Walker agreed and denied a motion for mistrial.

Why would the judge do that? I can tell you why. He was afraid Price would come slam a fist down next to his face on the bench and say, "Make me come to order!"

Price eventually was found not guilty of assaulting the man. The Chicago Tribune carried the story under the headline, "Dallas acquittal eases fear of racial unrest." Kind of tells the whole story, eh? Later the guy sued Price and won $113,000.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze