Being fairly new to town, I'm learning my Dallas history little by little. Yesterday was a good step: On the way home I stopped by the Hall of State at Fair Park, where Al Lipscomb is resting comfortably till this evening's public wake, which begins at 6 p.m., and tomorrow's memorial service at Friendship-West Baptist Church, which starts at 11 a.m. There, I ran into state Rep. Helen Giddings and Mayor Dwaine Caraway.
"He's a warrior at rest," Caraway said, standing not far from the open casket of the civil-rights activist and council member who died Saturday at 86. "He has certainly opened up many doors, doors that I find myself walking through today."
The flags at Dallas City Hall are flying at half-mast till the end of the day. Caraway said he would "absolutely not" have had the opportunity to become mayor without the groundwork laid by Lipscomb. Of Lipscomb's reputation as a "firebrand," as Jim put it, Caraway said: "The fact that folks might not have understood his style at those times, that was the style that was necessary. ... During those times he had no choice to be heard. Martin Luther King did marches, and Al Lipscomb raised hell. He'll be gravely missed."
Giddings said Lipscomb's activism went deeper than tenacity, describing him as a "very well thought out person." She said: "He taught me a great deal. He was really a giant."
By late afternoon, the influx of people steaming into Hall of State was testament to Lipscomb's impact. Visitors spent long minutes standing in front of the casket, silent.
Alfredia Strhan was among the procession walking across the scorching Fair Park parking lot to make her way inside. "I've got to get up here to see brother Al," the West Dallas resident said, recounting how she's gotten to know Lipscomb at community events throughout the years. She said he "opened doors that would have been closed to us still." She was very fond of Lipscomb: "He was just a sweet person."
Carl Ramirez, who was in the West Dallas Lions Club with Lipscomb in the '70s, volunteered as an usher. He said Lipscomb passed along a powerful legacy: "Stand up for those who cannot defend themselves, speak for those who do not know how to speak, and do what is right."