Community Development Clinic Impacts Downtown Fort Worth Landscape its First Year

April 16, 2018

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In its first year, the Community Development Clinic at Texas A&M University School of Law made a significant contribution to the landscape of downtown Fort Worth, honoring the city’s rich history. The clinic worked with the Fort Worth community to add a Heritage Trails marker commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ​​1959 visit to Fort Worth.

The memorial plaque will be installed in General Worth Square across from the John F. Kennedy Memorial, approximately a block north of the Fort Worth Convention Center.

MLK plaque Byron BaileyByron Bailey '18

The Community Development Clinic and third-year law student Byron Bailey were instrumental in securing the legal aspects of the event, including the permits and logistics. Ceremony attendees included Chamber of Commerce and City officials as well as community and religious leaders.

Bailey and the Community Development Clinic worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference led by Reverend Kyev Tatum, Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., the City of Fort Worth, and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Bailey is grateful for the law clinic and the opportunity to work with Tatum and other community leaders. “Reverend Tatum came to us with this grand vision after he realized in the city of Fort Worth and DFW metroplex there wasn’t anything to commemorate Dr. King’s visit to Fort Worth,” Bailey said.

Tatum said he was impressed by the level of support he received from the Texas A&M School of Law Community Development Clinic.

MLK plaque Rev. TatumReverend Kyev Tatum of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

“We are not going to be able to resolve some of these issues in our community until we look at them from a perspective that they [the ​clinic] can help us with. Our communities, when they are poor, lack technical skills. And they [the ​clinic] provide a lot of technical support and ideas," said Tatum.

"I am extremely excited about these law students and what they are going to do for our larger community,” Tatum said.

3L Evelyn Hernandez, a student in the clinic, believes this event is important to the clinic and the community. “My colleague Byron organized this event because, as part of the Texas A&M Legal Clinics, we think it is good to give back to the community and help it succeed. Coming out to support the community is essential,” Hernandez said.

King visited Fort Worth on October 22, 1959, and spoke to a small, integrated crowd at the then-segregated Majestic Theater. His speech, “A Great Time to Be Alive,” addressed “the struggle to save the soul of America.” Approximately 400 people paid $1.25 each to hear King speak. The Majestic, an old vaudeville house located at what is now a hotel at the corner of Commerce and 9th Streets, was desegregated for King’s speech, allowing African-Americans to enter through the front door and access the lower floor seats​ for the first time.

During his visit, King received bomb threats and was not allowed to stay in any local hotels. Vada Felder, who organized King’s only visit to Fort Worth, invited King to stay in her guest bedroom.

The Heritage Trails marker also honors Felder, the first African-American to graduate from Texas Christian University’s Brite College of the Bible (today’s Brite Divinity School).

“Fifty years ago it would have been dangerous for us to come together in the 900 block of Main Street; but 50 years later we are all here on Main Street to remember a man who gave up his life so that we can now have this right,” said Tatum.

MLK plaque CDC studentsTexas A&M University School of Law Community Development Clinic students Kristen Whittaker, Evelyn Hernandez, Byron Bailey, Denise Rosales and Kevin Hernandez
MLK plaque crowdCommunity leaders, include Mayor Betsy Price, and citizens alike attended the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Heritage Trails marker ​groundbreaking ceremony, organized in part by the Texas A&M University School of Law Community Development Clinic and clinic student Byron Bailey '18, at General Worth Square in downtown Fort Worth. 

Learn more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
View more event photos from the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.

The April 4 ceremony, held on the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination, previewed the marker which is still in production. The permanent bronze Heritage Trails marker is scheduled to be installed in October 2018. It will be the 26th marker on the downtown Fort Worth walking trail commemorating the people and events that shaped the city.

- Article by Tyra Kelly, Texas A&M University School of Law; photos by Doug Thurman, Texas A&M University School of Law