Colleagues pay tribute to former Dallas Council member Al Lipscomb

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by BRAD WATSON

WFAA

Posted on June 18, 2011 at 9:17 AM

Updated Sunday, Jun 19 at 1:57 PM

DALLAS — Long-time civil rights activist and Dallas city leader Al Lipscomb has died at the age of 86.

The former City Council member was in hospice care and died at his home early Saturday morning.

During his years of political activism and serving the city, he was privately and personally a gentle and friendly man.

But when it came to civil rights and opening up government to racial minorities, he was a man determined not to be ignored.

Lipscomb was born in East Dallas and graduated from Lincoln High School.

After a stint in the Army on the West Coast and a drug conviction he deeply regretted, Lipscomb returned to Dallas and got active in civil rights and politics in the mid 1960s.

He was loud and antagonistic;  he said because he had to be to get the attention of the city's white power structure.

Former City Council colleague Diane Ragsdale calls Lipscomb her mentor. “He and his family made tremendous sacrifices so that he could give a voice to voiceless, and so that he could gain power for the powerless,” she said.

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano recalls how Lipscomb and her father, Pancho, often joined forces on racial equality issues and how Lipscomb ran as the first black for mayor in 1971 — coming in third out of 10 candidates.

“I do stand on his shoulders, and the work that he did in our city to make in particular our City Council more diverse and work for the single-member districts,” Medrano said.

Lipscomb was the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that led to single-member Council districts ending citywide at-large districts.

Ragsdale calls it his major accomplishment. “We're talking about bringing the government closer to the people, creating smaller districts so that people could be represented,” she said.

Lipscomb was elected to the council in 1984, serving a total of 15 years. He was outspoken on police brutality, voting rights, and what he felt were racial injustices.

A bribery conviction that forced him off the council in 2000 was later overturned.

In his late years, Lipscomb remained active, often speaking at public meetings and a self-described "agitator" to the end.

“He struggled for all of us to make humanity better,” Ragsdale said.

Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said  Lipscomb was an inspiration to him.

And Mayor Dwaine Caraway said Lipscomb opened the path politically for racial minorities in Dallas.

E-mail bwatson@wfaa.com

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