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Dallas political trailblazer Carol Reed dies at 72

The savvy and well-connected political consultant was the brains behind the winning Dallas mayoral campaigns of Tom Leppert and of Ron Kirk.
Credit: The Reeds Public Relations Corporation

Carol Reed, an outsized personality and trailblazer in North Texas politics, died of cancer Thursday with her daughters Laura and Angela at her side.

Reed was 72. 

The savvy and well-connected political consultant was the brains behind the winning Dallas mayoral campaigns of Tom Leppert and of Ron Kirk, the city’s first black mayor.

Reed was responsible for changing more than the political landscape of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She was the dynamo behind massive development projects in recent decades that required the approval of voters and elected leaders. 

Her legacy of successful persuasion includes:

  • The American Airlines Center
  • The Dallas Convention Center (Omni) Hotel
  • AT&T Stadium
  • Two Trinity River campaigns
  • Billions of dollars in bond campaigns for Dallas Independent School District, the Dallas County Community College District, and Dallas Area Rapid Transit

Reed was also instrumental in making Fair Park a crown jewel in Dallas.

Her first foray into politics was in 1976, when she became the political director for U.S. Senator John Tower. She went on to publicize and strategize for many other political heavyweights.

She was known to be always ready to debate and had an impressive grasp of issues. Reed had a rare political instinct and a steel-trap memory of the personal and professional lives of the mover-and-shaker class in the area. 

"Carol Reed was a larger-than-life character and a Dallas political legend. I am very saddened to hear of her passing. My condolences go out to her family and her wide circle of friends," said Mayor Eric Johnson in a written statement. 

Reed was friendly, warm, sassy, witty and charming. She was known for her unforgettable laugh. You heard her before you saw her. And you wanted to get closer to hear more.

Those traits helped Reed blaze a trail in arenas that were often male-dominated. 

Reed was the first woman to chair the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau (now called VisitDallas), the Rotary Club of Dallas and The Real Estate Council’s Fight Night, as noted on the website of Carol Reed Associates, a consulting and communications firm she founded more than 30 years ago. 

It was re-named The Reeds in 2008, when she brought on her two grown daughters as partners. 

"Carol moved the needle. All of us, and our city, are better because of it," said Chris Heinbaugh, a former WFAA reporter and current vice president of external affairs at AT&T Performing Arts Center. 

Reed was known for her annual holiday parties. This year's was canceled a few weeks ago, alerting many to her cancer diagnosis, Heinbaugh said.

"She deeply believed in the power of bringing people together. She would say, ‘If you break bread with people – even those you disagree with - you can find common ground,'" he said. 

Reed died at T. Boone Pickens Hospice and Palliative Care. In lieu of flowers, her family has asked for donations to Faith Presbyterian Hospice

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