Wes Wise, a former sports announcer who spent most of the 1970s as Dallas’s mayor, passed away on Friday from natural causes. He was 94.
According to his son, Westley Wise Jr., Wes Wise recently spent time in a nursing home recovering following a fall at his property on Cedar Creek Lake near Eustace.
Wise, a political outsider who reportedly told D Magazine that he entered politics because he didn’t think any of the City Council candidates were very good after interviewing them, was elected mayor three times between 1971 and 1976. He joined the council for the first time two years prior and left his position as mayor in 1976 to compete for Congress. Later that year, Jim Mattox, a state lawmaker, defeated him for the Democratic primary nomination.
Wes Wise was re-elected to the City Council in 1981, but Starke Taylor defeated him in his fourth run for mayor of Dallas two years later.
Wise Jr. claimed that his father frequently shared tales with him and his brothers about what it was like to cover President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 while working as a reporter at a local TV station. He said that while his father was mayor, he frequently had spontaneous question-and-answer sessions with locals. Wise Jr. claimed that he and his father had developed a special bond over a platter of handmade fried chicken or catfish in recent years.
To me, Wise Jr. replied, “He was just Dad.” “We’re all going to miss him a lot. He was witty, terrific, and always had an open ear for people.”
Wise Jr. stated that the funeral details are still being worked out.
Construction on the current City Hall started during Wise’s administration, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was built, and the first lawsuit challenging the Dallas City Council election system was filed. At the time, there were 11 seats on the council, all of which were at-large seats, with two designated for people of color. Dallas’ at-large system was eventually deemed unlawful by a federal judge in 1975 because it dilutes the votes of Black people.
Along with the city, Wes Wise was named a defendant in the complaint. The system was altered in 1976 so that the mayor and two council members would be chosen at large, and single-member districts would decide the other eight seats. Dallas didn’t start using its current system, where the entire city selects the mayor, and the other 14 seats on the City Council are decided by the district until 1991.
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Wes Wise once argued in support of stopping the city block promoters from performing the musical Hair at the Dallas Memorial Auditorium, claiming that the play had an “anti-American tone” and that the treatment of the American flag during the performance was objectionable. Instead, Fort Worth received the show.
In a statement, Mayor Eric Johnson expressed his sorrow over Wise’s passing and his condolences to his family.
Johnson added, “Even though I never had the pleasure of personally knowing him, I am appreciative of his service to Dallas in this challenging capacity during one of the most pivotal times in our city’s history.
Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1928, Wise started his radio broadcasting career while attending college there, reporting college baseball games. To work as a radio commentator for Major League Baseball games for the Liberty Broadcasting System, he relocated to Dallas in 1949.
In 1951, Wes Wise enlisted in the army as an instructor and served for two years. He would work in Beaumont for several years as a sports director and public relations manager for a baseball team before returning to Dallas to work as a sports anchor for WFAA and subsequently as a sports director and anchor for what was once the CBS affiliate KRLD-TV and is now Fox 4. His work has also been included in Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, and Life Magazine. He also called Dallas Cowboys games.
When Kennedy was killed, he also served as the president of the Dallas Press Club. When the News Went Live: Dallas 1963, co-authored by Wise, describes what it was like to cover the incident.
Wes Wise chronicled the Kennedys’ arrival at Dallas Love Field, ran into Jack Ruby a day or so later, and was present in the Dallas County Jail when Lee Harvey Oswald was killed.
After leaving public service, Wise worked as the Dallas World Trade Center’s vice president of international affairs, the public relations director for chemical business, and a lecturer on politics and sports, according to his family.
Sally Wise, Wes Wise’s wife, and their three kids survived him.