Former Fort Worth Mayor Bob Bolen died at his home this morning at the age of 87.
Bolen was mayor of Fort Worth from 1982 to 1991.
A World War II veteran who left Texas A&M to serve as a gunnery officer on the USS Iowa, Bolen returned to College Station to complete his business administration degree in 1948. He also received honorary doctorates in public service from the University of North Texas and Texas Christian University, as well as an honorary doctorate of humanities from Texas Wesleyan University.
Bolen opened a bike shop in Fort Worth and 20 Hallmark card shops around the Metroplex and in San Antonio.
He was elected to the Fort Worth City Council in 1979, and won a special election in 1982 to replace the late Woodie Woods as mayor. Bolen also served as the president of the Texas Municipal League in 1987, was elected to the National League of Cities board in 1985 and served as that body’s president in 1990.
In a Facebook post, Mayor Betsy Price said: “We have heavy hearts today as we learned of the passing of our dear friend and Fort Worth hero, Mayor Bob Bolen…Our hearts go out to his family. Mayor Bolen was the true ‘People’s Mayor’ and he lived by his motto of leaving this city better than he found it. I will remember him for his passion for young people and his desire to closely involve citizens in the future of their city. We will also remember Mayor Bolen as a visionary who took risks that ultimately changed our city for the better, including Alliance Airport, the introduction of public transportation and the redevelopment of downtown. Bob was an inspiration to us all. What a world of difference Bob’s vision made in our city.”
Speaking to the Business Press later on Monday, Price remembered finding a yellow sticky note posted to her office computer. It came shortly after she and the City Council made a long-awaited police pension decision in October 2012.
“It said, ‘You are still a hero. Thanks,'” Price said. “His commitment to the city never wanted after he left office. He cared deeply about the city. He cared deeply about everybody.”
Other area leaders also praised Bolen.
“North Texas lost an amazing leader,” said Mabrie Jackson, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission. “Bob Bolen is the true definition of a servant leader from serving the city of Fort Worth as Mayor to continuing to guide future leaders at TCU. He changed the face of North Texas for many generations to come.”
Fort Worth Chamber President and CEO Bill Thornton agrees. Crossing paths with Bolen for the first time in 1983, Thornton said the mayor found time to chat with athletes being interviewed as potential Texas Christian University varsity football players. Taking one or two hours from his busy schedule to aid the effort left quite an impression on Thornton, serving as former TCU coach Jim Wacker’s offensive coodinator at the time.
“We had just arrived at TCU and I was on Wacker’s staff and Bolen greeted all of us and worked on recruiting weekends, just a genuinely optimistic, energetic guy,” Thornton said.
Thornton and Bolen were neighbors for 14 years, building a lasting friendship.
“His father said, ‘You want to leave a place better than you found it,’ and he surely followed that,” Thornton said. “His genuine passion for the community was undeniable.”
According to the city’s website: During his time, Bolen:
•Led the efforts to create the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) and served on the Regional Transportation Authority. •Partnered with Charles Tandy, the Bass family, and the Hunt family of Dallas to redevelop downtown Fort Worth, promoting projects that included the Tandy Center, Sundance Square and refurbishing of the Hotel Texas and General Worth Square. •Led a push to successfully complete the U.S. Treasury’s printing and engraving facility — the first currency print facility outside Washington DC in the history of the country and now the plant that prints the vast majority of U.S. currency. •Helped establish the first Public Improvement District (PID) downtown and Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. •Led the partnership between the city, the Perot family and the Federal Aviation Administration that led to the creation of Alliance Airport, which, in turn, sparked the AllianceTexas center and explosive growth in far north Fort Worth. •Led efforts to purchase the 30-plus mile Rock Island rail line right of way between Fort Worth and Dallas, which now serves as the major rail for the Trinity Railway Express. •Led efforts to relocate the downtown I-30 overhead. •The first Fort Worth Sister Cities was established with Reggio Emilia, Italy, followed two years later with sister city relations with Trier, Germany and Nagaoka, Japan. During his tenure, Fort Worth’s sister city program became the best program in the country. •Led efforts to award the first city cable franchise to Sammons Cable and was a key member of the National League of Cities special task force that resulted in the first cable legislation enacted by Congress. Staff writer A. Lee Graham contributed to this report.