Richard Connor: A great Fort Worth organization honors two great men

Robert Hughes

Moving to Fort Worth decades ago, I wanted to get a glimpse of why Dunbar High School was such a basketball powerhouse.

After watching my first game I understood: Coach Robert Hughes.

Sure, there was talent on the floor and on the bench. The players understood basketball fundamentals, played hard and smart, and avoided showboating. The team was disciplined.

The hallmark of the team I watched and others before and after, though, was Coach Hughes. The man was in charge. He was serious and stern on the sidelines and it was obvious he had no time for drama or for anyone who lacked the discipline to play the game he brought them to the court to play.

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His record speaks for itself: Five state championships; 1,333 wins; 32 district championships; 17 state final four appearances. Over 200 of his players earned college scholarships.

Robert Hughes is a winner and on April 26 he will win again. He is being honored at the 67th Annual Multicultural Alliance Awards Dinner.

Along with Hughes, another fighter and winner will be recognized: Judge Clifford Davis, a Fort Worth icon and civil rights pioneer who made Fort Worth proud before it knew it should be.

Judge Davis is 93 years old and still helping others. He takes on pro bono legal clients and volunteers with Legal Aid and the NAACP Justice Project.

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In 1956, before the more famous Little Rock desegregation case in 1958, he filed a federal lawsuit to desegregate schools in Mansfield, then a small farming community. In the case Jackson vs. Rawdon, Mansfield High School was ordered desegregated, but local residents resisted. Mobs gathered at the local school to prevent three African-American children from enrolling that fall. Texas Gov. Allan Shivers sent in the Texas Rangers to maintain order but the intimidating crowds prevented the students from attending classes and the schools remained segregated for several years.

In 1959, he again took on a desegregation challenge, suing the Fort Worth Independent School District. He won that case, Flax vs. Potts, forcing Fort Worth schools to integrate.

Judge Davis grew up in the South in the era of segregation, experiencing racism firsthand, not only via the inequity of segregation but through the physical pain of being stoned by white children on his way to school as a youngster in rural Arkansas.

After graduating with a law degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., Davis came to Fort Worth in 1953 and has spent his life advocating for fairness and civil rights.

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When the Business Press presented him with a Special Recognition Award at the newspaper’s Power Attorneys event in 2015, the brief but incisive speech he gave that night included some words that all of us should remember and live by:

“Our Constitution talks about liberty and justice and freedom for all. It is an evolutionary process because it has been expanded – originally it did not extend to all. Now it has evolved to the point where it extends to all and we have been advocates for equal opportunity for education and for progress for all people without regard to sex, race, ethnicity or … socio-economic level.

“And I believe it is the duty of every individual to respect every other individual without regard to age, sex, race or socio-economic level. I believe that to be what I call civil responsibility. I hope all of us carry … civil responsibility in our private lives, in our homes and workplace and those of us who are public officials will carry that into public policy for the general welfare of the total population.”

Judge Davis has had a long and distinguished legal career and continues to practice law with Johnson, Vaughn & Heiskell.

Just seeing Robert Hughes and Clifford Davis on the same program will be a treat. Get yourself a seat at the dinner and hear for yourselves about the incredible achievements of these two men.

The dinner raises money to support all the programs of the Multicultural Alliance, a Tarrant County institution since 1927. It was once called the National Conference of Christians and Jews and I was fortunate enough to serve on its board at one time.

I know its commitment and loyalty and strength. When I was publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, I became the target of hate from some white supremacists and anti-Semites because of some columns I wrote. They threatened me and, in fact, took the time to describe how much they knew about one of my children who lived and worked out of town. On one occasion, one of the group brazenly came to my office to threaten me in person.

Folks at the conference came to my defense and let the world know that I was not standing alone in Fort Worth. The organization let the haters know that I had supporters just as committed to racial and religious equality as they were to the business of hate.

Over the years the organization changed its name and expanded its programs to celebrate diversity at all levels, not just in the areas of race and religion.

The group runs too many programs to mention. But, if you’re not familiar with this outstanding organization, you can find out more on the web and through social media.

Whatever you do, be sure to attend the dinner and hear about two great local men and the vital programs of the Multicultural Alliance.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at