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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Richard Connor: Cornelia “Corky” Friedman leaves a legacy of leadership

As Fort Worth continues its skyrocketing growth and as exciting as it is to be part of the growth, it is also a blessing to have known the city’s past – at least the past I know.

We lost part of that bountiful past June 24 with the passing of Cornelia “Corky” Friedman, who died at 89.

I recall her as a warm and inviting person to those such as myself who came to Fort Worth to live and run businesses. I came in 1986 as publisher of the Star-Telegram. She was quick of wit and quick to make you feel welcome.

Corky Friedman was also a builder in this community and a woman from a time when men – husbands – were the out-front folks and perceived to be leading the charge. In fact, she was never far behind, if at all. Her late husband, Bayard H. Friedman, was a lawyer, a banker, and Fort Worth’s youngest mayor at 36. He was chairman of the TCU Board of Trustees, and the school’s tennis center bears his name. Scholarships and other honors also carry his name. His sartorial statement was enigmatic: a bow tie in a town known for its cowboy culture. He cut his own wide swath, his way.

So did Corky.

But while Bayard was deftly helping build our city with quiet but forceful leadership here is what Corky was doing (as documented in her obituary in the Star-Telegram):

“President of the Junior League, founding member of the Streams and Valleys project, President and Board Member of the Fort Worth Symphony, Chairman of the DFW Airport Opening Ceremonies, Van Cliburn Competition Board Member, Advisory Council of the School of Fine Arts University of Texas and TCU, Board Member of the Texas Sesquicentennial Celebration, Board Member of the Bass Hall, and most recently, she was Chairman of the Capital Campaign for the Food Bank of Fort Worth at 89 years of age.”

All this while also being a mother to four children.

She sought neither headlines nor glory. She was just too busy “doing good” for Fort Worth and finding time to be a champion bridge player.

It’s easy to lapse into melancholy about what we have lost as a city moves ahead – to mourn the good old days and roll our eyes at the peculiarities of those new to the scene, particularly the millennials who often seem both out-of-touch and self-absorbed.

In reality, though, in our business and with our reporting we are able to see the multitude of young professionals developing their business careers, raising families and making great contributions to the civic life of Fort Worth. Often, we get to record their accomplishments.

More precisely, we now have three co-workers who are either still at TCU or have just graduated. The Friedmans, both Corky and Bayard, were die-hard TCU supporters and if they could see the work ethic and substance of these young people we are working with they would surely smile with pride.

One of the ways a community prepares for the future is to take care of business in the present. Bayard Friedman is credited with being a driving force in elevating the city’s appreciation for the importance of education.

Here’s a characteristic quote attributed to him: “[My vision is] to challenge our students and educators to continuously strive to raise the level of education and excellence of those in positions of serving our children and communities, and to acknowledge students doing good.”

Not long ago, Ernie Horn stopped by our office. He has for years been executive director of Score a Goal in the Classroom, a multi-level program to help encourage reading and life skills in area schools. The program, he said, has given out almost 300,000 books to students over the years.

He credits Bayard’s inspiration for the program, one designed to raise that “level of education and excellence.” It would be naïve to imagine that Corky, as Bayard’s partner, did not also fully embrace the notion of seeking change and progress in our community through education.

When generations pass on we actually do not lose, especially when we look at the accomplishments of these people. We see legacies worth emulating by those they helped through formal education in our schools and through the lessons taught by the example of their lives.

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

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Richard Connor
Richard Connor is the owner and CEO/Publisher of DRC Media, the parent company of the Fort Worth Business Press. he also owns newspapers in Virginia. Mr. Connor held a number of corporate media executive positions before founding his own company. He is an award-winning columnist and at one time wrote a weekly column on national politics for CQ Politics, the online version of Washington, D.C.-based Congressional Quarterly.

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