Archaeology is an exciting topic. There’s the digging, the unearthing of evidence, and the exercise of imagination in reconstructing life on Earth hundreds and thousands of years ago, often based on fragmentary information. Currently there’s a sort of synchronicity occurring around the topic among the Dallas’ academic, cultural, and scientific institutions.
At the beginning of the year, the Nasher Sculpture Center mounted an exhibition titled “First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone.” The show was comprised of stone artifacts, some dating back more than 2 million years. Director Jeremy Strick said public response to the show was marked by “high visitation, significant repeat visitation, as well as an unusually high number of visitors who had traveled to Dallas expressly to see the exhibition.” One feature of the show that proved especially important, he said, was the ability of visitors to handle several of the objects. “Comments from visitors reflected both a fascination with the objects presented and ideas broached by the show, and an appreciation for the installation.”
Earlier this month, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science reopened the Being Human Hall. It had been one of the original halls that debuted when the museum opened in late 2012. In an effort to keep content “fresh and relevant,” the hall has undergone a complete transformation, said spokesperson Becky Mayad. “The content developed in the exhibit tells a broad human origins story from millions of years ago through present day.” When asked if the Being Human Hall might have room for local archaeology, Mayad responded: “While the focus is on paleoanthropology, we do see the Human Journey more broadly and may address more archaeological and anthropological topics as our programming develops.” For now, museum-goers can view casts of fossil skulls, hands, and feet of some of the earliest human ancestors. In addition, there are a dozen authentic stone tool artifacts on display, some more than 1 million years old.
On May 26, the Perot is collaborating with the Nasher in hosting a “Handaxe Symposium.” According to the press release, special guest speaker Hilary Duke will discuss “the tools of our human ancestors,” focusing “specifically on how handaxes were made and used, and how studying these tools gives archaeologists a window into the social lives of our human ancestors.”
The show at the Nasher and the Perot’s reinvented Being Human Hall represent projects international in scope at top-tier, donor-supported museums. But no less impressive are the efforts underway at SMU to save local archaeology. There’s a flurry of activity surrounding SMU’s Archaeology Research Collections (ARC), though developments haven’t yet hit the press release stage. What follows is a preview of things to come.
Since the publication of my story on local archaeology in the December issue of D Magazine, “Where Dallas’ Oldest History Goes to Die,” momentum has been building and projects launched due in large part to the efforts of Dr. Sunday Eiselt and her highly motivated students. The energy and esprit de corps of SMU’s archaeology department has always been strong. The story, in some ways, is a bridging document that has reignited passions and prompted people to reconnect.
One person who has reconnected is Christy Bednar. She was married to Fred Wendorf at the time of his death and worked on excavations with him in Egypt. Since the beginning of the year, she’s been logging hours on campus in the archaeology lab. Eiselt said the benefits of having Bednar there are numerous. “In addition to being an incredible role model, she provides the authenticity and sincerity to our work that I cannot replicate for my students because she actually experienced this history, loved Fred, and she brings all of this to our work,” Eiselt says.
Outside the lab, students have been busy digitalizing archaeological records. For readers who’ve searched in vain for online issues of the publication of the Dallas Archaeological Society, The Record, search no more. For the last few months, SMU Digital Collections Librarian Cindy Boeke has been teaching students how to use scanning equipment to create archive-quality documents. According to Boeke: “We will begin uploading digitized issues of Dallas Archaeology Society’s The Record in August, and they will be freely accessible on the SMU Libraries Digital Collections website. We will continue adding issues on an incremental basis.”
Other developments were showcased at two on-campus events on May 7. The first event was a talk by Wilson “Dub” Crook on Clovis culture along the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, with an emphasis on Dallas County. The room in Heroy Hall was packed with students, archaeologists, and members of the general public eager to hear him discuss “The Role of the Upper Trinity Watershed in the Peopling of the Americas.” (Crook’s name may sound familiar; he is the person mentioned in the December article who grew up excavating sites with his father and R. King Harris.) At the second event of the day, an invitation-only gathering of alumni and friends of SMU archaeology, Crook made a surprise donation to ARC of $5,000.
The second event of the day took place in the atrium of Dallas Hall. Eiselt’s students—Rachel Burger, Bonnie Etter, Barrett Stout, Lauren King, Jordan Hardin, and Ryan Karakani—had set up discreet exhibitions that included artifacts, photos, text, and handouts. One exhibit set off in a nearby conference room demonstrated 3D scanning and first steps in creating online exhibitions of SMU-held artifacts. The students were also present to knowledgeably discuss each exhibit with attendees.
Eiselt said the exhibits are “what we are calling our Legacy Projects, collections from significant sites that are associated with important events, people, or places that were excavated at or around the time of the founding of our department in the 1960s.” The students, she said, chose their favorite collection from ARC storage and spent the semester on research as well as the development of displays capable of telling a more complete story for each.
The students succeeded; though exhibits were displayed in trays rather than vitrines, each was museum-quality. The group of about 70 attendees spent time viewing each one, and in some cases, handling actual artifacts. Near the conclusion of the event, Eiselt made an announcement. ARC, under her management, is headed to new heights: she publicly announced her intent for becoming a state-approved facility in the next one to five years, meaning SMU could accept local archaeology. It also means that to meet the standards for becoming such a facility, ARC needs to make substantial upgrades to its storage areas. Under her leadership, there have been great strides in stabilizing derelict shelving and collapsing boxes as well as creating usable indexes. And her students have proven they have the right stuff for organizing and preparing exhibits ready for off-campus display in partnership with other facilities.
Eiselt has the vision, human resources, and momentum to achieve her goal, but ARC needs financial help. If SMU given the nod by the Texas Historical Commission as an approved facility, she says, all types of grants and funding would be available that are currently off-limits. While it may not be fully visible yet, she is ready to take on stewardship of Dallas’ oldest history.
Tucked into the Summer 2018 issue of Popular Science, which came out this month, is a feature on uterus transplants and the clinical trial at Baylor University Medical Center—which produced the first two U.S. babies born to women who received the transplant. Those occurred in November and February, respectively. A few points that stuck out to me from the story, which was written by freelancer Erin Biba: • Baylor Scott & White Health transplant surgeon Giuliano Testa estimates the procedures cost about $250,000, “putting the operations beyond the reach of any but the most affluent,” as Biba writes. • Since the hospital… Full Story
Children’s Health has announced another eight changes to executive positions. The announcements follow a previous series of changes to the titles and job scopes of administrators, which I covered in early May. Let’s get to the newest set: Kim Besse New Title: EVP, Chief Human Resources Officer Previous Title: SVP over human resources and the learning institute What the new job entails: “She is responsible for recruitment and staffing, benefits, compensation, employee relations and learning and development,” Children’s Health says. Pete Perialas New Title: EVP, Chief Strategy Officer Previous Title: SVP, Chief Strategy Officer What the new job entails: “He… Full Story
The 2018 Healthcare Dealmakers Conference took place this week at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas, and a healthcare startup went home a little richer. Insight Optics, which has a technology that allows primary care providers to take retinal videos to send off to eye-care specialists, won the Health Wildcatters pitch competition, as Dallas Innovates reports. Eleven startups were in the running. As the winner, Insight Optics takes home $14,000 in cash and in-kind services. Read more on the three-year-old startup, which is “co-located” in Dallas and Atlanta, at Dallas Innovates.
Got to hand it to the Commit Partnership, the local education nonprofit, for having at least the second best podcast in town. The latest episode of the Miseducation of Dallas County, published Thursday on the 64th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that kicked off the desegregation of public schools, is especially strong, and especially timely as the city is trying more often lately to reckon with the ugly and persistent reality of segregation.
Hosted by Josh Kumler, of Bar Politics fame, the podcast explores how Brown v. Board of Education played out in Dallas, and leads us into the present day, closing with an interview with Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. Its premise, that federally mandated desegregation has failed to create integrated schools, holds up, and it’s worth exploring why.
The podcast features clips from a 1961 “pseudo-documentary” produced by the Dallas Citizens Council and aired the night before desegregated classes began, ostensibly to help what was once the most racist city in America integrate peacefully. But, as Kumler puts it,
…peaceful integration was never really the intention of this massive public relations campaign. It was, instead, the perception of peaceful integration, conveyed through carefully monitored newspaper editorials, overwhelming police presence, and, of course, a movie, meant to reassure an anxious city that:
“The changing face of Dallas will remain unscarred.”
All this, because the next morning, white elementary students at eight select schools would be joined by eighteen African Americans, all of whom were six years old.
The film, “Dallas at the Crossroads,” is striking in that it avoids any talk of “integration,” or the city’s moral duty to provide opportunity for all its residents. The Dallas businessmen who produced it, being Dallas businessmen, only urge the protection of private property, a stiff upper lip, and a little decorum to avoid the violence that accompanied desegregation in places like New Orleans and Little Rock. Violence is bad for business.
The new patient tower at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, a nine-story behemoth that’s part of the largest Texas Health Resources construction project in the system’s history, will be named the Jane & John Justin Patient Surgical Tower. That comes after the Jane & John Justin Foundation made a $10 million donation toward the expansion. John Justin is the man behind the Fort Worth-based Justin Boot Company. The new surgical tower will include 144 beds, 15 surgical suites, and new pre-operative and post-operative areas. “We are extremely humbled by this gift and grateful to the Justin Foundation for… Full Story
$1.8 Billion LBJ East Improvements Back on the Table. The Texas Transportation Commission, which oversees the Texas Department of Transportation, will send 10.8 miles of I-635 out for bids on May 24. The project would entail full reconstruction and adding one general lane each way, as well as other improvements. Construction could start by late 2019 and would likely be completed in 2024.
Former Richardson Mayor Indicted on Federal Conspiracy Charges. Former mayor Laura Jordan, along with a land developer she married, have been indicted on seven counts, including conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. She had apparently voted for zoning changes that would allow her now-husband to build a development that most citizens opposed. In exchange, the developer paid her multiple sums. The FBI is investigating. They could each get up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Hoax Caller Sends Police to Home of Arlington Family. A call about a fake shooting to 911 led to 15 cop cars going to the house of a family in Arlington. When the officers ordered everyone outside, they realized no one had been shot and that the call was fake. The family said that earlier they had gotten a call from someone impersonating an IRS employee, who threatened to send the police if they didn’t give the caller money. Investigators are searching for the caller.
A 50-year-old Richardson man was convicted for his role in a scheme in which several co-conspirators impersonated Cerner Corp. employees to bilk millions of dollars from victims including the Dallas Medical Center, which paid more than $1 million for a new MRI system that never came. Suresh Mitta, who also went by Suresh Reddy or Mitta Suresh, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Albert Davis, 57 and also of Richardson, pled guilty to taking the lead role in a separate case and was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison a year ago. Davis… Full Story
The Moody Foundation has contributed a lead gift toward efforts to create a new breast health center at Parkland health and Hospital System. The foundation added $15 million to the pot, bringing Parkland to about $30 million of its $40 million goal. The center will be named the Moody Breast Health Center at Parkland. Parkland treats about 20 percent of the breast cancer cases in Dallas County, and the cases tend to involve patients that are younger and diagnosed at later stages of the cancer. The hospital provides breast health services for 30,000 people, diagnosing and treating 400 breast cancer… Full Story
Sabre Corp. CEO Sean Menke has a vision to create a seamless travel experience in which all transactions, preferences, and changes are connected, automatic, and seamless. And several C-suite executives who he recently hired have already started making Menke’s vision a reality.
Menke believes Sabre should be the pioneer that creates a connected platform for all travel-related transactions. The idea is to meet the specific needs—including everything related to bookings of flights, car rentals, hotel accommodations, etc.—of every trip in one place. It also means providing the opportunity to have all bookings related to the same trip automatically update if, say, a flight were to change. The platform aims to eventually aid all service providers and is expected to be like an app store for the travel industry—allowing developers to build various travel applications for the platform.
“From where I sit, there’s no other company that has the position vision and commitment to be this platform,” Menke told investors earlier this year during Sabre’s investor day.
Sabre’s chief information officer and chief technology—both of whom have been on the team for less than a year—recently dug into the vision to provide updates on the progress of the company’s transformation. The company expects to spend $500 million on tech infrastructure and $500 million in labor this year, with total tech costs projected to increase compound annual growth rates by 3 to 4 percent. Sabre is leaning on open-source libraries to help accelerate the work that needs to be done, using code that already exists to propel new ideas.
So far, Sabre has already begun the work for automatic reaccommodations for airlines, said CTO Vish Saoji. So if the weather changes or a flight is cancelled, the passenger is automatically booked on the next available flight and notified of the change.
It’s also working on what Saoji calls “dynamic offers,” or personalized offers based on the traveler’s preferences. After all, the company collects data from 20 billion queries and transactions a month. With predictive analytics, the team expects to be able to help forecast customers’ needs and preferences with its new offers. “We are hoping that that will be in products this year,” Saoji said.
Meanwhile, CIO Joe DiFonzo said the back-end work is also well underway, with Sabre building out the infrastructure and moving toward a cloud-based system. It’s also working to distribute functionality beyond the U.S., DiFonzo said.
With the new capabilities, Sabre execs expect to provide a lower-cost platform stacked with more capabilities. That was Menke’s vision when he joined the company, and as a result, it caused a shakeup in the executive team. Those who did not sign on to the new vision found opportunities elsewhere. Meanwhile, the company attracted executives like DiFonzo, the company’s first-ever CIO; and Saoji, both of whom were excited to be a part of the evolution of the company.
Saoji and DiFonzo both come equipped with experience in technologic transformations like the one Sabre is currently going through. Soaji has spent the last 25 years primarily in software technology companies, while DiFonzo has spent the last 28 years in the telecom industry.
“When this opportunity came, I was really excited about just the sheer … opportunity to build and reimagine not just the Sabre platform, but … the future of travel,” Soaji said.
“One of the key attributes that Vish and I both bring to our jobs is this notion of, ‘Hey, we’ve done this before,’” DiFonzo said. “It’s difficult but it’s not impossible. We know the traps and the pitfalls, and we know what to avoid.”
The other thing the two have in common, they said, is their aggressiveness in the timeline in converting Sabre’s mainframe system to a cloud-based open system in a distributed network. “We’ve got a mission, we’ve got a plan, we’re going to be doing this over the next few years,” DiFonzo said. “We’ve figured out enough at this point to start moving, and we will work out more of the details as we work out the plan. But we’re already making good progress.”
With Q1 earnings time having come and gone, Modern Healthcare on Monday took a look at a trend that emerged across first-quarter reports from the largest for-profit hospital systems: They’re making more money per patient. And among them, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. made the largest leap by that metric, growing revenue per admission by 4.1 percent during the first quarter of 2018. Tenet leadership, as MH points out, attributed that to higher acuity, particularly within its expanding sectors of cardiovascular and trauma. It says the trend is sustainable. Interestingly, the No. 2 system by growth in revenue per admission also… Full Story
Check the wrists of those around you, and you’ll find biosensor tracking devices gathering data on sleep patterns and step counts. Patient-generated health data (PGHD) via wearables is off the charts. Additionally, tech accessories continue to be designed to integrate with iOS and other major operating systems to expand the biotracking capabilities of our wearables, including glucose meters, hearing aids, blood pressure monitors, heart rate monitors, EKGs and health thermometers. Another area that data is quickly infiltrating, one that many don’t take into account: Healthcare architecture. It’s Not the Data, It’s What You Do with It Healthcare, indeed, has the… Full Story
United Healthcare North Texas has a new vice president of network management, who came over after serving in various high-up roles at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. JJ White is the new hire. She did her undergrad at the University of North Texas. At BCBSTX, White was most recently a divisional vice president for network innovation & strategy, and she served as chief of staff prior to that. She’d been with Blue Cross in one capacity or another since the mid-1990s. White started at UnitedHealthcare in April.
Worth pointing this one out, in case you missed it in the Dallas Morning News on Thursday morning: Federal agents on Wednesday, the paper reports, raided Medoc Health Services, a company that says on its website that it does “healthcare management services” and employs more than 200 people across the country. The raid occurred at Medoc’s Dallas headquarters near Lyndon B Johnson Fwy and Webb Chapel Road. As the DMN dug up, Medoc has ties to several other companies in the building via Kevin Kuykendall and Mark Schneider. Kuykendall serves as Medoc’s CEO and Schneider founded the firm, according to their… Full Story
At a Monday evening fundraiser for Alzheimer’s research at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, nearly 300 people got a high-level briefing on the irreversible brain disease from some of the nation’s leading researchers in the field. The event for the Triumph Over Alzheimer’s group—founded in 2017 by Leslie Ann Crozier, whose mother had been diagnosed with the disease three years earlier—included dinner, an auction, and a special symposium titled “Research ‘Rock Stars’ Take on the Myths and Realities of Alzheimer’s.” Participating in the symposium were Dr. Roger Rosenberg, director of the NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Center of UT Southwestern… Full Story
A letter found on campus at UT Southwestern Medical Center forced an evacuation of a non-clinical building housing academic offices on Monday morning. The letter threatened an active shooting, a UT Southwestern spokesperson said. UT Southwestern first notified the public of the event at about 11:30 a.m., and a spokesperson said that campus operations were returned to normal by 1 p.m. The evacuated building is part of the south campus. Campus police are continuing to investigate and will “maintain a heightened security presence and active patrol across campus,” the spokesperson said. Police are concealing the location and contents of the letter… Full Story
I missed this from earlier in the month, but Healthgrades put out its annual lists of hospitals that provide the highest level of safety and best patient experience. There are a good number of North Texas hospitals on each. Healthgrades, an online resource that helps place patients with providers, looks at 13 patient safety indicators within Medicare data to compile its safety list, which it says represents the top 10 percent of all short-term acute care hospitals reporting the data. The outstanding patient experience list represents the top 15 percent for patient experience from about 3,500 hospitals that have submitted… Full Story
The 50-year-old man found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud earlier this week has died in custody, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri confirmed on Friday. Suresh Mitta, of Richardson, had been convicted by a federal jury for his role in a scheme in which he and several other co-conspirators bilked millions of dollars from healthcare companies, including more than $1 million from the Dallas Medical Center. To trick Dallas Medical Center into wiring money for an MRI machine, the group posed as employees of Kansas City-based Cerner Corp. in emails and in person. (More… Full Story
When Sam Wilson acquired the leasehold rights to the old lounge at the corner of Knox and Travis streets on the outskirts of Highland Park in 1967, he took on the project as a lark. He knew nothing about the bar business, but he and his wife, Vi, loved food and drink and entertaining people. They decided to give it a whirl, and what a madcap adventure it turned out to be.
Wilson died at age 83 on April 18. A few weeks prior, he reflected on the decade in the early seventies that he owned the Knox Street Pub (not to be confused with another bar operating under the same name today in a different location). This was the period it became a magnet for artists, writers, actors, musicians, politicians, hippies, college students, and everyday philosophers—folks for which the city of Dallas offered few respites.
In those days, Dallas looked little like it does today in either physical appearance or social structure. Liberal thought tended to be drowned out by conservative ideology, and white culture overshadowed those of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. Far fewer people lived here, and it grew mostly by transplants arriving from smaller areas of Texas and surrounding states. Most natives thought of Dallas as a big hometown, not a sprawling urban center.
Few settings in Dallas provided a comfortable atmosphere for the expression of new ideas and opposing views. Those few people who came from the Northeast and other regions found a home at the Pub. Wilson’s open-minded philosophy set the stage for his bar to become a rare venue for local residents who embraced progressive political and philosophical thought. There seemed to be a place for everyone at the Pub.
Reporters approached Wilson over the years about sharing his thoughts on the iconic bar, but he demurred for decades. “I just didn’t want to look back,” Wilson said, weeks before his passing. “I enjoyed having been there and doing it, but I don’t talk about it much.” He finally agreed in his last years to sit down and talk about how it all started as a favor to a friend.
It started when the Highland Park couple saw a for-sale sign on an old bar housed in an 1900s-era red brick building at Knox and McKinney streets. For $2,500, they bought the business from Kenneth Porter, the second husband of Marina Oswald whose first husband, Lee Harvey Oswald, assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Sam redecorated the old bar and christened it the Knox Street Pub.
When the Pub opened, the neighborhood was full of humble World War II-era bungalows that housed working class people. The businesses on Know Street catered to their needs and those of neighboring Highland Park. They included a movie theater (that later showed X-rated movies before being torn down), café, tailor, dry cleaner, drug store, hardware store, and the like.
Wilson opened the Pub from 10 a.m. to midnight daily, serving stew, chili, sandwiches, coffee, iced tea, beer, and wine. Mrs. Mack, an elderly woman who lived in one of the small houses near the Pub, was the first customer to walk in the door. She became a regular, just like many other residents of the neighborhood: employees of the working-class merchants on Knox Street, students from Southern Methodist University.
Mrs. Mack became one of Wilson’s favorite customers, and her friends tagged along with her. She loved to share her opinions about the other customers, and she would give them names. She called a Dallas Times Herald reporter “Newspaper Man.” A female customer she didn’t like much was labeled “Hammer Woman,” although no one ever quite knew why.
Down the street, another now-closed bar called the Quiet Man attracted a large crowd, and the partiers began flowing back and forth between the two. Before long, the Pub became the destination in Dallas for young people. Getting in the front door sometimes was a challenge. Patrons stood at the bar, they sat at the tables and booths, they gathered in a pool room in the back as the jukebox blared Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35″ (“everybody must get stoned.”) Sometimes, revelers jumped up on top of an old stand-up piano in the middle of the bar and danced.
Wilson, who previously worked for an insurance company, suddenly realized a cultural and commercial success. “At first, I was overwhelmed with the way it happened,” Wilson said. “It just happened overnight. At first it was local people. When the hippies started coming, they were people from all over the United States. Most of them were from California.” Some visiting patrons said they heard about the Pub while backpacking in Europe.
The Pub also became a haunt of LGBT people at a time when most of them remained in the closet or only frequented small dark bars that catered exclusively to them. As a manager at Sanger Harris, Vi Wilson knew several gay people, and they flocked to the Pub with friends. “We knew gay people, and we didn’t have a prejudice,” she said. “To our knowledge, we didn’t have friends who had a prejudice. It wasn’t an issue. They were either nice people, or they weren’t.”
The Pub also broke with tradition as regards to the racial makeup of the customers. Most bars and restaurants north of the Trinity River tended to be all white, except for the employees. At the Pub a black woman named Laurice became a regular, appearing almost nightly. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price also visited the Pub in his younger days.
Everyone got along well at the Pub. The Wilsons’ two young daughters, Kelli and Allison, went with their mother to eat occasionally, and other patrons took their children—which included the parents of D Magazine Editor Tim Rogers—with them to play pool in the back room. “We were protective parents,” Vi Wilson said. “I don’t ever remember them being exposed to a foul word or anything else they shouldn’t have. There was never ever a problem.”
Vi Wilson noted that patrons engaged in as much talking as they did drinking, and no subjects seemed off limits. “It was a place where no matter what your philosophy you could chit chat about it, and they didn’t quarrel about it,” she said.
At one point in the early 1970s, bikers began showing up at the Pub, but they never created any real trouble. One night, a biker drove his motorcycle in the front door. “Sam stood with his back hands in his pockets, and he didn’t raise his voice,” Vi Wilson said. “He just said you can’t do that.” The biker left. The bikers returned, but they behaved.
In the early 1970s the crowd at the Pub ebbed, an event that Wilson attributed to all of the hippies heading to Colorado. “It changed as suddenly as it began,” Wilson said. He decided to close down the Pub for a year to redecorate and reinvent it. When it reopened, Wilson transformed it into a fashionable spot with fine art, mirrors, and hanging plants. He started serving mixed drinks. It again became a destination, attracting mostly young professionals. “It became an entirely different place and business,” Wilson said.
Over the years the Pub so impressed entrepreneurs that they borrowed concepts from Wilson for their own endeavors. Black Eyed Pea founders Gene Street and Phil Cobb met at the Pub to lay out their plans for launching a restaurant empire. Former World Championship Tennis President and British star player Michael Davies decided while visiting the Pub to open a singles bar called Lillie Langtry’s on Upper Greenville Avenue with his business partners.
Other notable patrons of the Pub over the years included former Texas State Sen. Joe Russell and artist Frank Tolbert Jr. Former Gov. Ann Richards had drinks there when she lived in the Dallas area. Meat on the Hoof author Gary Shaw frequented it. Countless young people who would later become big shots in Dallas walked through the door of the Pub.
Wilson said he tired of running the Pub in 1976 after it became “just work,” and he decided to pursue his passions for art, antiques, and literature. The Wilsons sold the Pub to one of Vi’s former business associates, Joe Adams, who successfully ran it until developers bought the building and refused to renew his lease. Adams, who became popular in his own right, threw one last party in 1993 to mark its closing, and at the end of the night he announced the final last call. Another bar later opened under the name of Knox Street Pub in a different location, but it shared nothing but the name of the venerable establishment Wilson created.
The Wilsons went on to buy and renovate an old hotel in Mineola, which they turned into a boutique restaurant known as the Wilson House. It operated only on weekends. Sam wound up working a few years for the Dallas Public Library during the 1990s. Later, they opened an antiques store in Preston Center and eventually an import company operating out of the Dallas World Trade Center. Wilson spent his last years painting and collecting books, many of them first editions.
After he turned over the keys to the Pub to Adams, Wilson rarely, if ever, returned to visit it. He left the Pub behind to pursue other interests, but a part of him remained there in the memories of the patrons. Outgoing, friendly, kind, sophisticated, and probably brilliant, Wilson made the perfect host for a bar patron seeking more than a buzz.
And until the last days it was open, people would often ask if anyone had seen or heard anything about Sam.
Tenet Healthcare Corp. has added a chief information officer and a chief marketing officer. The Dallas-based company brought on Paola Arbour as senior vice president and CIO. Arbour replaces Paul Browne, who took a job at Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System earlier this year. Tenet also added Marie Quintana as SVP and CMO. She’s the company’s first enterprise-wide CMO, although the company has had CMOs at the business unit level, according to a spokesperson. Both will be direct reports to CEO Ron Rittenmeyer. Arbour joins Tenet from ProV International, which does software development and managed services. She ran the ServiceNow… Full Story
The once renowned heart transplant program at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center in Houston has seen its performance slip in recent years, to the detriment of its patients, the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica report. The publications teamed up on a deep dive into the center’s sinking survival metrics. The nut ‘graph: But in recent years, the famed program has performed an outsized number of transplants resulting in deaths or unusual complications, has lost several top physicians and has scaled back its ambition for treating high-risk patients, all the while marketing itself based on its storied past, an investigation by the… Full Story
Texas is one of six states to say Wednesday that it’s suing drug-making giant Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid crisis. Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office is joining five other AGs, who also announced intentions Wednesday to go after the OxyContin-maker with similar lawsuits. Paxton’s office alleges that the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act for using deceptive marketing tactics while it knew the dangers of opioid addiction. “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis… Full Story
Our own Eric Celeste has written about the Mike Miles-initiated ACE program in DISD, for “Accelerated Campus Excellence.” Here’s how it works (from 2016):
[T]he program [is] designed to provide a more equitable distribution of teachers. Two years ago, Dallas and Houston ISDs each had 43 failing schools, accounting for about 30,000 students in each district. Today, Houston has 40 schools with about 32,000 students still found by the state to be failing. Dallas, largely because of ACE, has reduced its number to 22 schools, with about 16,000 students. In those failing schools, third through eighth-grade students improved by double-digit percentages in 13 of 14 state measures in just one year (e.g., 35 percent in fifth-grade math and 33 percent in eighth-grade science).
How did DISD produce these astonishing gains in some of its most impoverished schools? By getting the best teachers in front of those kids. Which means it had to do two things: fund the ACE program (teachers were given $8,000 to $10,000 bonuses to move schools) and identify the best teachers. The Teacher Excellence Initiative in fact showed that, before ACE, students at magnet schools—the best students—were 3.5 times more likely to have a distinguished teacher than kids who needed them most, the students at failing schools.
Mike Miles, you’ll recall, was pretty much run out of town.
So how are things looking today? Let’s take just one example, Blanton Elementary in Pleasant Grove. The STAAR test results have just been released, and Blanton fifth-graders did very well this year. Again. Their scores are up 67 percentage points over where they were before ACE started, just three years ago, and 82 percent of them scored at the TEA’s “Meets” grade level standard. The Blanton student body is almost entirely students of color who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. For years, it was one of the lowest-performing schools in the entire state. Now look at em. Here’s the chart; it doesn’t yet include this year’s results.
How good are the Blanton fifth-graders at math? Like I said, 82 percent met the TEA’s grade level standard. Over in Highland Park ISD, that number for fifth-graders is 79 percent.
One more thing. The fifth-grade math teacher at Blanton? That would be Josue Tamarez Torres, DISD’s teacher of the year. Here’s Torres, in a video produced by the Commit Partnership, talking about how he does it.
UPDATE (5/17/18): A reader asked a very good question. Is Torres the only fifth-grade math teacher at Blanton? No, he’s not. My apologies for not also shining a light on the work of Jessie Helms, the other fifth-grade math teacher. She deserves credit, too, for her students’ progress.
In July 1997, Andrew Wayne Roark, then living in DeSoto, called 911 after his one-year-old daughter appeared to have trouble waking up. According to Roark, she had fallen from her bed. The girl was taken to Children’s Medical Center of Dallas. That same night, the police arrested Roark for intentionally injuring his daughter.
The allegations against Roark relied primarily on the science of “shaken baby syndrome,” a constellation of medical symptoms that were at one point popularly thought to be caused by violently shaking a baby, often to death. During the 1980s and 1990s, SBS became a favorite of prosecutors around the country, resulting in more than 3,000 known convictions.
By 2011, however, medical experts, including the one who coined the term “shaken baby syndrome,” agreed that the physical markers could not be read as indicators of abuse. In fact, over the past decade, many so-called “shaken baby cases” are now recognized as wrongful convictions based on faulty evidence.
Roark’s case seemed ripe for Dallas County’s Conviction Integrity Unit, an independent division of the District Attorney’s office that investigates claims of wrongful convictions. Unlike in other states, Dallas’ CIU cannot overturn a sentence on its own. It instead makes a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which makes the ultimate decision. Craig Watkins, the elected Dallas County District Attorney at the time, had agreed to recommended Roark’s case for reversal, but, under current DA Faith Johnson’s purview, that decision was delayed. Johnson decided to allow the appellate section to continue to challenge Roark’s fight for freedom; that was the end of the cooperation. (The Dallas County DA’s office said it could not comment on ongoing cases.)
Roark’s case represents the turmoil that the CIU has been under since its inception in 2007 by then-DA Watkins. While Dallas County boasts the first Conviction Integrity Unit in the country, the question remains: does the CIU serve its purpose or has it become a political football in a contested election? The division has taken on a new significance in the light of Johnson’s upcoming race against Democratic challenger John Creuzot. Both candidates appear poised to use the CIU’s success (or lack thereof) as a talking point to appeal to voters of all parties who don’t want to see the repeat horror of large numbers of wrongful convictions.
Both Creuzot and his primary opponent Elizabeth Frizell had promised to strengthen the CIU with more money and manpower. In an age where exonerations are the most visible form of criminal justice reform, the role of the unit is one of the few political positions that reds and blues can agree on. Wrongful convictions erode public trust in the system, making the job harder for everyone. But just how does an office whose main job is to put people away commit itself to freeing people? And how effective is Dallas County’s?
When the Dallas County CIU was formed, it was the first of its kind, a bold move by Texas’s first black district attorney. Between 2001 and 2007, DNA evidence proved 13 Texas prisoners were innocent of the crimes they were convicted for, the third most of any state. After winning the election, Watkins ordered the review of 400 more in Dallas County alone. In an interview, Watkins, who is now in private practice, said he worked to “develop credibility” as the first unit of a DA’s office whose purpose was to free people, not lock them up.
“I was told it was not the job of the DA to free criminals,” Watkins remembers.
The racial disparity of the criminal justice system generally didn’t escape Watkins, either. He took over a DA’s office that had once been led by Henry Wade, who famously said, “any prosecutor could convict a guilty man, but … it takes a real pro to convict an innocent man.” (And, indeed, he likely had at least one innocent man executed.) Watkins’ changes were an upheaval and an acknowledgement that, perhaps, the time had come for Dallas to reckon with its racist and punitive legacy. (“Race is a big deal,” Watkins says today.)
Watkins was praised across the country for introducing a novel form of defense. Embedded within the prosecutor’s office, the CIU operated independently and used DNA testing to free the wrongly convicted. He was featured in a 60 Minutes episode and in the New York Times. He appeared on the cover of D Magazine. Watkins forged a relationship with the Innocence Project of Texas to hunt for cases that were ripe for a second look, and the first head of the CIU, Mike Ware, a Fort Worth lawyer, is now the executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas. Under Watkins’ tenure, more than 30 people were exonerated.
Watkins’s CIU even began testing DNA where available in cases where the defendant hadn’t even claimed a wrongful conviction, resulting in at least one exoneration. Watkins’ commitment to freeing the wrongly convicted was evident from the first day he took office in January 2007. Watkins appeared at the hearing for Andrew Gossett, who was exonerated as a result of a DNA test. In a first for a prosecutor, Watkins apologized.
But after Watkins lost his reelection bid in 2015, losing to Republican Susan Hawk after a series of controversies involving misspent forfeiture funds, there were no exonerations. (The Exoneration Registry includes some exonerations that were finalized after Watkins left office.) Watkins says today that he has “three bankers’ boxes” of letters from incarcerated people who would like the Dallas CIU to look at their cases. He said he informed Hawk and Johnson, but no one ever came to pick the documents up. Johnson’s office acknowledged that “the CIU has received several letters from Mr. Watkins requesting review of some cases by the CIU. We have been responsive in those cases by acknowledging receipt. We have not concluded anything from those reviews yet.” Through a spokesperson the office denied knowledge of more material. (Representatives from Hawk’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)
Today, more than a decade after Watkins took office, CIUs are almost an institution in any large prosecutor’s office that calls itself progressive. There are at least 33 across the country, although about half of them have not freed a single person. In a report last month, the National Registry of Exonerations—the gold standard of exoneration data—credited CIUs and other “professional exonerators” (like Innocence Projects) for over half the 139 exonerations in 2017.
The Dallas County CIU now considers both DNA and non-DNA cases. The problem with Dallas County’s CIU has generally been the politics of the county itself. First, there was the negative press generated out of Watkins’ office for issues extraneous to the work itself. (A federal audit in 2015 called for the DA’s office to return $112,000 in forfeiture funds that were not correctly recorded. Most of this, according to The Dallas Morning News, went to paying bar dues, although Watkins also used money to to repair a county-owned car that he wrecked in addition to a monetary settlement that barred the other driver from speaking to the media.)
While the CIU was at its most effective then, it was difficult for the project – then brand new – to keep its momentum.
Then came Susan Hawk, who hired Patricia Cummings. Cummings now runs the CIU for the newly-elected reformer district attorney in Philadelphia. In the ensuing chaos of an office where Hawk was largely absent, the CIU was unable to accomplish much of anything. Without the strong arm of a district attorney committed to freeing the innocent, it was too easy for the appellate division of the DA office—the section that continues to prosecute crimes after conviction is achieved—to argue against giving some cases another look.
However, new reforms to Texas law now allow defendants to appeal their cases should new scientific evidence arise. The county also has a DA in Faith Johnson who has attested to her resolve to pursue exonerations. But, since she was only appointed last year, there hasn’t been enough time to see the results of her vision of the CIU.
Richard Miles, who was exonerated in 2009 for a shooting he did not commit, understands the importance of CIUs and is skeptical that prosecutors are willing to put their efforts behind their rhetoric. He was the first non-DNA exoneration by Watkins’ office. He says that the team of CIU lawyers led by Mike Ware worked “hand-in-hand” with the nonprofit Centurion Ministries (an organization that investigates claims of wrongful conviction) to reinvestigate his case and push through his exoneration. He argues that the “CIU hasn’t done anything since Watkins was relieved from office.”
“Dallas should not get a DA who doesn’t acknowledge exonerations … That’s what the DA is supposed to do; he or she should embody justice,” Miles says. “We are moreso chess pieces in [the candidates’] political strategy.”
Too, candidates are touting expanding the unit’s duties. In prior public comments, Democratic candidate John Creuzot has said that he believes the CIU should expand its focus to include training attorneys and police to prevent wrongful convictions. (Watkins said that the CIU was already doing this under his administration.) Not all see it that way. The Conviction Integrity Unit, Miles argues, should be primarily involved with exonerating the innocent. Other duties, he thinks, should not be added before the backlog of exonerations are cleared.
“It should be the same thing that Watkins wanted it to be. To add anything more to it is to place weight on a brand new baby.”
Miles also believes that there are two reasons why exonerations seemingly vanished from the DA’s office. First, there’s the issue of pride. DAs don’t like to admit error. And second, Texas has a relatively generous compensation package for exonerees, which now guarantees $80,000 for each year exonerated plus a monthly annuity. It is widely regarded as the most generous compensation package in the country.
As the CIU became an issue in the Democratic primary, with both Creuzot and Elizabeth Frizell suggesting that the unit has not been as effective as it could be, Johnson defended her work. She noted the appointment of an additional attorney to the CIU in August of 2017, a move that brought the total staff to three full-time attorneys, one assistant, and one investigator.
The CIU chief reports directly to Johnson, which her office says is different from her predecessor.
“The CIU at the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office remains a leader in the field of Conviction Integrity,” Johnson said. “In fact, other DA Offices around the country continue to contact us looking for advice and ideas on how to model their CIUs using our mold and best practices.”
Johnson’s office also said that the CIU has reviewed the cases of 145 individuals since she took office in January 2017 under the direction of Cynthia Garza, who was formally appointed chief of the unit last July. Johnson’s office did not detail the results of the reviews, and it appears that a review could be anything from a full reinvestigation to a reading of the file.
One problem on which both Miles and Johnson’s office agree is that the process to exonerate a person takes longer than the original conviction. As a result, people wait years—often longer than their original sentence—for DNA to get tested or lost evidence to be located. Johnson’s office said in a statement that non-DNA cases “are very challenging cases requiring time-intensive investigations that are often slow-moving for a variety of reasons.”
Some of this delay is the result of the Texas process, which requires more than just a prosecutor’s say-so, although a DA’s blessing is an important step. There is at least one case, that of Timmy Duke, who was recommended for exoneration by Johnson’s office. Duke had pled guilty in 1992 to a robbery, but records showed that he was incarcerated at the time of the crime and, as a result, could not have committed it. His case is pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
But, there is some concern from groups and exonerees that the CIU doesn’t go far enough. There is a reason why CIUs are so powerful: they are run by district attorneys who have all of the information and can see where mistakes were made. Watkins added that the DA was “very powerful,” and asserted that DAs could make pretty much any decision they chose.
One high-profile case is Benjamin Spencer’s, whose conviction for an assault and robbery relied on shaky eye-witness testimony with no forensic evidence. Spencer has been in prison for more than three decades. Watkins admitted to The Atlantic that he refused Spencer’s case because there was no DNA.
“I’m not going to take a chance on that,” he told the reporter.
In 2008, a judge weighed the evidence and held that Spencer deserved a new trial on the grounds that he was likely innocent. He thought he would go home any day. But the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the judge’s recommendation, and Johnson’s office told The Atlantic last summer that, while the office stood behind the conviction, it would test DNA evidence were it to become available. (A spokesperson for Johnson’s office said it could not speak further about the case because it is pending, and that the comments Johnson made to The Atlantic were made last summer, with no knowledge of when the story would be published.)
Spencer’s case was particularly problematic. Many people believe he is innocent, including Miles, who knew him well in prison. (They are both clients of Centurion Ministries.) There is no forensic material to test, and most of the eyewitnesses have recanted or cannot remember. While some of this might change, Spencer currently seems more likely to serve out his entire sentence than he is to see a new trial.
Miles pointed out that there are other outstanding cases like Roark’s, where the CIU has promised to review the evidence, but has yet to make a move. Some appear to be moving forward, albeit slowly. One is Tyrone Day’s, who now works at Miles of Freedom. Day, whose case is one of the oldest in the CIU, was released on parole after 26 years of incarceration, but he has not yet been exonerated. He says his lawyers, Barry Scheck and Bryce Benjet of the Innocence Project, are in the process of hammering out details with the CIU attorneys, and, therefore, did not want to discuss the case. New DNA technology has allowed for alternative suspects to be identified and for Day to be ruled out.
As Miles points out, there is a question as to whether the measure of a CIU’s success should be the amount of cases it has reviewed or the people it has exonerated.
I asked Miles whether he or other exonerees had been asked to contribute to the CIU, and he said that while he’s met with the current DA, no formal plans have ever been made. The district attorney still holds the power in directing the strategy of the unit.
“Our stories have not been truly been valued,” he says. “We can train prosecutors. We have not been used as a resource.”
The Southwest Transplant Alliance snapped up a former Baylor University Medical Center Surgeon to serve on its organ procurement team. Dr. Tiffany Anthony will be Dallas-based STA’s associate medical director and an organ procurement surgeon. She specialized in liver and kidney transplants as a transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon for a decade at BUMC. She also directed the robotic donor nephrectomy program for living kidney donors and was involved in the landmark uterus transplant clinical trial. Anthony did medical school and her general surgery residency at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She has fellowships from Yale… Full Story
Medical City Healthcare and the UNT Health Science Center are partnering to create 500 residency positions, the two sides announced on Monday. The positions will help UNTHSC appease regulators over residency requirements as it seeks accreditation for its new medical school, a partnership with Texas Christian University. The residencies—and regulators’ requirements—address the physician shortage in Texas, a topic of increasing conversation in recent years. “As we continue to add more medical schools, there’s a need to grow more residency training slots in Texas,” says Dr. Michael Williams, UNTHSC’s president. The 500 resident positions will be developed over the next seven… Full Story
Dallas-based T-System has added Steve DeCosta as its chief financial officer. DeCosta comes over from Research Now, a digital data company, and will head the day-to-day financial operations as well as the financial and operating strategy for T-System and RevCycle+, its sister company. T-System is a healthcare IT company that specializes in emergency department documentation. “Steve brings T-System a wealth of experience and knowledge in all areas of finance and accounting, along with focused, financial discipline needed to help steer our growth,” said Tim Swango, EVP and chief operating officer at T-System, in a statement. “His background in publicly traded… Full Story
Medical City McKinney is adding beds and bolstering services with a $52 million expansion project aimed at adding behavioral health capacity at its main campus in McKinney. The hospital broke ground this week. A new rehab and behavioral health pavilion will include: 20 inpatient rehab rooms; 80 adult and geriatric behavioral health patient rooms; an outpatient behavioral health program; an outdoor healing garden; and design elements to include a focus on natural lighting, as well as an open floor plan in common areas. This is stage one of a multi-phase expansion to Medical City McKinney, which ties into Medical City… Full Story
You’ll recall that last month a historic house in the Cedars was moved to a new lot in the neighborhood, saved from the wrecking ball and set on a path toward a brighter, better preserved future. The two-story home was moved in four pieces, and is gradually being reassembled at the corner of Browder and Beaumont streets. It will be spruced up over the next year, good as old.
In the meantime, its new neighbors have been gathering on the street corner every now and then to watch as the blue house starts to take its old shape in a new place. Preservation brings people together. On Wednesday evening, workers craned most of the second story and plopped it on top. Here’s where we’re at as of Thursday morning:
Dallas ISD STAAR Test Scores Improve. Both reading and math scores went up a higher percentage than the state’s growth. DISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said as long as the state’s criteria stays the same, he foresees fewer than five schools getting a failing mark from the state later this year.
Irving Elementary Teacher Accused of “Unwanted” Contact with Students. The teacher at Lee Britain Elementary School has been removed from the school while the allegations are being investigated.
FBI Raids Dallas Healthcare Company. Yesterday, FBI agents raided Medoc Health Services in Northwest Dallas and filled a van with materials. The reason for the raid is unclear, but Medoc said they are cooperating with the investigation.
Cedar Hill Student Shoves Teacher, Curses at Him. A cellphone video captured the student losing his temper after his physics teacher, Bobby Soehnge, took away the kid’s phone during class. He knocked papers off Soehnge’s desk and shoved his face with his hand. Cedar Hill ISD is “following district policy on disciplinary action.”