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Legends & Legacies: Edith Clark guided Normal school students through two world wars

A party at Edith Clark’s Normal Street house was decorated with a magical combination of flowers, ferns and Japanese lanterns. Refreshments included ice cream, a rare treat in 1919. She was the dean of women at North Texas State Normal School, now the University of North Texas.

The granddaughter of a Mississippi governor, Clark’s parents met while her father was a Civil War prisoner of war. Her mother was the first regent of the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution. Edith grew up on the University of Texas campus in Austin, where her father, a judge and business manager, helped UT grow from 150 to 5,000 students.

His daughter would do the same thing for the Normal.

While earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UT, Clark edited the yearbook and was named a “Beauty.” After teaching high school, she joined the North Texas State Normal School faculty in 1902. She said, “I came as the baby of the faculty and stayed to become the grandmother of it.”

Mark Finley / Texas Historical Commission, National Register Survey  

Edith Clark’s home on Normal Street is shown in 2018. It was demolished earlier this month.

In 1902, Clark organized the Mary Arden Club, a women’s literary society. The group grew from 50 to 100 “Marys,” performing Shakespeare on the campus lawn. An early Arden Club activity was an oyster supper at professor Curvier Lipscomb’s Oak Street home. The women built and paid for a lodge on Avenue A, the first of its kind in Texas.

Denton’s first Victrola donated to North Texas by Clark was carted around campus to allow students to hear classical music. She was so loved that the 1916 yearbook was dedicated to her.

After teaching English and serving as librarian, school President William Herschel Bruce promoted Clark to dean of women in 1918. She later recalled “Dr. Bruce just told me, you be the dean of women, and you were!” She stressed standards and personal contact with students who sought her advice. Clark’s home on Normal Street was always open to her “girls.” The loyalty she fostered motivated students to send their children to North Texas.

Clark improved housing by reaching out to boarding house landladies to help them understand students’ needs. She was the driving force behind the construction of the college’s first six dormitories.

Clark edited the journal that became the Avesta. Clark taught Sunday school and was a charter member of the American Association of University Women. After women got the right to vote, she was the organizing president of Denton’s League of Women Voters.

A 1944 Campus Chat article praised Clark for guiding women through two world wars, from one-horse buggies and prim shirtwaists to speedy convertibles and sloppy Joe sweaters.

Clark’s humor was legendary. She often said, “I deny the allegation and defy the alligator.” She pranked the dean of men by answering his phone. When asked to say grace at a dinner party, she implored, “Oh Lord, this is Miss Clark.”

After a man at a state convention spoke long past the time allotted for her speech, she read the crowd’s frustration, stood up, blew a kiss and said, “Come up and see us sometime,” and sat down to thunderous applause.

Clark’s influence extended statewide. She organized the Texas Association of Deans, serving as the group’s president for five years, serving twice on the Executive Committee of the Texas State Teachers’ Association.

After 26 years of service as dean of women, Clark retired in 1944. Her 90th birthday in 1964 was held in the Marquis Hall’s Crystal Room, the setting for many Arden Club formal occasions.

Clark died shortly after that; she’s buried beside her parents in Austin’s Oakwood-Beth Israel Cemetery. Clark Hall was built and named in her honor later that year; it’s still the only campus building named for a woman.

Her house on Normal Street stood for more than 100 years, until last week; it was being demolished by out-of-town investors who plan to build a high-rise apartment.

Photos by Kevin Bond/For the DRC  

Families enjoy the weather at the Denton Civic Center Pool on Sunday.

Kevin Bond/For the DRC  

Families enjoy the weather at the Denton Civic Center Pool on Sunday, July, 14th, 2019, in Denton, TX.

Police identify victim of deadly shootout near Crowne Plaza in downtown Dallas

Police have arrested a suspect in a downtown Dallas shootout that killed a bystander and wounded a second man Friday evening.

Police arrested 24-year-old Derrick Florence Jr. in the shooting near the Crowne Plaza hotel. He faces a manslaughter charge.

A second shooter was still at large, police said Saturday morning.

Dozens of officers were called to Elm and North Griffin streets just after 6:30 p.m. Friday. When they arrived, they found one man dead and a second man who had been wounded by gunfire.

Police said that two groups of people had gotten into a confrontation at Elm and North Lamar streets. They continued to walk east on Elm, then started shooting when they got to North Griffin Street.

The man who was killed was sitting at a nearby bus stop. He was identified by police Saturday night as 55-year-old Johnny Roland Glover.

A white sheet covered a body on a bench outside the Homewood Suites, across Griffin Street from the Crowne Plaza. A pair of shoes poked out from the bottom of the sheet.

The wounded man is a 19-year-old who was in one of the groups involved in the confrontation. He was taken to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, and his condition was not known.

Officers closed several blocks of Elm and Griffin streets while they investigated, snarling downtown traffic for hours.

Police could be seen inspecting a shoe and a pair of Lime scooters on the ground at the entrance of a parking garage, and a handgun was lying beneath a van. Officers also appeared to be interviewing a woman.

At the end of May — an unusually violent month in Dallas — police officials added eight detectives to the 14-person homicide unit.

They also announced the creation of a homicide response team that consisted of officers from the SWAT, fusion and fugitive units.

Maj. Max Geron said the officers would be deployed on some homicide cases to look for “additional witnesses or potential sources of video” as well as to add “a visible presence in the neighborhood.”

Kevin Bond/For the DRC  

Families enjoy the weather at the Denton Civic Center Pool on Sunday, July, 14th, 2019, in Denton, TX. Kevin Bond/For the DRC

Documents withheld surrounding officer-involved shooting

Disclosure of certain law enforcement records rests in the hands of Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In an attempt to learn more about a June 29 officer-involved shooting in the 600 block of Boswell Crossing in Lantana, the Denton Record-Chronicle filed a request for information under the Texas Public Information Act on July 2.

Body camera video, the offense report, 911 call audio, dash camera video, audio of calls for service and more was formally requested by the paper.

On July 11, the paper received notice from a paralegal working on behalf of the sheriff’s office that the request had been appealed to the attorney general, who has roughly eight weeks to make a decision.

Why all the fuss?

Shortly after 7 a.m. on June 29, deputies were called to the upscale Lantana neighborhood. The official narrative given thus far is straightforward, if incomplete.

A 61-year-old man entered the home uninvited and threatened the three people inside. When deputies arrived on scene, the man allegedly leveled a shotgun at them before being shot and killed by law enforcement.

Neighbors said the man did not live in the home; he caught the homeowners by surprise the morning they were meant to leave for a trip with friends.

Since the case involved an officer-involved shooting, the Texas Rangers were called in to assist in the investigation.

“When police end up in a confrontation that results in a citizen’s death, that is certainly of very high legitimate interest to the public,” said Jim Hemphill, an attorney with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

Why not release the information?

In a nearly 1,200-word argument to the attorney general’s office, legal counsel to the sheriff broke down the request for information into its component parts.

Denton County Sheriff's Office arguments to the attorney general's office

The argument also references an email from Clair Barnes, the Texas Ranger serving the Denton area, “stating that the investigation is ongoing, and asking that no information be released.”

Hemphill said the spirit of the public information act dictates that as much information as possible should be available to the public, as long as it doesn’t interfere with legitimate law enforcement objectives.

Simply put, most of the sheriff’s office arguments revolve around what should be considered confidential. The legal counsel argued that releasing audio recordings, camera footage, call records and the offense report could interfere with the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

When Hemphill was briefed on this case, he said there can be a legitimate concern that releasing information that is generally considered open — including the names of officers involved and 911 audio — could harm an investigation.

“But that should be something that is supported with evidence and not mere conjecture,” he added.

He also explained that specific law enforcement evidence to that effect would be shared with the attorney general and not made public.

A section in favor of withholding dash and body camera footage argued that license plates belonging to uninvolved people could not be redacted. The argument that followed said, “The Sheriff’s Office does not have the technical ability to redact information from these recordings,” so neither video can be released.

A similar rationale — personal information is included, so no part of the document will be released — was used to withhold other pieces of information, including call records.

The Denton Record-Chronicle mailed a set of counterarguments on July 12.

Denton Record-Chronicle's argument to the attorney general's office