Tactless coverage of black homeowner made national news
By Kara Mauerhan | Special Contributor
As a town with roots that date back to 1837, Highland Park has experienced quite a few firsts: first residential lots sold (1909), first townwide vote (1913), first black homeowner (2003) … no, that’s not a typo.
On May 29, 2003, Park Cities People featured Karen Watson and her now ex-husband, Joshua Lazu — not Joshua Watson as the article had said — for being the first African-American family to purchase and keep a home in Highland Park. The story inspired headlines in The Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Observer, and Newsweek, on account of the content, as well as the fact that the article quite boorishly began “Guess who’s coming to dinner … and staying for a while?”
But Watson said she wasn’t trying to blaze a trail when she moved from Plano to her home on Beverly Drive. She said the issue was convenience to the customer base for her successful mortgage business.
Watson said she’s used to sticking out like a sore thumb, referring to her status as a black Presbyterian Republican.
“I’ve never been a person that fits neatly into a box anyway, so that, you know, is not foreign to me, not looking outside and seeing people who look just like me, think just like me,” she said. “I’m used to being very maverick-ish.”
Watson said she felt as though the 2003 article, which referred to her as “a girl,” had sort of “missed the point,” and that she thought it would be more of a “feel-good success story.”
And as for that first line, Watson said, “I do think there were better options.”
Many people who wrote angry letters to the editor agreed.
“Morons. You’re all morons,” one reader wrote.
“Do all your white bed sheets have holes?” another asked.
Eight years later, Watson seems to feel quite at home in her neighborhood and said that the best part about living in Highland Park is her neighbors.
“It’s kind of like one big high school,” she said, because it is such a close-knit community — a community in which she has been very active as a deacon at Highland Park Presbyterian. She’s also served on the board of directors for both the Parkland Foundation and the Dallas Holocaust Museum.
When asked if she does intend on staying for a while, Watson said, “Yeah … God brought me here, and I’ll be here as long as he keeps me here.”
Kara Mauerhan is an intern for People Newspapers.
On Jan. 27, the city of University Park launched its first website.
On July 24, Park Cities People announced that D Magazine founder Wick Allison had purchased the newspaper from Kay McCord.
On Aug. 26, the HPISD Board of Trustees met to adopt the state’s new “Robin Hood” tax rate. Every HPISD household would send an average of $6,306 out of the district over the next year to fund public schools in other parts of the state.
On Dec. 12, Daryl Johnson and Kenjaimar Howell were arrested for allegedly using a slingshot to break car windows outside the Park Cities YMCA. Authorities linked the pair to more than 300 vehicle break-ins.
CHANGES AT THE TOP
In January, Hockaday headmistress Liza Lee announced that she would retire in June 2004. In December, school officials announced Jeanne Preston Whitman as Lee’s replacement.
In March, the Texas Senate confirmed Highland Park resident Geraldine “Tincy” Miller as chairman of the State Board of Education.
In April, the HPISD Board of Trustees hired two new principals. Dr. Lynda Carter became the new principal at University Park Elementary School, and Greg Smith became the new principal at Hyer Elementary School.
On July 1, Ted Pillsbury, former director of the Kimbell Art Museum as well as Yale University’s Center for British Art, began his post as the director of the Meadows Museum at SMU.
HIGHLAND PARK HIGH SCHOOL
Valedictorian: Amanda Luther
Salutatorians: Megan O’Hare and Jessica Hays
Blanket Award winners: Megan O’Hare and Rob Rain
Catherine Lee Bell, Dannielle Elizabeth Holman, Kathryn Talley, Haven Elizabeth Morgan, Lea Popham Morgan