The Dallas Council was founded October 25, 1944. For several decades, monthly meetings were held in the Ross Avenue offices of the Texas Communities Foundation on Thursday afternoons.
In the early days, attendance averaged around 15 persons and the small group size gave members ample opportunity to share their common stories, recollections and memories of their service with others. The strength of those bonds has only increased through the years and while the spirit of community participation has waned periodically, the Council has never been stronger or more effective than it is today. At present, the Dallas Council has an enrollment of over 500 members across north and east Texas, with approximately 60-70 people attending regularly scheduled monthly meetings.
Several key programs draw on-going support from the Council. Beginning in 1979, the Council decided to recognize three enlisted sailors designated as the Best of the Best by their respective commands for the calendar year at a banquet held at the Naval Air Station Dallas. For fifteen years, Bill Castner obtained Seiko wrist watches donated by Zales Corp. for the event.
As the program grew and expanded to include Sailors, Marines and Airmen, the annual grand celebration was moved to the Fort Worth Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base. Jack Teschemacher and Nicholas Ricco approached the Fossil Watch Corp. and secured the donation of Fossil watches for the awardees. Two years ago, the watches were replaced by hand-engraved desk clocks for more than 30 recipients and the banquet continues to be a Council highlight every spring.
The Dallas Council also recognizes both the Sailor and Marine of the Quarter for eight regional commands. These awards also serve as semi-finals for the national Sailor and Marine of the Year awards and have included both U.S. savings bonds and cash awards in years past.
In 1980, the Council adopted its namesake, the nuclear submarine USS Dallas. Bob Whitlock, T.J. Collette and Bill Whitsitt annually hosted the Sailor of the Year and his spouse by flying them in from Groton, Connecticut for a weekend of Texas-style hospitality. Subsequently, the Council also adopted its Coast Guard namesake, the USCGC Dallas.
During the 1990s, the Dallas Council hosted many visiting dignitaries and ranking officers, including former Secretary of the Navy, John Dalton - once at the Lincoln Center in Dallas, once at Union Station in Dallas, jointly with the Dallas Rotary, and once in Fort Worth, jointly with the Fort Worth Council.
The Council sponsored select crewman of the USS Dallas in the Veterans Day Parade (put on by the City of Dallas every November) beginning in 1999 and provided meals, entertainment, lodging and when necessary, air transportation of up to ten crewman and the Skipper for four days. Generous financial support from Council members and the community at large, along with expert logistic coordination by John Sutter, continues to make this program possible.
The Dallas Council's growth gained momentum in the early 2000s, drawing many committed new members while finding additional ways to raise its local profile and visibility within the greater Dallas area. The Council aligned itself with the U.S. Navy Academy Alumni Association for a joint meeting and to support the Naval Academy's collegiate football games with rivals such as SMU and TCU. The Secretary of the Navy and the Academy's superintendent have each been guests of these fun-filled programs, replete with stadium tailgate parties, hosted events and on-field recognition.
In October 2003, the Naval Air Station, Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base launched and hosted the inaugural Navy Ball, at which both the Dallas and Fort Worth Councils purchase tables and solicit community friends to ensure the success of this Navy event. This program, too, has grown in size and scope each year and features an incredible dinner and name entertainment.
Even with these and many more programs in the planning stages, it is anticipated that the Dallas Council will one day host a National Navy League Convention, whereby worldwide representation of Navy League Councils would gather in support of our core message of Sea Service support. This convention is traditionally held in June and requires detailed planning and execution to manage thousands of attendees. The Council has also taken an active role in gathering local support for the idea that both sponsored vessels one day become the centerpieces of a Dallas Maritime Museum, located within the Trinity River Development.
Under former president Bob Dickson, the Dallas Council offered its first embarkation in 2005, allowing interested members to see first-hand the scope of our Navy operations in action. Group tours and activities have also been successfully arranged and organized (i.e. Lockheed Martin's assembly of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in Fort Worth, the Frontiers of Flight Museum, the Blue Angels Air Show), with more in the planning and development stage.
The Dallas Council's most popular feature remains its monthly luncheon speaker program, which in the past four years has included Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Dallas mayor Tom Leppert, local area Congressmen Sam Johnson, Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling, former Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings, a host of decorated military officers, servicemen and war veterans representing all branches, and representatives from the CIA, FBI, Secret Service, Joint Terrorism, Immigration and Homeland Security details.
We encourage you to get involved and become part of this exciting and vibrant organization.