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Two giants laid to rest: Bedford and Blair

Casey Thomas | 5/5/2014, 5:32 a.m.
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

It’s not often that you have two heavyweights who leave us within two weeks of each other. However, that was the case for the Black community in Dallas with the passing of former Judge L.A. Bedford and Dr. Bill Blair Jr. Each of these men were trailblazers in our city during a time when it was not popular to go against the status quo.

I had the pleasure of knowing both of these men and they each impacted my life in different ways. I met Bedford while I was president of the Dallas NAACP. Since the NAACP was mostly known for the role it has played in legal challenges to discrimination and racism, I wanted to speak with one of the pioneers of the Black legal community about the history of Dallas and the role Black lawyers have played in that history. I met him at his office on Martin Luther King Blvd., and he began to share openly how things were back in his day, and how the NAACP was the vehicle used to address unfairness and inequality.

After our meeting, I was inspired to contact the J.L. Turner Legal Association. This is the Black lawyers association here in Dallas. After talking with the president, I was invited to attend their next meeting as their speaker for the night. I was very excited to address this group of esteemed lawyers who joined this historical organization to provide service to those in need. I must admit, I was a little disappointed in the reception that I received after I asked those in attendance how many of them were members of the NAACP. Only a handful raised their hands. I always thought that the NAACP and Black lawyers went hand-in-hand. I began to make a passionate appeal for them all to join the Dallas NAACP. The thing that I learned after I spoke with a few members was that many of their members were corporate lawyers, and in their role as corporate lawyers their job was to defend the corporation. There were not and are not many Black civil rights attorneys in our city. As a result of this, there was not as great a sense of appreciation for the NAACP for them as in the past.

This caused me to recognize and value the duty and calling of the legendary Bedford. He put his neck and reputation on the line for those who would come after him. He and many others who laid the foundation for the J.L. Turner Legal Association were willing to sacrifice for those who could not defend themselves. We honor him and we will always be grateful for this service.

Just as Bedford was a trailblazer in the legal community, Blair was a trailblazer in the journalism and political community. On this past Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the home-going service of Blair. As elected official after elected official came up and spoke about how Blair helped them to get where they are, I reflected on my relationship with Blair. My late father, Casey Thomas Sr., knew Blair from many years of attending community events and both having attended the same high school. In 2009, I had the honor of running for Dallas City Council. The first person my father told me that I needed to meet with was Blair. I went and picked my father up and we headed to the Elite News office. We didn’t need an appointment because Blair was always there. We went in and met with him and told him of my intentions. Shortly after I shared this with him, he simply said, “I know your father. I’m with you.” After that meeting, I immediately placed a yard sign in the front of the office, and he told me where to show up and what time to be there.

I was able to meet with many influential pastors who allowed me to come to their church and be acknowledged before their congregations. Even though I was not victorious, I was able to meet some great people and build relationships that would help me in my service of the community.

I want to thank both of these gentlemen for their sacrifice and commitment to serve our community. Now take your rest, you have earned it.