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Willard Barr Oral History

Biography

James Willard Barr, son of William A. Barr, was born in Fort Worth, Texas, on November 24, 1907. He graduated from Forest Avenue High School in 1924. After taking some time off to learn carpentry and earn more money for school, Mr. Barr attended Southern Methodist University and earned a journalism degree in 1930. From 1928-1930, he worked as a cub reporter at the Dallas Times Herald. Mr. Barr then worked on the Fair Park Stadium (renamed Texas Stadium). In 1933, he attained a job as the night editor at Temple Daily Telegram.

In 1936, Willard Barr married Christyne Lackey. The couple settled in the Polytechnic neighborhood of Fort Worth, and they had three sons: Andrew, Kenneth, and Allan.

From 1936-1942, Willard Barr worked at the Fort Worth Press, covering city and county government as assistant city editor. Mr. Barr left the Fort Worth Press to work for the 8th Regional War Labor Board and serve as an officer in the United States Navy. After the war, he purchased News Printing Co. and began publishing the Fort Worth Labor News, which he printed until 1977. He was a charter member of the Texas Labor Press Association and a member of the Tarrant County Central Labor Council.

In 1963, Willard Barr was voted into the Fort Worth City Council. Mr. Barr served as mayor pro tem from 1963-1965, and as mayor from 1965-1967. He was the first mayor in 42 years to be elected into the position rather than being chosen by the city council. His “most significant civic contributions” during this period were the passing of several bond issues that led to the building of the Tarrant County Convention Center, the upgrading of Arlington’s Turnpike Stadium into a major league stadium and the purchasing of land for the DFW Airport.

He was defeated in his bid for reelection as mayor in 1967, by Republican Dewitt McKinley. After leaving politics, he worked for the printing business he founded which he renamed Barr Co., Printers and served on multiple boards including Casa Mañana, the Tarrant Area Community of Churches, the Rotary Club of Fort Worth, and First Methodist Church of Fort Worth. He was awarded the J. Erik Jonsson Aviation Award in January 1989 for his contributions to DFW Airport development and his nine years of work on the board of D/FW International Chaplaincy.

Mr. Barr passed away on March 29, 1998, after suffering a stroke. He is buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery with his wife who passed away in 2004.

Sources:

  • Guinn, Jeff. “Modest Mentor.” Fort Worth Star Telegram, October 8, 1995.
  • “New Mayor Unassuming Winner.” Fort Worth Star Telegram, April 7, 1965.
  • “Overcoming Rivalries. . . .” Fort Worth Star Telegram, January 5, 1965.
  • “Voice of Labor, Barr Promotes City.” Fort Worth Star Telegram, Sunday, May 17, 1964.
  • “When You Have Nothing Necessary to Do, What Do You Do?” Fort Worth Star Telegram. Dec. 8, 1982.
  • “Willard Barr: Behind the Scenes, He Makes Things Happen in Fort Worth.” The News-Tribune, January 8, 1982. P. 29.

Provenance

Ken Hopkins of the Fort Worth Library conducted the interviews with Willard Bar on January 31, 1995, and February 8, 1995.

Scope and Contents Note

This collection consists of 2 transcripts and 2 audio cassette tapes from the oral history interviews Ken Hopkins conducted with Willard Barr on January 31, 1995, and February 8, 1995. Of the two transcripts, the first has some editing marks but is dated January 31, 1998, whereas the cassette tape is labeled January 31, 1995. No final transcript is available. The collection measures .2 linear feet (1 box).

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Last updated: Oct. 20, 2014