His mother was “a teacher and a preacher’s kid,” and his father a hard-working farmer. Both influenced George Schrader in foundational ways – to enter a service profession and to live out a strong work ethic. The result: one of the most influential people for the City of Dallas – ever.
“I grew up on a farm in Kansas, and we didn’t have electricity, water, or inside plumbing,” he said. Graduating from Baker University, George learned about a new profession very different from farming – City Management. It fit his requirement for serving others, so he next earned a Masters Degree in the City Management Training Program at the University of Kansas.
After working as City Manager for Ennis and Mesquite, he was eventually appointed City Manager for Dallas in 1972. What was his biggest challenge during those Dallas years? “One involved the Arts District program – we couldn’t find a site for the Symphony Hall,” said George, adding that Mayor Robert Folsom told him to stop even trying to find one. “Bob, don’t ask me to quit. Don’t ask me to give up,” was George’s reply.
The next Mayor, Jack Evans, also said that “creating an Arts District is beyond our reach.” George’s response? “Let me talk to you about it – there is a site owned by the Borden Milk Company…” The connection turned out to be the right one, providing the city not only with a site for the Symphony Hall but for the Arts District.
“Bob, don’t ask me to quit. Don’t ask me to give up.”
The second challenge involved Union Station, on the chopping block after the railroad had terminated passenger service and the city needed right of way to I35 for Young Street. The director of building services, who had the responsibility of cleaning up Union Station, told him they had found a chandelier – and maybe they should put it back where it had been. “So, they were restoring Union Station on the one hand and preparing to tear part or all of it down on the other,” said George, “They fell in love with it.”
George met with Ray Hunt, and the two devised a plan providing for the Young Street right of way, allowing Union Station to remain, and eventually the City’s Reunion Arena and Hunt’s Hyatt Regency Hotel to be built. For reasons space does not allow, the plan was extremely controversial. But it all came to fruition.
Our interview is at The Tradition-Prestonwood Assisted Living community, where he and his wife, Barbara, are residents. He has just come in from a day at his office and consulting practice. “I’ve always liked to work. My Dad went to work every day, and I wanted to be just like him.”
It’s inspiration enough that he still goes to work every day at his age – 87 – not to mention the enormous role he played in shaping the City of Dallas. Thank you, George Schrader.
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