George Louis Allen, businessman and civic leader, was the first African American elected to the Dallas city council and to serve as mayor pro-tem of the city of Dallas. Allen was born around 1908 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the son of Samuel Joseph Allen and Marie Breaux. He earned his A. B. degree at Xavier University in New Orleans and completed additional studies at the Southern Methodist University Institute of Insurance Management and the University of Southern California. Allen married Norma Fuller, and they had one daughter and three sons—Norma, Don, Arthur, and George Jr.
George Allen was a trailblazer in both Dallas and Texas history. In 1938 he became the first African American to enroll at the University of Texas. He attended ten days before the university’s administration realized that Allen, a light-skinned man of Creole descent, was not White. Subsequently, he started his own insurance business, Great Liberty Insurance Company, as well as his own public accounting firm and the Southwest School of Business Administration. He also became very active in the Dallas community. In the 1960s Allen served on the “Committee of 14,” the committee of seven Whites and seven African Americans organized by the Dallas Citizens Council in 1960 that began the process of desegregating public facilities, schools, and employment in Dallas. In 1963 and 1965, he ran unsuccessfully for the city council, but in the former year, he became the first African American to serve on a city board or commission when he was appointed to the City Plan Commission.
Finally, in 1968 Allen was appointed by Dallas mayor Erik Jonsson to fill a newly-created seat on the Dallas city council. One year later, with the endorsement of the Citizens Charter Association, he became the first African American to win election to a seat on that body. As a city councilman he proposed and the city council passed an Open Housing Ordinance to end housing discrimination against African-American citizens, and he was also successful in passing a public accommodations ordinance to cover those areas not addressed by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. From 1973 to 1975, he achieved another “first” when he served as mayor pro-tem of Dallas city council.
In 1975 after serving three terms on the Dallas city council, Allen resigned from his seat to accept an appointment as justice of the peace. He was subsequently elected to that office for three terms and served as a justice of the peace in Dallas County for thirteen years. During that time he also served on the board of regents for Texas Southern University. In total, he served on the TSU board for twenty-five years. For his service to Dallas as well as the state of Texas, George Allen earned numerous awards, including honorary degrees from Bishop College and Texas Southern University. His fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, honored him as its “Man of the Year.” He was also honored for his community service by African-American organizations such as the South Dallas Business and Professional Woman’s Club and the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce (now Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce) as well as by organizations such as the Dallas Big Brothers, the Knights of Columbus, and the Metropolitan YMCA of Dallas.
Allen died on February 22, 1991, in Dallas. A funeral Mass was held for Allen, a Catholic, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, where he was a longtime parishioner. His wife had preceded him in death, and he was survived by his second wife Juanita M. Allen. The Dallas County Court building at 600 Commerce Street in downtown Dallas was named the George L. Allen Sr. Courts Building in his honor in 1992.