Blaylock, Louis (1849–1932)

By: Darwin Payne

Type: Biography

Published: November 1, 1994

Updated: November 2, 2020


Louis Blaylock, longtime Dallas civic leader, mayor from 1923 to 1927, and publisher of the Methodists’ Texas Christian Advocate (see UNITED METHODIST REPORTER), was born on October 21, 1849, in Sevier County, Arkansas. He was the son of Willis and Irena (Gibbs) Blaylock. As a three-year-old, Louis, his younger sister Kate, half-brothers Elhanan and William Shaw, and half-sister Irena Elizabeth Shaw were taken by their parents in a covered wagon to Texas. They passed through Louis’s future home of Dallas and settled briefly in the Central Texas town of Burnet before then moving to Austin where Willis Blaylock died in 1856. In 1861 when he was twelve, Louis Blaylock dropped out of school to be a printer’s devil at the Austin Weekly Gazette. After the Civil War the Blaylock family moved to the state’s largest city, Galveston, where seventeen-year-old Louis went to work as a printer for the Methodist Church’s statewide publication, the Texas Christian Advocate. Blaylock and his half-brother William Shaw founded their own printing firm of Shaw & Blaylock and eventually became publishers of the Advocate. On June 1, 1871, Blaylock married Georgia Anna Darton in Galveston. They had five children: Bettie, Carrie Irene, Georgia, Louis Watts, and Willis Darton.

In 1877 Shaw & Blaylock won a state of Texas contract for printing the Texas House of Representatives Journal, the Texas Senate Journal, and the General Laws. In 1887 they moved to Dallas, their printing contracts still in hand, as well as their business operations as publishers of the Texas Christian Advocate. When the brothers dissolved their partnership in 1897, Blaylock maintained sole control of the company and changed its name to Blaylock Publishing Company. In that same year he purchased seven automatic Linotype typesetting machines and became the first printer in the state to make widespread use of these devices. He continued to publish the Texas Christian Advocate until 1924.

From his earliest days in Dallas, Blaylock was recognized as a prominent citizen; his name and that of family members appeared frequently in the “Personals” section of the Dallas Morning News in which their activities and travels were mentioned. Blaylock quickly involved himself in civic and fraternal activities, and, in addition to owning his printing business, became a bank director, a Mason, and a buyer of downtown commercial properties. Blaylock and his wife were active members of the First Methodist Church in Dallas.

His long career as a Dallas civic leader commenced in 1903, when Texas governor S.W.T. Lanham appointed him a Dallas police commissioner, an unpaid position under the then aldermanic form of municipal government. Blaylock, at fifty-four years old, pledged as police commissioner to serve the whole city of Dallas rather than any special clique. He held this position until resigning in 1906, citing the need to spend more time with his business and printing interests. During his thirty-one months of office he expressed concerns about the “evils” of such new dances as the “bunny hug,” the “Texas tommy,” and the “turkey trot,” calling them “all rot” and advocating a city ordinance prohibiting them.

In late 1912 he was chosen by the city’s commissioners to be the city’s police and fire commissioner, a full-time paid position. He assumed office on January 1, 1913, and held that position until 1915; from 1920 to 1923 he served as the city’s finance and revenue commissioner. He was elected mayor in 1923 by a handsome majority and held the position for two terms until 1927. Blaylock had been affiliated with the Citizens’ Association, a local political party with strong business interests, but in 1923 he switched to the Democratic party and accepted their nomination as a mayoral candidate instead of nomination by the Citizens’ Association. All the Democratic municipal candidates were elected by a large majority, with Blaylock leading the slate with the most votes.

His years as mayor were marked by the growing influence of the Dallas chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, which claimed that it was the nation’s largest chapter. Blaylock, although never identified as a Klansman himself, had been elected when the Klan’s strength was at a peak in the city and county. That same year voters also elected known Klan members as the county’s sheriff, the judge of the criminal district court, and the district attorney. Many prominent citizens—ministers, businessmen, the police chief, and even the president of the Dallas Bar Association—supported the Klan. By the late 1920s the Klan’s influence in the city had waned, and it soon lost its dominant role in Dallas affairs.

Among the significant projects completed and supported by Blaylock was the creation in Denton County of a huge new reservoir named Lake Dallas, calculated to hold enough water for a city of 750,000 to a million inhabitants. Blaylock directed the first stroke of its excavation by steam shovel in October 1924. (Lake Dallas was later enlarged and known as Garza-Little Elm Lake and later renamed Lewisville Lake.) Fair Park Auditorium was constructed as the city’s municipal auditorium and located in Fair Park rather than downtown because of its ample parking space. After it was completed, a group of White citizens protested when a Black choir sought to sing there. Blaylock reminded them and others that African Americans had every right to use the auditorium and that he would not even consider denying them that usage.

In his last year as mayor Blaylock supported an unsuccessful move for the police department to begin hiring Black police officers, especially to patrol African-American neighborhoods. Dallas’s police chief, closely identified with the Klan, was in opposition.

During Blaylock’s terms as mayor, despite some political controversies, he became an unusually popular figure. His habit of kissing visiting actresses to the city led to his nickname as the “Kissing Mayor.” He was also known as “Daddy Lou.”

Louis Blaylock died in Dallas after a brief illness on December 4, 1932. The Dallas Morning News praised him as a far-sighted man who “put his money into enterprises that proved the soundness of his faith in Dallas and Texas.” His fellow directors at First National Bank of Dallas saluted him as one whose “wise counsel and genius for leadership had marked him as a stalwart pillar of our community life.” His funeral was held at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Dallas. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas.

Dallas Morning News, January 7, 1887; March 20, 1887; October 18, 1891; July 22, 1910; December 22, 31, 1912; January 2, 1913; February 1, 13, 1923; February 27, 1926; January 25, 1927; December 6, 1932; January 11, 1933. Darwin Payne, Big D: Triumphs and Troubles of an American Supercity in the 20th Century (Dallas: Three Forks Press, 1994). Darwin Payne, ed., Sketches of a Growing Town: Episodes and People of Dallas from Early Days to Recent Times (Dallas: Southern Methodist University 1991).

Categories:

  • Journalism
  • Religion
  • Methodist
  • Newspapers
  • Publishers and Executives

Time Periods:

  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Progressive Era
  • Texas in the 1920s

Places:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Darwin Payne, “Blaylock, Louis,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 29, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/blaylock-louis.

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November 1, 1994
November 2, 2020

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