Earle Cabell, mayor of Dallas, businessman, and representative from the Fifth Congressional District, son of Ben E. Cabell and Sadie (Pearre) Cabell, was born in Dallas on October 27, 1906. Both his father and grandfather (Gen. William L. Cabell) served as mayor of Dallas. Earle and his two older brothers, Ben and Charles, grew up on the family farm in Oak Cliff. Earle attended Bowie Elementary School and graduated from North Dallas High School in 1925. After one term each at Texas A&M and Southern Methodist University, he went to work for Morning Glory Creameries in Houston. After superintending a milk plant in Amarillo, he moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he bought a milk and ice cream business. While living there, he married Elizabeth (“Dearie”) Holder on February 22, 1932. They later had two children. After the business failed in 1932, Cabell and his wife returned to Dallas, where he and his brothers pooled their resources to form Cabell’s, Inc., an ice cream company that opened a chain of ice cream parlors specializing in five-cent double-dip ice cream cones. By the time Southland Corporation purchased the company in 1959, it had expanded into a full-line dairy business; it also operated sixty-six Cabell’s Minit Markets in nine Texas cities and was among the first convenience store chains. At the time of the sale, Earle Cabell was chairman.
Cabell had already served as president or director of numerous civic organizations, including the Dallas Sales Executives Club, the Dallas Crime Commission, the Dairy Products Institute of Texas, the Texas Manufacturers Association, the East Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and the Dallas Council on World Affairs. He also served on the advisory committee of the Texas Industrial Commission. In 1959 he entered local politics by running for mayor as an independent. He was defeated by incumbent Robert L. Thornton, but in 1961 he defeated the candidate endorsed by the Citizens Charter Association. Cabell became the first full-time volunteer mayor of Dallas and worked out of an office in city hall rather than a business office like his predecessors. He successfully led an effort to establish a city-wide emergency ambulance service, and he settled a garbage strike, but his proposal to construct 3,000 public housing units for the disabled and elderly met fierce opposition and was defeated in a public referendum. Nevertheless, Cabell was re-elected in 1963. Under his leadership the city council voted to purchase and run the Dallas Transit Company, previously a private concern with a history of poor service.
As mayor, Cabell greeted President John F. Kennedy on his arrival at Love Field the morning of November 22, 1963. Mrs. Cabell presented Mrs. Kennedy with a bouquet of red roses. The mayor and his wife were riding in the motorcade, four cars behind the president’s limousine, when Kennedy was shot in Dealey Plaza (seeKENNEDY ASSASSINATION). In the next few days, while defending the city, Mayor Cabell also called for calm and reflection and declared Saturday a day of prayer. He joined several Texas mayors in attending President Kennedy’s funeral in Washington, D.C., despite a death threat.
In February 1964 Cabell resigned as mayor to run for U. S. Congress as a Democrat against incumbent and conservative Republican Bruce Alger. Victorious, Cabell served on the House Banking Committee and promoted such issues as development of the Trinity River and the establishment of a regional airport for North Central Texas. In 1965 he announced approval of $22 million in federal funds to construct the Dallas Federal Center, which was later named for him in 1974. Cabell was re-elected to three more terms until the boundaries of the Fifth Congressional District were re-drawn, making it more conservative and more Republican. He lost his 1972 bid to Alan Steelman.
After retiring from public life, Cabell donated his papers to Southern Methodist University. He was a member of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Dallas. He died at the age of sixty-eight at St. Paul Hospital in Dallas on September 24, 1975. He was buried in Restland Memorial Park in Dallas.
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Earle Cabell Papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. Dallas Morning News, November 25, 1963; September 25, 1975. Robert B. Fairbanks, For the City as a Whole: Planning, Politics, and the Public Interest in Dallas, Texas, 1900–1965 (Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1998). Robert B. Fairbanks, “From Consensus to Controversy: The Rise and Fall of Public Housing in Dallas,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas1 (Fall 1989). Darwin Payne, Big D: Triumphs and Troubles of an American Supercity in the 20th Century (Dallas: Three Forks Press, New and Revised Edition, 2000).
Founders and Pioneers
Texas Post World War II
Texas in the 1920s
World War II
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Michael V. Hazel,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 29, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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