Dirks, Frances Garrett Valentine (ca. 1925–1991)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 29, 2021

Frances Garrett Valentine Dirks, leader in the Democratic party in Texas, was born in Dallas around 1925, and for most of her life she lived on the same street in that city. She opened an apartment-cleaning business in Dallas after being employed briefly as a domestic worker. As a young woman she married Roosevelt Valentine, with whom she had three sons. Following Valentine's death, she married John Dirks, who also preceded her in death. In the 1960s Frances Dirks became interested in political and social issues, especially desegregation efforts in her hometown. As a result, she gave up her business and entered full-time political work. She was a member of the staff of several Texas Democratic politicians, including state senator Mike McKool and United States representative John Bryant, for whom she was working at the time of her death. She also served on the campaign staffs of Ron Kessler, Martin Frost, John Bryant, and Jim Mattox. She was an active participant in numerous Democratic state conventions and served as a delegate to the party's national conventions in 1976, 1980, 1984, and 1988. In 1974 she became the first black Texan to be elected to the state Democratic Executive Committee from her senatorial district. She was also a leader in the Democratic Progressive Voters League. For her political activism and commitment to the Democratic party, Dirks was honored by the League of Educational Advancement, the Coalition of Black Democrats, the Lesbian-Gay Political Coalition of Dallas, and the Democratic Women of Dallas County. She died of cancer in Dallas on February 16, 1991. Her funeral services at Mount Horeb Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas were attended by numerous local, state, and national politicians. She is buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Dallas. Her survivors included her three sons, three brothers, one sister, and several grandchildren.

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Dallas Morning News, February 22, 24, 1991.

  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Activists
  • Civic Leaders
  • Women
  • 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.

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Dirks, Frances Garrett Valentine,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 23, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/dirks-frances-garrett-valentine.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 29, 2021

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