David B. Garner, African-American Dallas civic leader, son of John C. and Arah (Scott) Garner, was born in Chenango, Texas, on November 12, 1881. At an early age, Garner and his family moved to Houston where he spent most his childhood. His mother was a servant in the home of David Rice. At age fifteen he became a dining car cook for the Houston and Texas Central Railway and earned up to five dollars a week. Garner moved to Dallas in 1913 and obtained a job as a cook at a downtown café owned by Joseph Rucker, Sr. Garner married Maggie Lou on November 3, 1913, at St. John Baptist Church and had one daughter, Jerri Sue. Later in his career, Garner worked for A. W. Cullum before going to cook at the Federal Reserve Bank for twenty-six years; he retired in 1941.
Though a cook by trade, it was not Garner’s culinary skills that ushered him into Dallas’s social history. Instead, he actively engaged in almost every major civic project benefiting African-American life. For example, Garner played an integral part in the founding of the Moorland Branch YMCA by helping raise $50,000, which was regarded as the “greatest amount of money ever raised by Negroes for a cause in Dallas.”
Garner was an active member of the St. John Baptist Church for sixty years and served as a deacon as well as chairman of the deacon board. He worked for the State Fair of Texas as a consultant and advisor until his eighty-sixth birthday. As a fair representative, Garner promoted the State Fair all over Texas, boosting attendance and heightening awareness of an event named “Negro Achievement Day,” which recognized individual African-American accomplishments. Garner served as a charter member of the Dallas Negro Chamber of Commerce (now Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce), was a life member of the Negro Real Estate Board, a member of the NAACP, and the Masonic Lodge.
Garner’s affectionate attitude of paternalism earned him the nickname “Daddy Garner.” He died in his Dallas home on August 3, 1973, due to old age as well as lingering complications from injuries suffered in a traffic accident in 1959.