By Stacey Doud
I was recently invited to attend a General Meeting of the Grand Prairie Historical Organization (GPHO). I wasn’t emotionally prepared to hear the stories that the Grand Prairie National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) President, Angela Luckey, had to tell. She spoke about “Growing Up in Dalworth,” which is an historically poor African American neighborhood. I also grew up poor in a different place, but a lot of what Luckey said resonated with me personally.
Between 1910 and 1920, Dalworth Park was established with modern conveniences including water, gas, sidewalks and telephones. Businesses such as The Spikes Brothers Broom Factory and the Dalworth Business College moved in, boosting the local economy.
South of the railroad tracks, a community with primarily African American residents, many who worked in the Dalworth Park area, was established and named South Dalworth Park. These communities were incorporated into Grand Prairie in 1942.
After a god BBQ lunch, President of the GPHO, John Wylie, gave a little background on and introduced Luckey.
“[Luckey] is a retired DoD [Department of Defense] professional. She also worked for NASD [National Association of Securities Dealers] and retired for obvious reasons, since NASD was actually closed. She worked overseas in Family Support. As a G.I. for 26 years, stationed around the world, I myself appreciated Family Support at the bases I was stationed at [in the Air Force]. I not only appreciated them, but I used them. So, thank you, Angela,” said Wylie.
Among her 30 years of achievements, Luckey served in Federal Service at NAS JRB (Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth). She is on the Executive Board of the Greater Dallas Head Start Program and has been a candidate for mayor and for the school board. She is a past president of the Dalworth Historical Society. She is currently on the Advisory Board for Constable Ed Wright Pct. 4. On a personal note, she’s lived in Grand Prairie since birth, and has three kids and three grandkids. Her husband, Lenel, served in the Army and fought in the Middle East. He died of a heart attack in 2015.
“I am so proud of my and my family’s history in Grand Prairie. I was born over at Parkland Hospital on March 21, 1966. My family lived across the tracks of the Dalworth community,” Luckey said.
Luckey had the opportunity to attend Head Start before transferring to Dalworth Elementary School in the first grade.
“Head Start is a federally-funded daycare facility, so when the federal government decided to bring a Head Start program to Dallas County, the first Center opened up in Grand Prairie, Texas. So, I got an early head start in education and I really appreciate the federal government at the time for thinking about children in poverty-stricken and low-income areas because we had early education when I was three years old. And now I am an executive board member for Head Start. I really appreciate what Head Start did then and what it is doing today for children and young mothers that have kids, but have to work,” Luckey explained.
After making her way through the younger years of education, Luckey attended the one all-black high school at the time, which was called Dalworth High School.
“A lot of prominent people came out of that [High School] that became judges, doctors and lawyers. Every profession you can think of came out of Dalworth. We have professional athletes that went on to become inductees to the Hall of Fame, like Charlie Taylor and so forth,” Luckey said proudly.
Many Grand Prairie residents aren’t aware that Dalworth produced a championship-winning football team in 1958. The team was called the Dalworth Dragons, and they received a Proclamation that was presented by Mayor C.R. Sargent, who held this office at the time. Luckey had an original copy of this accolade, complete with the City Seal, and read it to the attendees.
“I wanted to read [the proclamation] because it’s part of my foundation – a part of how I got here,” Luckey said.
Luckey then recruited a couple of helpers to hold up a large poster of her family tree. She explained each branch and the hardships they faced, as well as the victories they enjoyed. Her Great Great Grandfather, Frederick Douglas Reed, moved out of Waco to the Grand Prairie area in the early 1920’s because his cousin, Jesse Washington Jr., was accused of raping a white woman in Waco, Texas.
“[My relatives that moved to Grand Prairie] lived on a farm and could pass for white [Caucasian]. There was a horrific accident that occurred here in Grand Prairie that involved his [her great-great grandfather’s] wagon. He was crossing the railroad track and the wagon collided with an interurban train that was coming from Fort Worth to Dallas. Three of his children died in that wreckage.
“There’s a tiny grave at Grand Prairie High School [near the baseball fields, south of the school]. They have a little fence on Small Street, and the three children were actually buried there. I wanted to share a bit of my family history so you can understand where my roots come from,” Luckey said.
When Luckey was in first grade at Dalworth Elementary, the school district was faced with a lawsuit. One of the African American parents that had a student in Grand Prairie wanted the schools to be integrated. As a result of that lawsuit, younger children were bussed out of their neighborhoods. Luckey ended up attending Dalworth Elementary, Bowie Elementary and Sam Houston Elementary. These constant changes took the sense of stability out of their educational lives, sometimes adding to the chaos of their home lives.
“As a child growing up in Dalworth, I didn’t have a sense of being poor,” Luckey said. “Looking back now, I don’t even know how my parents did it. But my mother worked for LTV and had a college degree. When she worked, she made sure that she went to work during the hours we were at school. So that means when we got up in the morning, she did our hair and made sure we got dressed and went to school. We had breakfast and a dinner when we came home. [My mother] had three kids by the time she was 18 or 19 years old. She’s been married to her husband for 56 years. I tell my mom all the time, ‘They don’t make women like you anymore. Not at all,’” Luckey said, giving a nod to her mother, who was in the audience.
Luckey graduated from South Grand Prairie High School when she was 16 years old because she elected to take classes during every summer. “I thought that once you graduated school, you were grown. That’s not how my father was. His rules were, ‘Until you turn 18, you can’t have a boyfriend.’ I didn’t go to the prom or have a boyfriend in high school because that was not allowed until age 18.
“When I was 18, I was running track at the University of Texas at Arlington (UT-A). The first boy that ever took an interest in me became my boyfriend,” Luckey laughed.
Luckey then attended Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and Texas College in Tyler where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She received her master’s degree from Amberton University.
Luckey then got serious.
“You guys are going to be the first to hear this. I mean, my family knows, but I’ve never told this while public speaking. I told myself, ‘I have worked 30 years for the Department of Defense. I’ve worked in Europe. I’ve worked on installations where you have to have a really secret security clearance to where the government had a sign saying if you step here, we can shoot you on the spot. So, I’ve seen a lot of things that the average citizen doesn’t get to see from our federal government. When it came to the point when I could retire after 30 years, I decided to retire. I was 50 years old in 2016.
“So, then I thought, ‘Angela, what are you going to do now?’ I wanted to volunteer for an organization that helps people. Then I began to sit and look at my childhood because some people have things that chase them. Sometimes they’re called ‘skeletons in the closet.’ I realized that I had something that chased me, but it chased me in a positive direction.
“In fourth grade, my teacher, Mr. Grant, had a cousin who was not such a good man. My teacher’s cousin molested me. I was afraid to tell my parents. They didn’t learn about this story until I was fully grown and married with children. I think that’s why I like to work with the young and disadvantaged. You never know what their struggles are.
“I didn’t let that situation knock me down. It got behind me and it chased me. I wanted to be greater than great. I remember when I was running track at UT-A, I was coming out of the dorm and noticed that there were some yard people that were doing the yard outside the dorm. I looked up, and I saw him [the man who molested her] standing there, staring at me. I didn’t know what to do because I hadn’t [told] anyone. But I didn’t go back to UT-A. I decided I didn’t want to be where he was. I ended up going to Texas College in Tyler. My dad drove me there and basically dropped me off and drove away.
“That was the biggest blessing God could give me, being dropped off at that small black college because it was there that I understood purpose. It was there when I decided that I wanted to be greater than great, and I wanted to be someone that after I go and do whatever I was trying to do, at the end of the day I want to come back and I wanted to be able to help people just like me. That’s basically what I did. I got a master’s degree from Amity University. I have been up in Air Force Two. I have been in the White House several times, with the purpose to visit under every president’s leadership,” Luckey said.
Luckey presented Jan Barrett, the GPHO Program Chair, as well as GPHO President John Wylie, with medals of appreciation from the Grand Prairie NAACP.
Luckey then introduced the owner of Ethalue’s Salon, which has been in business in Dalworth for over 50 years. “This was not just a place to get your hair done,” Luckey said. “This was a place for fellowship, and of course, the latest gossip.”
Ms. Ethalue gave her own account of what it was like being a business owner in Dalworth. Despite some setbacks, her Salon (and now Spa) have been going strong for over half a century.
I personally know it wasn’t luck(ey) that helped Angela achieve all that she has. She is very grateful to God and her family and close friends for guiding her in the tough times. She has touched many people in a positive way, and I know she will keep going.
In fact, here’s some info on the GPNAACP’s next event:
Download a .pdf version of the flier perfect for printing HERE