Dorothy Fagg reported on everything from community gossip to the paranormal
In her generation, few females could call themselves true “career women.” But Oak Cliff’s Dorothy Porter Fagg certainly blazed that trail.
Born in 1920, Fagg earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from East Texas State University, and while in college, was an editor of various student publications. Her writing career began in 1954 when Ray Zauber, publisher of the Oak Cliff Tribune, asked Fagg to write a column for his newspaper. She agreed and tagged the new column “Party Line,” a biweekly community tidbits report.
Then in 1961 the Dallas Times Herald invited her to join its staff, and within a year Fagg was promoted to the position of home furnishings editor for the paper’s “Living” section.
But writing sweet, domestic text for Dallas’ female readers wasn’t her only beat. According to her daughter, Marilyn Pyeatt, “because of [Fagg’s] interest in and acceptance of paranormal phenomena, she also was assigned to do interviews and write stories related to that. So she was known by the unbelieving — and anyone else who wanted to tease her at the paper — as the “nut editor.”
“For any story about something a bit outside the norm, like a psychic visiting Dallas, they would say, ‘Give it to Dorothy!’ ”
Fagg interviewed Vincent Price, Jeanne Dixon, Peter Hurkos and many others. “She also interviewed and was good friends with Ann Jensen, who lived over on Canterbury Court and was a really gifted psychic who did tests for the ESP program at Duke,” Pyeatt adds. “They would send Ann sealed boxes, and she would write down a list of what she sensed was inside and send the box back unopened.”
Family life was just as important to Fagg as her career. She had moved to Dallas with her husband, Max, in 1943. Prior to working for newspapers, she taught at James Bowie Elementary in Oak Cliff and later worked for the Farm Security Administration before having her daughters, Marilyn and Karen, who both graduated from Sunset. The family lived on Twelfth Street, but moved to Stevens Park when their former residence was razed for construction of I-35 East.
Fagg’s devotion to both her family and her job were perhaps never a greater a tug-of-war than the day of the Kennedy assassination. Fagg, like most Dallas newspaper reporters, was at her Times Herald office when she received the news. Understanding the emotional effect that the events of the day would have on her daughters, Fagg’s desire was to return to her home, to be with her girls.
But the reporter was required to remain at her desk, as all the Dallas media remained focused on covering every aspect of the assassination, printing rushed, special editions of the papers in an attempt to satisfy the public’s thirst for information and to document every detail. The paper wanted to be ready to print continual, up-to-date reports on the flurry of activities playing out in Dallas that day. None of their employees were allowed to leave for more than a short period of time.
In 1982, after 21 years at the Times Herald, Fagg retired.
From Fagg’s Dallas Times Herald obituary, Vivian Castleberry, her editor at the Herald, described Fagg as “an excellent, dependable reporter.” “She was always there for all of us,” Castleberry stated. “When anything happened, she was the one who helped pick up the pieces. Not only was she a good reporter, but she was a good person.”
Among her numerous journalism honors, Fagg was a three-time winner of the Dorothy Dawe trophy for outstanding reporting in home furnishing, and was a member of the furniture industry’s Writers Hall of Fame. She received the John W. Runyon Achievement Award, two Reed & Barton Awards, and several Dallas Market Center Editorial Awards. The Greater Dallas Retail Furniture Association honored her as well.
In addition to her career accomplishments, she was a member of the Oak Cliff Woman’s Club, past president of the Dallas Pen Women, a founder of both the Heirloom Study and the Oak Cliff Newcomers clubs, and was honored with an outstanding alumni award by East Texas State University. Named as “Oak Cliff Woman of the Month” by South Oak Cliff State Bank, she was also a member of the Oak Cliff Society of Fine Arts and a frequent creative arts judge at the State Fair of Texas. Fagg remained a loyal member and elder of the former Trinity Presbyterian Church on Zang and Eighth, where her January 2004 funeral service was held.
Being a fan of Turner Classic Movies, I always picture Dorothy much like the character Hildy Johnson, played by Rosalind Russell, in the 1940 screwball comedy “His Girl Friday.” Talking on multiple phones simultaneously and dodging a small army of male reporters flying in and out of the press office — all the while hiding a runaway fugitive inside the office’s roll-top desk and feverously typing a news story — Hildy could handle it all with class!
Dorothy Fagg was such a gal, ready to tackle whatever came across her desk or into her office, and care for her family. An Oak Cliff woman ahead of her time.