A life of law, order and love

Allen Melton left a legacy of civic and community service

Allen Melton left a legacy of civic and community service

A teenage Tom Allen Melton (Allen) moved from Sulphur Springs to Dallas with his family and immediately fit in at Oak Cliff High School, where he was a member of The Oak staff and the “Go-to-College” and baccalaureate committees. Then, at SMU, he became one of the founders of the Blue Key Honor Society for college students displaying all-around excellence in scholarship, leadership and service — formed at SMU for the law students. He served as president of the YMCA and secretary-treasurer of the law students, and was a member of the Board of Control of Religious Activities. He joined the Cosmopolitan Club and was a member of Phi Delta Gamma and Alpha Delta Phi, graduating with a pre-law degree and then earning a law degree, also from SMU.

During this time, on one of his trips to the old Carnegie Library at Jefferson and Marsalis, Melton noticed a pretty librarian named Erma Caddel and soon invited her to Oak Cliff Methodist Church, his church, right across the street. They married there Jan. 30, 1934, and lived the remainder of their lives in Oak Cliff.

In 1932 Melton was elected justice of the peace for southwest Dallas County, including Oak Cliff, and served from 1933 to 1936. He then became an assistant DA for Dallas County, temporary judge for County Court No. 1 and Dallas Corporation Court and, in 1935, was cited by the city’s Junior Chamber of Commerce as the “Outstanding Young Man of Dallas.”

Melton practiced civil law for more than 55 years in Dallas County, where one of his most enjoyable duties was assisting hundreds of families in adopting children. Many of the little boys were named “Allen” by their new, grateful parents.

One of the charter founders of Goodwill Industries of Dallas, Inc., Melton served as president from 1952 to 1955. He was president of the West Dallas Service Center, World Fellowship Council, Dallas Breakfast Club and National Association of Private Schools. He held membership in the YMCA National Board of Directors and Oak Cliff YMCA board of directors and was an officer of the Dallas Bar Association, Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club of Oak Cliff. He served on the Board of the Dallas County School District for many years and was a precinct chairman for the Kessler area. Texas governors Allan Shivers and Price Daniel appointed him to serve as legal counsel to the State Board of Morticians; he also received the Owen George Trophy as the outstanding member of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.

Melton served as chairman of the W.H. Adamson Scholarship Foundation for more than 20 years, helping to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the trust, personally and through his legal practice, and helping to provide college scholarships for needy Adamson and other Oak Cliff students, one of the awards offered by the foundation being “The Allen Melton Scholarship.” A photograph of Melton hangs in the hall of Adamson — a tribute to his endeavors on behalf of the scholarship foundation, and in 2004 he was inducted into the Adamson “Hall of Honor.”

Melton’s son, Bill, did some following in his father’s footsteps, being elected Dallas County Treasurer for six consecutive terms and, like his father, being highly involved in the Oak Cliff Lions Club and Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce, and serving in leadership positions in both high school and college. However … the younger Melton graduated from Sunset and UT-Austin.

When asked if Melton Sr. had any qualms about Bill attending different schools than his alma maters, the younger Melton answered, “No. Some remorse when I went to UT instead of SMU. But later, when I became a UT cheerleader, he sang ‘The Eyes of Texas’ with the best of ’em.”

“He was happy again,” smiled Bill, “when I became the PA announcer for SMU Mustang football in 1975.”

Melton Sr. and his family, which also included a daughter, Martha, were members of Oak Cliff Methodist Church, where he served as chairman of the official board and chairman of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee, and taught the Melton Sunday school class for some 59 years. At his death in 1991, at age 83, Melton was the last surviving life member and founder of Goodwill Industries of Dallas.

“His long tenure to church and community activities is testimony to his love for the community,” Bill Melton lovingly says about his father. “The same was true with his family. Each and every person had a special place in his heart, and, of course, he spoiled his grandchildren.”

According to Bill, his father “enjoyed vacationing in Estes Park, Colo., attending SMU football games and sitting in the front porch swing, puffing on his favorite cigar, while contemplating the ways of the world.”

Numerous Oak Cliff and Dallas County folk still benefit from the decades of Allen Melton’s personal investment in his city and community. He was a true gentleman. An Oak Cliff legend.

 

Your stories

Longtime Cliffites recount memories and reconnect. Last month Brooks sparked conversation with the mysterious origins of Beckley Club Estates.

Beckley Club is indeed a charming part of Oak Cliff. On any given day, you can find peacocks by the dozen roaming the neighborhood, chickens, and a very friendly owl that sings me to sleep.

—Michael Shaddox

My husband and I have been Beckley Club Estates dwellers for 22 years and celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this week. We moved in as renters in 1991 — 4 years before buying the property — and never left. A truly great place to live, and I was thrilled to read your story and more of the history. Currently, the talk of BCE is peacocks … on roofs, in the creek, in the street, as baby chicks. They multiply around here, and everyone gets a kick out of posting photos on our BCE Facebook page.

—Alicia Quintans

Perfect story for such a neat area — “Billy Goat Hill” would be a good description for several of those streets!

—Patsy Sumney


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  • Pingback: Oak Cliff history: The corner of Marsalis and Jefferson » Oak Cliff()

  • Gayla

    Thanks, Jo Ann, and…by the way, I agree with you. Oak Cliff folks, well, I’d put them up against people from any other area of the country. The number of civil servants, community servants, educators, creative personalities, city leaders, and a slew of other leaders in other categories is endless. Dallas wouldn’t be the city that it is if it weren’t for the investment of all the first-class, top-notch people from Oak Cliff. Actually, our nation wouldn’t be the same. Their stories are fascinating. And they just keep on coming.

  • Jo Ann Holt

    I always enjoy reading your stories, Gayla. I see know that Bill Melton is truly following in his father’s footsteps, a great legacy to have.
    Oak Cliff has been home to so many wonderful community leaders over the year, it’s still a great place to live!

  • Charles Benny Kirtley

    Gayla, thanks for a very nice tribute to the Melton family. Love reading about instrumental people in Oak Cliff. In my younger years I would have never thought Oak Cliff would be such a vital part of my past. I must admit, Oak Cliff is a fond memory and so is the people that made it. Keep up the good work,
    Benny Kirtley.

  • Gayla

    I’ll email you privately with all the details, Jane.

  • Jane little

    I attended Oak Cliff Methodist Church during the 50’s. My parents were in Allen Melton’s sunday school class, and Martha was in my sunday school class. What ever happened to her? Who did she marry? Where are Bill and Martha now?

  • Sherry Lynn

    What a great story about my Papa. Thank you!

  • Bill Melton

    Gayla……..On behalf of the Melton Family, thank you for Authoring such a great story on
    our Father. Allen Melton touched many lives during his almost 84 years on this Earth and
    we so appreciate your bringing his story to your readers.
    Sincere thanks, Bill Melton

  • What an awesome story…it really filled in the blanks regarding the Meltons for me . Thanks again lady