Oak Cliff native and former Dallas County Treasurer Bill Melton has served as sports announcer for the Dallas Cowboys, University of Texas football games, the Texas Rangers and even the Olympic Games. A former president of the Oak Cliff Lions Club, Melton reflects on watching the evolution of Oak Cliff, getting to know Tom Landry and being a part of Olympic history.
You have an impressive résumé for someone for whom announcing was just a hobby. How did you get started?
I attended the University of Texas and majored in radio and TV. [Melton was head cheerleader at UT and got to fire “Smokey” the cannon at the first-ever UT National Championship football win in 1963.] After graduation in 1964, I really wanted to be on air, so I took a job with a radio station in Austin. I soon realized it wasn’t the profession for me and went into management, but I kept my announcing skills fine-tuned by working UT freshman football games.
What did you enjoy most about announcing for the Dallas Cowboys?
I served as the pregame and halftime announcer for the Dallas Cowboys from 1968 to1977. Watching Coach Tom Landry was really something. He was such a great, Christian man who loved his wife and family and stayed true to who he was. He was tough on his players, but never asked them to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. He reeked of professionalism and courtesy. Another great Cowboys memory came in 1971. Roger Staubach was quarterback at the time, and the team was playing the San Francisco 49ers at Texas Stadium. We won that game and qualified for Super Bowl VI in New Orleans, where the Dallas Cowboys would beat the Miami Dolphins and win their first Super Bowl championship.
Do you have a favorite moment from your career in announcing?
There are many, but the moment that stands out most is from the women’s soccer finals at the 1996 Atlanta Centennial Olympic Games. This was the first time women’s soccer had been added to the program of the Summer Olympics, and Team USA had made it to the finals. They were up against China for the gold medal, and there were 76,481 people in the crowd — at the time the largest crowd in the world to attend a women’s sporting event. At halftime, the teams were tied one to one, and then Team USA beat China. It was an amazing moment. In all the excitement, I suddenly realized that I didn’t have a script for the award ceremony. I stayed calm and announced each woman on the team, and I got chills down my spine when I got to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, the winners of the 1996 Women’s Soccer Olympic gold, the United States of America!”
Tell me about your experience growing up in Oak Cliff.
I grew up on North Winnetka and went to Rosemont Elementary. We were four houses off Seventh and the Seventh Street streetcar that went downtown. Gene Autry’s Kessler Theater was just around the corner, and my father rented the front room of our house to the manager of The Kessler, his wife and his son. I also remember that when I was little, there were the most wonderful dances held at Kiest Park. I recently attended my 50th high school reunion at Sunset. It was the greatest high school in Dallas. In 1957, Sunset’s basketball team was No. 1 in the state, and we received the Sanger trophy — created by Sanger Brothers department store and awarded to the top athletic school. My senior year, the trophy disappeared. It was just recently found, restored, and is now on display at The Old Red Courthouse.
After UT, you went on to have a fruitful career. What are some of the highlights?
I had the privilege of serving as Dallas County Treasurer for more than 25 years. During that time, I got approval to improve the highway system in and around Oak Cliff, and I helped lobby Congress for Joe Pool Lake. I’ve actually stood in the Lake before it had any water. It was initially going to be named Lakeview Reservoir, but Joe Pool himself helped get it passed, so it was given the name Joe Pool Lake. In 1980-81, I helped convince the treasury to purchase its first PC and started the first online banking system in Texas. But probably my biggest legacy is instituting the Bloomberg system, making Dallas the second county treasurer’s office in the country to have its own Bloomberg system, which tracks market data.