Wes Wise, 1929-2022

by Paula Bosse

wise-wes_apr-1971_WFAA_SMUWes Wise and family campaigning for Mayor, April 1971

by Paula Bosse

Wes Wise, former 3-term Dallas mayor (1971-1976), has died. He was 94. Read his obituary in The Dallas Morning News, here. Also, a tribute to Wise from the Dallas Municipal Archives is here.

In the piece linked above, the Dallas Municipal Archives mentions this: “Wise is noted for being the first mayor since the 1930s not endorsed by the Citizens Charter Association.” The CCA was a powerful political organization I’ve only become aware of recently. It wasn’t really until I began working in the WFAA-Channel 8 News archives that I saw Dallas political history up close, and it was full of all these powerful groups I had never heard of which, for decades, could make or break candidates simply by deeming them endorsable. If you were running for mayor or City Council, you really wanted the support of the Citizens Charter Association. And you absolutely wouldn’t have dared poke at them with sharp sticks. …Wes Wise poked at them with sharp sticks.

I’ve been going through old Channel 8 News footage, chronologically, for a while now. I am, at present, making my way through April 1971, when Wise and his opponent — the establishment-backed (i.e. CCA-backed) Avery Mays — were in the midst of a runoff for Dallas mayor. Mays, a businessman and civic leader, was the hand-picked candidate of the Citizens Charter Association and, as such, was expected to win. Wise, a City Councilman and former sportscaster, was the self-assured maverick who loudly proclaimed that he was an independent candidate who would not have accepted CCA backing had it been offered. He was young, good-looking, and — with a background in broadcasting — was comfortable and confident in the limelight.


There was a “debate” of sorts between the two on Channel 8, with each man given a minute to make a statement. It’s not on the level of Nixon and JFK, but there is a stark, generational contrast in the two men. I don’t see perspiration on Mays’ upper lip, but I’m getting a rattled, sweaty vibe from him. Wise, on the other hand, is all casual bravado.

Two clips of the candidates during this runoff campaign show the difference in styles of the two men: it’s Old Dallas vs. New Dallas.

  • Watch Avery Mays accuse his opponent Wise of being all talk and no action and being nothing more than a professional “TV and radio talker” (even though Wise had just finished serving a 2-year term on the City Council) — the clip is here.
  • Watch Wes Wise deliver his stinging rebuttal here.

Old Guard vs. New Blood. New Blood won, and Wes Wise led Dallas through the 1970s, a decade of huge change for the city.


Sources & Notes

Top image is a screenshot showing Wes Wise campaigning for mayor during the runoff race against Avery Mays on April 8, 1971. Wise is seen with his wife, Sally, and his son, Wyn. The clip is from the WFAA Newsfilm Collection, G. William Jones Collection, Southern Methodist University — it can be viewed on YouTube here (Wise is seen in the segments at 14:20 and 17:21).

An informative mini-biography on Wes Wise can be found here. (It’s interesting to see that, while in the army, Wise was an instructor in psychological warfare, the perfect training for both a broadcaster and a politician!)

More on Wes Wise at Wikipedia, here.

See a shot of Wes Wise in his sports broadcasting days in the Flashback Dallas post “Wes Wise, Dallas Texans, WFAA — 1961.”



Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.