Quit Playin’: “Sweet Jesus” and the Justice Walk!

By Vincent L. Hall

Cheryl Smith, the publisher and CEO of this operation, rarely lends me any latitude or leverage, but this time I outsmarted her. We flipped a coin, I called heads and she didn’t realize that I tossed a counterfeit Buffalo nickel. There was no tail! Our abbreviated argument was settled.

The Reverend Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church led by his daughter, Abeni, launched a “Walk of Fame.”

Dr. Haynes and Dr. Jeremiah Wright were the first inductees, but he insists that it must be a lasting memorial to all social justice champions.

Smith and I fought to see who would do the features for this year’s recipient.

By now, you’ve seen her piece on Claudette Colvin. History reminds us that she preceded Rosa Park’s decision to defy the segregationists on a city bus. She was party to a lawsuit that ended the practice, but rumor has it that she didn’t get the “shine” because she was 15-years-old and with child.

Quit Playin’…You know Black church folk can be judgmental.

So let me give you the abbreviated, abridged, pruned and pared down cliff notes version of Zan Holmes’ legacy of liberation. He followed his father into ministry in Waco, Texas and the people who knew him in his youth thought so much of him that they fondly called him, “Sweet Jesus.”

Holmes arrived in Dallas in 1956 fresh from his undergraduate work at Huston-Tillotson College, an HBCU near Austin, Texas. Soon after, he met Pastor I.B. Loud, who was one of Dallas’ early social justice ministers. Simultaneously, Zan formed a relationship at Southern Methodist and its seminary that has lasted 60 years. SMU was one of the most racially progressive in the nation.

Dr. Holmes built a foundation by committing his life serving as an intercessor and ambassador between divine justice and social justice. Early on, he fused his time in the seminary, with his time in the Texas legislature. In his own words, he tells the story of how he was forced to straddle the fence between the church and the political.

“Joseph Lockridge died in a plane crash in May of 1968 and they all came to me asking me to run for his seat in District 5.”
Lockridge was an up-and-coming member of the Texas Legislature and filling Lockridge’s shoes would be no small feat.

“There were 17 people in the race and I beat them all without a runoff; and it was an at-large seat.”

But true to his nature of humility and graciousness, Dr. Holmes rushed to add a “White Brother,” a pastor in Richardson who encouraged him.

You will never hear Zan describe a success story where he doesn’t roll the credits like a Hollywood movie; his largesse of spirit and selflessness is…Like Jesus!

For 90 years, the Linz Award has symbolized the highest recognition for civic service and humanitarian accomplishments in the City of Dallas. That list of annual winners is legendary and spans all facets of Dallas’ business and political circles. There are two African-Americans who received the award. There was Juanita Craft, a 1967 awardee and the first Black woman on the Dallas City Council and Zan “The Man” in 1997.

He would have you to believe that the award was because he was the only one who could reason with his faithful member, John Wiley Price. He recalls that the Linz award came after he negotiated a truce between the Commissioner and Ambassador and former Mayor, Ronald Kirk.

But both men will readily tell you that Holmes did so much more.

The Dallas Independent School District Board of Directors commissioned a middle school in his name. And if you believe in signs, you would have to agree with me that the jazz music that replaced school bells, between classes is apropos.

Zan Wesley Holmes walks with a gait that’s too smooth for the tolling of a bell. Sweet Jesus speaks at a whisper decibel.

Zan Holmes is by far the most widely-regarded and recognized ecumenical leader in the State of Texas. Zan Wesley Holmes is unashamedly Black and yet loved by masses of people from every demographic.

There is no better partner for Ms. Colvin than Zan Holmes. They both made the walk and are worthy of fame.

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