Press Club of Dallas was founded in 1948 and has proudly served the journalism and communications community in North Texas and beyond.
The Press Club of Dallas can trace its roots back to the late 1940s as a group of poker-playing production and print shop workers from The Dallas Morning News and The Dallas Times-Herald. The poker games – with their lucrative stakes and free-flowing liquor – eventually attracted the attention of reporters, many of whom had hours to kill between the close of business and the time that their respective newspapers were put to bed. As more and more reporters joined the group, the discussions turned, increasingly, to beginning a Press Club that would not only provide camaraderie and a place to socialize, but also a venue to promote journalistic ideals and ethics.
In 1951, the Press Club of Dallas received its charter from the State of Texas. Its first home was over the Pulleybone Restaurant (now the site of Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas). Elsie Morris was one of the early employees and functioned as manager, chef, waitress, bartender and mother hen.
Later, the club moved to what was affectionately called “The Purple Palace” next door to the Baker Hotel (now, One Bell Plaza). It was a popular hangout, chiefly because it was a private club and the only place you could buy a reasonably priced drink with your meal or after work in downtown Dallas. The back room poker games continued but Thursday nights were also popular with special dinners and a sing-a-long around the piano.
When the Petroleum Club next door (located in an addition to the Baker Hotel) moved to fancier digs, the Press Club took over their space. That location, which encompassed two floors, set the club up for a boom in membership growth that included reporters, editors, photographers, and production professionals from both of the city’s major newspapers, as well as radio reporters and reporters from Dallas’ fledgling television stations.
Members stopping by for lunch alone gathered around the Deadline Table where each recent arrival was served individually by the much beloved maitre d’, J.D. Andrews.. The Deadline Table was not for the faint-of-heart, however, as inside jokes, ongoing off-color stories, tales of recent exploits, and complaints on how the news of the day was handled were offered along with the meal. Club membership was attractive to businesswomen who could pick up the check for client entertaining since meals and drinks were paid for on a monthly basis.
During the 1950s, the club instituted many of its signature events, including the Katie Awards, the annual Gridiron Show, political debates, press conferences, book signings and professional development workshops. Various communication-related organizations met regularly in the Club’s private dining rooms.
The Press Club of Dallas was in a unique situation in 1963 when the assassination of President John F. Kennedy brought the eye of national news to Dallas. Many of the club’s members reported first-hand on the assassination and the ensuing events, including the arrest and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald and later the arrest of Jack Ruby. Dallas reporters were up to the challenge, and, thanks to their work, new industry standards for reporting major news events – especially via television – were created here.
Some of the Club’s more famous visitors include Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, George W. Bush and Gerald Ford. Other notables include Red Skelton, Chief Justice Earl Warren and prominent attorneys Melvin Belli, Percy Foreman and Jo Jamail.
The club had a brief stint at the downtown Metropolitan Building before moving in the 1970s to Union Station. Following its years at Union Station, the Press Club had private meeting space at the Stoneleigh Hotel and the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. By the early 1990s, however, the cost of maintaining a dining room had grown astronomically, the sale of liquor by the drink had made the exclusivity of a private club no longer necessary to have a beer with lunch and the club opted to downsize its facilities. After brief stints on McKinney and Ross Avenues North Central Expressway, the Club relocated to the Women’s Museum in Fair Park at 3800 Parry Avenue. Currently, the Club is managed by its board of directors but does not have a physical location.
The Press Club of Dallas has a tradition of service to its members and the community through its longstanding programs including it’s the Press Club of Dallas Foundation scholarship grants, the Katie Awards, roasts of leading citizens and Gridiron Shows.
The Press Club of Dallas also offers networking and professional development opportunities through regular programs and workshops, forums on news-making topics and new legislation affecting journalism, happy hour social events, and book signings.
Since the 1950s, the Press Club of Dallas has played host to such journalism pioneers as Walter Cronkite, Hugh Sidey, Bob Schieffer and Ann Compton. Our own local membership includes some of the most revered members of Texas journalism– from people who shaped our industry during the days following the Kennedy assassination and in the early days of television broadcasting to those who competed for headlines when Dallas was still a two daily newspaper city.
Members of the Press Club of Dallas adhere to the highest standards of journalism ethics, striving for accuracy and fairness in their individual medium, avoiding conflicts of interest or the appearance of such and preserving the credibility of a profession whose goal is to present the public with the material it needs to make informed, enlightened decisions. Any acts of plagiarism, theft of intellectual property, actions that make one beholden to a particular cause or failure to adhere to professional standards of journalism could lead to cancellation of membership.