Reby Cary, a true North Texas trailblazer who has worn many hats and titles in his 93 years, will be honored for his service to the community Saturday during a fun-filled evening sponsored by the Tarrant County Black Historical and Genealogical Society.
The event will be a “roast” of Cary, and while it should have plenty of light-hearted moments, it should not overlook Cary’s long list of “firsts,” his stellar career as an educator and his never-ending fight for civil rights and social justice.
This unapologetic warrior was the first black person elected to the Fort Worth school board, the first African-American professor of history and administrator at the University of Texas at Arlington and one of the first blacks elected to the state Legislature from Tarrant County — one who publicly bucked his Democratic Party and later resigned to become a Republican.
Before all of that, this Fort Worth native and graduate of I.M. Terrell High School was among the first 13 African-Americans in Dallas/Fort Worth to volunteer as apprentice seamen in the United States Coast Guard, and he was the first black “radioman” on his ship as it sailed for the Mariana Islands for the invasion of Saipan during World War II.
Cary, a former teacher and counselor at Dunbar High School, has become the foremost historian of African-American history in Fort Worth, having written numerous books about the personalities, the politics, communities and the churches of his hometown.
Last year, there was a Fort Worth school board agenda item to name the new John T. White Elementary School for Cary. It was withdrawn when board members realized that although the school had been named for the street where it is located, White was an important figure in Fort Worth and served as Tarrant County superintendent of public instruction from 1927 to 1934.
That was the appropriate decision in that case, but the idea of naming a school for Cary is a valid one that still should be considered.
The newly approved school bond issue includes building some new schools.
One of them could bear the name Reby Cary, as could the all-male Young Men’s Leadership Academy now named for poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, a name already on other schools in the district.