(This column first appeared Jan. 18, 2012.)
For Walter Dansby, the Fort Worth school district's interim superintendent, the dominoes started falling his way a half-century ago.
In the mid-1960s, the way the story goes, prominent Fort Worth homebuilder Cameron Shropshire was hosting a game of forty-two in the family's Rivercrest Drive home.
He told his guests about his housekeeper's smart nephew, Dunbar High School student Walter Dansby.
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One of the other domino players was Superintendent Julius Truelson, then relying on sheer courage and iron will to lead the district through desegregation.
“You've got to meet this kid,” Shropshire told Truelson.
“He might grow up to be superintendent of schools someday.”
A half-century later, that former Rivercrest Drive “lawn boy” is on the verge of becoming the district's first home-grown superintendent since the 1960s.
Dansby, 61, would bring along both the benefits and baggage of anyone who has coached, taught and worked his entire career among family and friends in his hometown.
In the 1990s, the former Southwest and Paschal championship basketball coach was considered a rising young star principal who turned down three promotions to administration. For the last decade, the question has been whether he would ever get this final promotion.
“My father always loved him like one of his sons,” said Cameron Shropshire Jr., 81, a retired physician.
“Our family always considered Walter a great friend.”
The elder Shropshire urged Dansby to stay in college after basketball took him to the cold and remote Texas plains.
Dansby, an all-district player and city high jump champion for the Dunbar Wildcats, was team captain at South Plains College in Levelland, then was injured his junior year at what is now UT Arlington.
Dansby talked about Shropshire at a December luncheon speech, remembering how the homebuilder “saw something in me that other people didn't see.” Dansby used it as an example of how teachers should encourage their students.
“I knew that not going back [to college] would mean I would have to look Mr. Shropshire in the eye and tell him,” Dansby told the teachers.
“I knew he wouldn't let me quit. … You have that power in the lives of countless children.”
You never know.
One might grow up to be the superintendent.