Fort Worth

Fort Worth’s first African-American city councilman ‘set the stage for all of us’

Dr. Edward Guinn, shown in this May 29, 2000, photograph at his practice in Stop Six.
Dr. Edward Guinn, shown in this May 29, 2000, photograph at his practice in Stop Six. Star-Telegram

He was Fort Worth’s first African-American city council member.

He also worked as a physician for more than a half-century, bringing healthcare to an underserved part of the city.

For some, Edward Guinn was an inspiration. For others, he was a mentor.

“Dr. Guinn literally paved the way for people like me to be able to serve the city I love,” said Fort Worth City Councilwoman Kelly Allen Gray, one of two African-American council members.

Guinn, 93, died on August 28.

A private funeral service was held last Friday at Greenwood Memorial Park.

“He ran in a very difficult time in the height of civil rights movement,” Gray said. “He played an active role on the Human Relations Commission and actually laid some of the groundwork for the policies we still use today.”

Guinn was born Jan. 9, 1925, in Fort Worth and graduated from I.M. Terrell High School in 1941. He graduated from Prairie View A&M College in 1945 with a degree in biology and chemistry. The degree was awarded in absentia because of his World War II military service.

He worked as a chemistry professor at Prairie View before attending the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he graduated in 1956.

He worked as a physician until the last months of his life, said his daughter, Jamie Guinn.

For Guinn, his family came first, then his practice, his daughter said.

“He was offered lucrative partnerships in Philadelphia where he did his internship and his residency,” Jamie Guinn said. “Instead he turned those down to set up a practice in underservred community. He was quite strategic about that.”

Former Star-Telegram columnist Bob Ray Sanders, who now works at the Fort Worth Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce, said he looked up to the Fort Worth physician who took an interest in him throughout his life.

“Dr. Guinn was my hero — always has been; always will be,” Sanders said. “The fact that he came back to Fort Worth after medical school and set up an office in an underserved area of our community and never left it speaks volumes.”

He was able to be elected to the City Council in 1967 because of his ability to get along with others, said Fort Worth historian Richard Selcer in “A History of Fort Worth in Black & White: 165 Years of African-American Life.”

“Unlike most early black leaders, Edward Guinn did come out of the black church,” Selcer wrote. “He owed his political success to being a team player.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price praised Guinn’s “devotion” to the city as a doctor and in public service.

“The Fort Worth community is built on the shoulders of incredible leaders and trailblazers, and Dr. Edward W. Guinn was one of those public servants,” Price said in a statement. “Dr. Guinn devoted his life to making this city a better place, and we are eternally grateful to his leadership on the Fort Worth City Council. He always demonstrated incredible courage and tenacity no matter what role, whether as a council member, in civic service and most importantly as a loving husband, father and grandfather.”

Former Star-Telegram City Hall reporter Cecil Johnson, who was the first African-American journalist hired by a major Texas daily newspaper, said Guinn had a unique ability to get along with others in his two terms on the City Council.

“I remember him as a very diplomatic, very suave person — he would kind remind you of a Barack Obama type of a person,” Johnson said. “He knew how to get along with people.”

At the time of his death, his medical license was still active, scheduled to expire on Feb. 28, 2019, according to the Texas Medical Board.

Reby Cary, who was the first African-American elected to the Fort Worth school board in 1974 and later served as a state representative, praised Guinn for setting a path for others.

“I always said he was a pioneer as the first black city councilman,” Cary said. “He set the stage for all of us to come along after him.”

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Bill Hanna: 817-390-7698, @ fwhanna
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