Texana Thursday: For Whom Is Dallas Named?

The Dallas city skyline (Creative Commons license attribution, photo courtesy Alan and Flora Botting)

Many Texas cities are named in honor of someone. Austin, Houston, and Lubbock are three examples.

For whom Dallas was named, however, isn’t so clear. One can make the case for any, perhaps all, of the following historical figures.

Joseph Dallas (birth and death dates unknown)

Joseph Dallas was one of the early settlers in the community that became Dallas. Not much more seems to be known about him, but in any event, he was not the city’s founder.

That honor goes to John Neely Bryan (1810-1877), a lawyer and businessman who grew up in Tennessee and had moved to Arkansas when he visited north Texas. A replica of the cabin where Bryan lived (and which for a time served as the courthouse) is in Founders Plaza in Dallas.

It’s more likely that the city was named for a man who was vice president of the United States when Texas became a state in 1845.

George Mifflin Dallas (1792-1864)

George Mifflin Dallas was from Philadelphia. He was vice president in the one-term presidency of James K. Polk, the 11th president, who served from 1845-49. It was during Polk’s presidency that Texas joined the United States as the 28th state in the Union.

Dallas served in several public offices before becoming vice president. He was a mayor of Philadelphia, a U.S. attorney, and a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. After leaving the vice presidency, he served as ambassador to the Court of St. James (the formal title of ambassador to the United Kingdom) under three presidents. He died in 1864,

The third person for whom the city of Dallas might have been named was a brother of George Dallas.

Alexander J. Dallas (1791-1844)

Alexander Dallas was a U.S. Navy officer, eventually becoming a commodore. Fort Dallas, in Florida, was named in his honor, as was the USS Dallas, a destroyer.

Regardless of who the city was named after, Dallas grew, prospered, and plays a key role in business and cultural affairs today.