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Dallas’ first Black city manager, Richard Knight Jr., dies at 76

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

William Thomas and Mavis and Richard Knight
January 18, 1987 -From left: William Thomas and Mavis and Richard Knight are seen in this Fete Set photo. Credit: Joe Laird – staff photographer

By Everton Bailey Jr.

Richard Knight Jr., Dallas’ first Black city manager, died Monday. He was 76 years old.

Knight’s son, Marcus, confirmed that he died but declined to provide details, saying he and other relatives were in the process of notifying family members and friends.

Knight had been assistant city manager for four years before he was hired as the top administrative leader in 1986. He served in that role until 1990.

Richard Knight Jr.
Richard Knight Jr.

“We’re very sad that he’s no longer here with us, but we’re grateful and proud of who he was and what he’s done for our family and for this community,” said his son. “It’s been a tough day.”

Knight was born in Georgia and he was an Army veteran who served in Vietnam.

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During his tenure as city manager, Knight oversaw the completion of the Meyerson Symphony Center in 1989 and expansions of the Cotton Bowl in Fair Park and the Dallas Convention Center, which was renamed after former state senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2013.

Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson called Knight “a trailblazer” who spent his life serving Dallas.

“His selection as the first African American city manager in Dallas history helped show our city what was possible,” Johnson said in a statement. “His inclusive leadership style opened doors to many to pursue lives in public service. And his dedication to our communities after he left City Hall was exemplary.”

Knight also served as city manager in Durham and Carrboro, both in North Carolina, and in Gainesville, Fla.

He had most recently founded Fort Worth-based Knight Waste Services and was the company’s chairman. He was also a former board chairman at the State Fair of Texas, as well as a former board member of the University of North Texas Board of Regents, Boy Scouts of America, North Texas Public Broadcasting, the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas and the Dallas Citizens Council.

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Knight also held executive positions with Caltex Petroleum Corp. in Dallas and Singapore and founded KnightCo Oil Company, which he sold in 2004.

He is survived by his wife and three adult sons.

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