TABLE OF CONTENTS
Donald Benjamin Fielding was born in Dallas, Texas on 7 July 1922 to parents Nathan and Bessie (nee Mesiroff) Finkelstein. In an autobiographical sketch (in this collection), Fielding notes important life influences were an education that began early, with his mother teaching him to read and write before entering kindergarten, and an incident he witnessed when he was eight or nine years old. The incident and its effect are described as "the abuse of a black woman by a Dallas policeman. It remains ingrained in my psyche." Also a member of the Temple Emanu-El and confirmed in 1935, many of the items in this collection convey Fielding's interest in religion and religious tolerance.
Fielding graduated from Forest Avenue High School in 1938 at age 15, the youngest in his class but top in academics with a 94.36 grade average. He chose to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. His goal was a career in foreign service. Noting that career ambition as motivation, Fielding changed his surname from Finkelstein to Fielding at the end of 1941, due to persuasion by his foreign trade professor.
Fielding attended the Wharton School between 1938 and 1942. Immediately after graduating, he went to the University of Havana.
Fielding was inducted into the United States Army in November 1942, when he was 20 years old. He attended Infantry Officer Candidate School and served his last 18 months of duty as a Field Training Lieutenant. In November 1944, Fielding achieved the rank of second lieutenant and was discharged in April 1946. During active duty, Fielding was an Operations and Training Staff Officer, a position at which he was noted to excel. At one time, he was also involved with the Armored Command and the Air Force (at the University of Havana).
After serving in the military, Fielding exchanged his earlier desires for a career in foreign trade to more local aspirations and employment in his father's business. Nathan Finkelstein had opened National Shoes in 1929 at 1403 Commerce Street, and from the 1930s throughout the 1970s, the enterprise was very successful. In 1958, Fielding and his brother, Paul, bought a building at 1505 Commerce, from which they ran a National Shoes store. In addition, two other stores were opened locally in 1968 and 1977, but declining business at the downtown location resulted in the closure of that initial store in 1995, after 66 years of operation. When it closed, it was one of only two significant pre-World War II retailers remaining in the downtown area.
In December of 1951, Donald Fielding married Virginia (Ginny) Lee Tipton. His wife had been born Viola Lavada Tipton in Marietta, Oklahoma, on 4 March 1925. She changed her name during the early 1940s to Virginia Lee Tipton.
As reflected in the collection, Fielding appears to have become increasingly interested in politics during the late 1950s. During this period, he became interested in and involved with youth, particularly through the Boy Scouts of America. He began taking leadership roles in scouting circa 1954, and in 1961 he was named chairman of the High Trail Scout District and its 35 cub scout packs, 34 boy scout troops, and 8 explorer units. It was at this time that Fielding also became more involved in local politics, running for the Place 2 position on the Dallas Independent School District Board in 1961. He lost to the more experienced and better backed John Green, supported by the Committee for Good Schools. Fielding felt his loss was due to his lack of experience and so worked with political publicist Hildred Barker to improve his political savvy. Along with a better understanding of politics wrought by that tutelage, Fielding broadened his areas of interest in Dallas schools and was instrumental in the establishment of the Citizens' Committee for Better Schools.
Fielding ran for the school board again in 1963, but his interests were expanding beyond education to encompass race and equality in the local political establishment. Particularly through the organization called Citizens for Representative Government (CRG) that Fielding established, he became a spokesperson for anti-establishment perspectives. The CRG worked hard to change the election of council members from at-large voting to single-member district representation. Fielding was also instrumental in the establishment of another important Dallas educational organization, the League for Educational Advancement in Dallas (LEAD). Fielding was involved with several different organizations throughout his civic career, including the Greater Dallas Human Relations Council.
Fielding has continued to be involved in politics in the twenty-first century, contributing to the campaigns of Dallas mayor Laura Miller and others. His penchant for politics has been passed on to his children, and his daughter Linda Koop was elected to the Dallas City Council in 2005 and was reelected in 2007 without an opponent.
Donald Fielding was a vocal and prominent personality in Dallas education and politics from the 1960s to the 1990s. The materials in this collection are primarily newspaper clippings, often with sections underscored and annotated to reflect Fielding's specific interests and perspectives. The clippings cover a broad range of topics, from national issues concerning religious tolerance to Dallas area dropout rates and the association between crime and poor education. Closely related to these clippings are a number of drafts and typescripts of letters to various publication editors, often further elucidating Fielding's perspective on issues addressed in the articles.
Additional materials include technical reports, financial records, personal typescripts, and publicity items. The collection contains membership lists and financial records for the CRG, campaign publicity materials for CRG-supported candidates, various reports to and by the Dallas City Council, and election results and tabulations. Education-related items include studies and analyses concerning education and the social implications of poor education, communications and other documents about LEAD, and campaign literature related to Fielding's two bids for positions on the Dallas School Board. There are in addition a number of documents and materials concerning social aspects of religion and religious tolerance and the separation of church and state.
Finally, the collection includes some personal items such as birth certificates, service documents, and some of Fielding's fiction and plays. There are also a limited number of materials related to National Shoes, the business Fielding's family owned and operated during much of his adult life.
This collection is divided into four series: Politics, Education, Religion, and Personal. The first two series, Politics and Education, comprise the bulk of the collection. Folders are arranged in alphabetical order by title, and items therein are arranged chronologically. Where there are many items related to a topic, items are subdivided further into categories: Articles, Correspondence, and General. Articles are clippings and photocopies from serial publications, usually local newspapers. Correspondence includes letters as well as memoranda and form letters such as communications with members of organizations with which Fielding was associated. The General category includes all other materials such as press releases, reports, bylaws, membership lists, and other items. General topics are also further subdivided into more specific topics, where warranted. The more specific topic is part of the folder title.
The Politics series is divided into subseries for items that concern national and state topics, and items that concern Dallas area topics. The former often relate to more than one topic of local interest. In the second subseries, there are a few arrangement characteristics of note. The information concerning the Citizens' Charter Association was gathered by the Citizens for Representative Government for its internal use. The Economic Development materials include articles and items related to the Chamber of Commerce, tax rate issues, city planning and zoning concerns, and general transportation development. The Elections materials contain items specifically concerning elections, but most will also be associated with other topics in this collection as well. The items related to John McKee include some general information about Masons and crime statistics that the donor collected in relation to his interest in McKee. Since McKee was also chair of the Dallas Committee for Good Schools, additional information related to McKee is located in the Education series. Articles related to Poverty are associated too with the Dropouts topic. The Religion topic includes items related to issues where religion was fairly directly involved, such as local clergy defending a suspended teacher.
The Education series covers not just education per se, but also broad influences on education (such as school lunch programs) and the potential effects of poor education (such as juvinile deliquency). The general topic includes broad issues such as teacher pay, student performance, and the role of education in society. The School Board topic covers a wide range of issues. In processing materials, items concerning issues that the school board may have had to address or that may have influenced school board actions are included in the School Board topic. This includes news articles about local school conditions (unless these fit into Dropouts or Integration topics), the local implementation of the Manpower Development and Training Act, and similarly broad concerns.
There is some crossover between this series and Education as the donor's concerns with the separation of church and state included an interest in school prayer, school vouchers, and other aspects of religion in public education. Items that focus on the religious aspect are included in this series. Other topics of interest included in this series cover religion and public affairs, religious freedom, and interfaith cooperation. Several brochures and booklets about Judaism are included.
The Personal series consists of materials relating to Fielding's book "Assassination and Education in Dallas" as well as his letters to editors of the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News. In addition, there are some materials, including photographs, relating to his family and materials that document his personal interests and activities, such as his military service, the National Shoe Company, and various forays into writing and story-telling.
Assassination and Education; a Guide to Dallas - 370.9764 F459A
Donald Fielding: An Oral History Interview -
This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.
Fielding, Donald B.
Finkelstein, Donald B.
Boy Scouts of America
Citizens' Charter Association (CCA)
Citizens Committee for Better Schools
Citizens for Representative Government (CRG)
Dallas Charter League
Dallas Citizens' Council (DCC)
Goals for Dallas
Greater Dallas Human Relations Council
League for Educational Advancement in Dallas (LEAD)
National Jobbing Company
National Shoes Inc.
separation of church and state
single-member district elections
MA 05-4 Donald Fielding Collection, Texas/Dallas History & Archives Division, Dallas Public Library
Processed by Steve Gaither
Supervised by Brian Collins