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Price Supporters Call His Arrest A "Raw Deal" While Most Of His Critics Remain Silent

Shelley Kofler
A car "wrapped" with life-sized photo of John Wiley Price sat at the commissioner court building Friday.

Following John Wiley Price’s arrest Friday morning, a layer of quiet concern seemed to settle over the offices where he was sworn in 29 years ago as the first African American on the Dallas County Commission.

Price’s colleague Commissioner Theresa Daniel said her reaction to the arrest was: “Best thoughts and concern for a friend absolutely, without a question.  But  then also recognizing is what I have to do is respond to what Dallas County residents would want which is keep up my work for them.”

The other commissioners didn’t return calls. County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a statement that didn’t mention Price but said he “prayed for all those involved with the federal investigation.”

In the lobby, however, Deborah Culberson, a Dallas Housing Authority board member spoke with anger.

““It’s a raw deal,” she said. “This is am very successful man.  He pulled himself up.  Didn’t have nothing.  Come here trying to help people. And a lot of people he’s trying to help are stabbing him in the back. “

Culberson is one of Price’s, “Warriors,” activists who have protested with him over the years for what they’ve seen as social injustices.

Culberson says the Warriors will now rally for Price.

“We want everybody to be cautious. Don’t go out and do stupid stuff.  But the warriors are here.  We’re behind him 100%.”

The 64-year old District 3 commissioner also found support at the federal courthouse.  While he was being arraigned inside, Dallas NCCCP President Juanita Wallace talked to reporters outside.

“He stood up for us when others have not,” she said.

She questioned whether Price’s in-your-face battles for minority rights have made him a target for law enforcement.

“It appears to me it’s a high level profiling issue.  It’s another way to say to everybody if we can bring John Wiley Price down with some of the accusations that are being made, we can bring every other person down,” said Wallace.

Words of support for one of Dallas’ most polarizing figures also came from the Rev. Frederick “Freddie” Haynes who leads Friendship West Baptist Church in southern Dallas County. 

Haynes says he just wants fairness for the commissioner who attends his church. He says Price never let his activism get in the way of being a skilled administrator as he served the county.

Haynes said Price’s faith has kept him focused.

“He is a man of prayer.  He is a man of faith.  And that has presided over how he has handled himself.”

Price has also accumulated political enemies over the years as he’s faced off in heated challenges and advocated for his allies.  But Friday, many of them remained silent as the legal case against the commissioner known as “Our Man Downtown” began to unfold.

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.