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DeSoto Mayor Curtistene Smith McCowan Dies At 72

Portrait of DeSoto Mayor Curtistene Smith McCowan with American flag in the background.
DeSoto City Government
DeSoto Mayor Curtistene Smith McCowan

McCowan, the first Black woman elected to public office in the city, died Wednesday after battling lung cancer.

Curtistene Smith McCowan dedicated much of her life to serving the DeSoto community. McCowan was first elected Mayor of DeSoto in 2016 and had served ever since. She also served on the city council from 2012 until she was elected mayor, and held several public offices prior to that.

McCowan first announced that she had lung cancer at a city council meeting earlier this month. Many leaders in the North Texas community are mourning her loss.

Wednesday night, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson tweeted his condolences saying McCowan's death was "unbelievably sad news."

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins also shared his sentiments, thanking McCowan for her years of service.

DeSoto ISD's Superintendent Dr. D’Andre J. Weaver said in a statement he'll miss McCowan "tremendously."

"We spoke often as Mayor McCowan was one of my biggest cheerleaders. She was always available for a word of advice or encouragement and for that, I am eternally grateful," Weaver's statement said. "I am humbled by the sacrifices of her family who so selflessly shared her with us. The district extends its sincerest gratitude for her lifetime of service and its deepest condolences to her family during this time...May her legacy thrive in our own commitment to the service and improvement of this incredible community."

Texas State Representative Carl Sherman Sr. had been good friends with McCowan and her family for more than a decade.

"I'm going to miss the times in their living room just she and I talking for hours. It's funny now I look back I'm like 'wow we've had a long relationship,'" he said.

Sherman adds McCowan's heart was dedicated to the DeSoto community and her legacy will be her integrity and determination to always put others first.

"Yeah, she was very good about making sure that our views were respected, that there was always order and civility. Those were signature markers of her grace.," Sherman said

Cedar Hill ISD Superintendent Dr. Gerald Hudson released a statement Thursday morning saying, "Mayor McCowan was an empathetic and dynamic leader who utilized her legislative, educational and economic development acumen for the betterment of not just DeSoto, but the entire Best Southwest..."

Hudson said the district will honor McCowan with a moment of silence prior to the start of two Cedar Hill-DeSoto sporting events next week.

Prior to her time on the city council, McCowan served for five years on the DeSoto Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors and also was a founder and president of Concerned DeSoto Citizens. Her husband Leon R. McCowan and she had been active with that organization for more than 30 years.

According to the City of DeSoto, McCowan was the first Black woman elected to public office in the city when she won a seat on the DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees in 1990. She served in that capacity for six years, two of those years as president.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member and writes about the economic impact of COVID-19 on marginalized communities for KERA News. Email Alejandra at You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @_martinez_ale.

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Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.