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Hugh Parmer, Former Fort Worth Mayor, State Legislator And Humanitarian, Has Died

Hugh Parmer speaks at a press conference.
Ann Heisenfelt
AP Photo
Hugh Parmer, former president of the American Refugee Committee, announces that ARC is the first recipient of funding from the Bush-Clinton Tsunami Fund during a news conference in Minneapolis, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2005.

Hugh Parmer, who led Fort Worth from 1977 to 1979 and served in both houses of the state legislature, has died. He was 80.

When he was mayor, D Magazine described him as “the shrewdest, most cunning politician the city has known in decades.”

Parmer was a Democrat who had stints in the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas Senate. He also ran a few U.S. congressional campaigns, but was never elected.

Deborah Peoples is the chair of the Tarrant County Democratic Party who said his appointment of African American judges — like her sister, Maryellen Hicks — opened up politics to others.

"For me, as I grew older, the Democratic Party wasn’t always welcoming,” Peoples said. “And so what Hugh Parmer did, by his reaching out and his willingness to embrace people who didn’t look like him, it made me stay engaged in the party."

Parmer went on to a career in humanitarian aid. He worked for the federal government responding to global disasters like the war in Kosovo during the Clinton administration, and later led the American Refugee Committee, now known as Alight. He also taught at several North Texas universities.

“Hugh Parmer was an incredible public servant and philanthropist, who always led with compassion and put Fort Worth first,” current Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price tweeted. “Hugh’s dedication to international humanitarian and refugee efforts inspired many and his legacy will leave a positive footprint in our community for generations to come.”

State Senator Beverly Powell tweeted about his “legacy of service.”

“He will be remembered for his forward-thinking approach and commitment to bettering all of humanity,” she wrote.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.orgYou can follow Miranda on Twitter @mirandarsuarez.

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Miranda Suarez is KERA’s Tarrant County accountability reporter. Before coming to North Texas, she was the Lee Ester News Fellow at Wisconsin Public Radio, where she covered statewide news from the capital city of Madison. Miranda is originally from Massachusetts and started her public radio career at WBUR in Boston.