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Starting something since 1927At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we’ve been impacting the lives of children for 85 years. And we’re just getting started.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star Agency History

For 85 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been helping change the lives of kids in Texas by giving them the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. And we have eight and a half decades of volunteers, donors, and advocates just like you to thank!

Our Humble Beginnings
It all started on February 24, 1927, when the growing number of boys passing through the Juvenile Court System in Dallas County inspired the humble beginnings of what is now the nation's largest Big Brothers Big Sisters agency. Through the vision of few, hundreds of thousands of Texans lives were changed for the better, forever through the power of one-to-one youth mentoring.

In 1926, Ms. Jessie A. White, a young probation officer of the Dallas Juvenile Court, was distraught at the futures that awaited the boys filing through the court system. "When a child is brought to us there are only two things to do with him," she said. "We can send him to the reform school or we can send him back to the same conditions from which he came."

What these boys need is a friend that the boy can count on, who can give him the feeling that some one is especially interested in him. Upon this realization, Ms. White took a step which would forever change the futures of North Texas children.

The Big Brother Club
Ms. White visited civic organizations, churches and clubs to recruit mentors and generate support for the Big Brother movement which began in New York City 23 years earlier. Through the support Judge F.H. Alexander and the Dallas Rotary Club Boys Committee which began the process of recruiting businessmen to serve as mentors, the Dallas Big Brothers Club was ultimately born on February 24, 1927.

Mr. J.J. Burnett was named the first president of the Dallas Big Brothers Club and by 1929, 75 Dallas businessmen had stepped forward as Big Brothers to boys throughout the city. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, additional services to boys were offered through the Dallas Big Brothers Club. In 1932, the County Boys Parental Home and School was opened to provide a home to boys convicted through the Juvenile Courts but not meeting the requirements for reform school. In 1939, Camp Tammi Babi (Comanche words for Little Brother) opened in Cedar Hill to provide Little Brothers a structured summer environment away from the busy city.  The Melba Theatre on Elm Street hosted Saturday morning Big Brother programs which featured visits by Popeye the Sailor and Baby Rose Marie, and motion pictures including Joe Palooka featuring Jimmy Durante and The Lone Cowboy featuring Jackie Cooper.

Historic Places
It wasnít until 1935 that the Dallas Big Brothers Club opened it first official headquarters at 1607 Main St. in what was then called the Praetorian Building (now called Stone Place Tower.) This neoclassical style building was dubbed the West's first skyscraper at 15 stories tall.

The Melrose Hotel in Dallas also claims relevance in the early history of the organization. The hotel hosted more than a decade of Big Brother/Little Brother annual holiday banquets and Dallas Big Brother Club annual meetings. At this banquet in 1945, Jimmy Smith was honored as being the first Little Brother to become a Big Brother in the program.

World War II
The program began to grow steadily until the numbers became difficult to track during WWII.  Of the 302 boys reported served by the organization in early 1942, approximately 100 Big Brothers and 64 Little Brothers were reported as on active military duty by the end of that year. 

Many employers at the time allowed qualified Little Brothers to fill in for their Big Brothers active in the armed forces. Sadly, during these war years the absence of fathers, brothers and Big Brothers ultimately led to an increase in youth delinquency and an even greater demand for male mentors.

Houston
In 1950 ten local Houston leaders led by Oved Essary & Jim Taylor came together to bring Big Brothers Big Sisters to the largest city in the state. Essary and Taylor, who were both Big Brothers in Dallas and had moved to Houston after World War II, saw the impact of the program firsthand and recognized the need in their new city. That first year, they served 30 children, and over the subsequent 60 years, the program in Greater Houston grew to become one of the top 20 in the nation. Today Mr. Essary is still a champion for our local work and his daughter Leilani Essary Hurles and her family are active with the agency. Recognizing the value and efficiencies in joining efforts with their neighbors to the north, in 2010 the Houston Board voted to merge with the North & West Central Texas agency.

First Golf Tournament
As the agency grew and the waiting list expanded, so did the need for in creased funds and creative ways to acquire them. 1967 brought forth the first golf tournament for Big Brothers of Tarrant County, hosted at Ridglea Country Club. In 1969, Arlington began the Big Brothers Celebrity Golf Tournament and over the years these events laid the foundation for what is still the longest standing and still active fundraiser for the organization.  Throughout their history, these events drew professional golfers, athletes and celebrities from across the nation including Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Tom Landry, Darrell Royal, Willie Nelson, Mickey Mantle and many others.

National Recognition

By the 1970s, the local agencies were gaining a national reputation as leaders among the Federation.  In 1976, E.C. Ransom was named National Big Brother of the Year after mentoring nine boys through the course of 22 years. In 1989, the accomplishment was realized once more when long-time supporter Dale Long was again awarded the honor.

Big Sisters Join the Program
It wasn't until 1977, when the Big Brothers Association and Big Sisters International joined forces and ultimately became Big Brothers Big Sisters accross the nation. Locally, offices across our service area fully embraced this merger and actively pursued recruitment efforts to fully engage local women to serve the need for the next generation of female leaders.

United We Stand
As all of the North Texas agencies grew and efficiencies were sought to take the program to the next level, the next step grew evident...merger.  In 2003, through the leadership of of the separate Boards of Arlington and Mansfield, Dallas and Fort Worth, Charles Pierson was appointed the new CEO and the creation of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Texas was accomplished.

In the years since this historic merger, other community agencies have also joined the organization including Northeast Texas (Paris), West Central Texas (Abilene, San Angelo and Brownwood) and Greater Houston in 2010.  As well, through the new efficiencies created through centralized functionality, Big Brothers Big Sisters has been able to expand to other communities previously unserved including Waco, Waxahachie, Wichita Falls, Stephenville and Jack County. This expansion culminated in the creation of our more geographically neutral name - Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star in 2010.

While many things have changed since Jessie Whiteís vision first touched the boys of Dallas 85 years ago, the core purpose of the organization has remained steadfast: to encourage children to reach their highest potential by providing friendship and guidance through one-to-one mentoring relationships.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star Communities Established Merged
Dallas 1927 2003
Fort Worth 1939 2003
Houston 1950 2010
Arlington/Mansfield 1969 2003
Abilene 1969 2007
Denton 1975 -
Paris 1978 2005
Waco 1994 2009
Grayson County 1996 -
San Angelo 2005 -
Brownwood 2007 -
Wichita Falls 2009 -
Waxahachie 2009 -
Stephenville 2010 -
Jack County 2011  -



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Serving: Abilene, Arlington, Brownwood, Collin CountyDallas, Denton County, Ellis County, Erath County,
Fort Worth, Grayson CountyHouston, Jack CountyParis, San Angelo, Stephenville, Waco, Wichita Falls

© 2011 Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star, 888.887.BIGS