Best of Texas: Dallas
A Few Questions For Roger Staubach
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• Executive chairman—Americas, for Jones Lang LaSalle, an international commercial real estate firm
• Founder of the Staubach Company, which he sold to Jones Lang LaSalle last year for $613 million
• Quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, 1969—1979
After you finished your Hall of Fame career with the Cowboys, you could have lived anywhere you wanted. Why did you stay in Dallas? When my wife, Marianne, and I came to Dallas, in 1969, we had already started our family, and we added two more children here. Through the eleven years that I played for the Cowboys, our kids came to love Dallas and the state. My wife and I had both grown up in Cincinnati—we were high school sweethearts—but we fell in love with the city as well. With a family, I decided that I had better make sure that I had something to fall back on in case I got hurt playing football. I had a bachelor of science in engineering, a BS, and that’s what I was: a BS in engineering. We didn’t have any money and my savings from the Navy was nothing, so I went to work for the Henry S. Miller Company. Mr. Miller was fantastic, and I learned a lot about the real estate business. Then I started my own company a few years before I retired from the Cowboys. From a business standpoint, Dallas was a great place to be. So when it came down to family and business, I don’t think we could have picked a better city in the country.
When those two things work out, it makes the decision easier. That’s right. Marianne and I never once thought about leaving Dallas.
You’ve certainly lived in Dallas long enough to have seen a lot of change. What stands out to you, both good and bad? This is a city in the middle of the country that was built to grow, but you have to be careful to do it in the right way. When I first arrived, the Tollway didn’t go north. There was nothing past 635. Once Dallas started growing, you had to have the roads. You had to have the great airport. You had to have light-rail. It hasn’t been a piece of cake, but Dallas has done a lot of great things in those areas. I do wish that we had grown in a way that we kept downtown as the heart of Dallas. The Arts District is a perfect example of progress, but some of our projects have had a start-and-stop quality to them. When I first came to Dallas, for example, they were talking about what to do with the Trinity River. Things will happen, but we have to stay focused, particularly with downtown and South Dallas. And we have to make the case why those areas are so important to North Dallas. One of the disappointments to me is that we haven’t recognized enough the importance of inclusion and diversity. For a time, the city really didn’t understand the evils of discrimination. Consider South Dallas, which in so many ways is prettier than parts of North Dallas. But it still has a long way to go because we didn’t recognize the needs of the African American, Hispanic, and Asian populations. One of our opportunities now is to understand that we can’t make decisions based on race. We need to think about those things differently, have the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, and make up for some of the sins of the past.
When Mayor Tom Leppert announced his candidacy for the 2007 election, he did it at a school in South Dallas. He was clearly making the point that he wanted to run a citywide campaign. And he really gets it. When we first came to Dallas, there were apartments that you couldn’t lease if you were African American. Having come out of the Navy, that shocked me. It’s degrading, and it’s wrong. Mayor Leppert is being inclusive. You can’t solve all of the problems overnight, but you have to make sure that they are a priority.
Tell me about some of your favorite places in Dallas. When it comes to restaurants, we hold our own with cities like New York or Chicago. My family and I were out at Neighborhood Services the other night, and we recently took our kids to Shinsei. We also love Al Biernat’s and Dean Fearing’s restaurant, at the Ritz-Carlton. We enjoy experimenting with places. All of our kids are back in Dallas now, so on Saturdays we typically eat out for both lunch and dinner.
If you were showing Dallas off to guests, where would you take them? You always want to go to Dealey Plaza and visit the Sixth Floor Museum to consider the history that happened there. We have a lot of friends who come to visit, and my wife enjoys taking them to the State Fair, at Fair Park. And there’s so much to do in downtown now: the Meyerson and the Nasher and the list goes on. Of course, you used to go to Texas Stadium, but now you go to the new Cowboys Stadium. That’s in Arlington, but the old one was in Irving. We’re just all one region, and that’s how we’re approaching it with the Super Bowl. Our committee [Staubach was the chairman of the North Texas Super Bowl XLV Host Committee, which submitted the winning bid for the 2011 Super Bowl] is putting on a major regional event. It’s not just about Dallas.
As a Dallas native, I find it interesting that you mentioned the Sixth Floor Museum first. Do you think Dallas is still thought of primarily for the Kennedy assassination? When I was the quarterback at the Naval Academy, we actually played in the Cotton Bowl that year against Texas, and it was ironic, because President Kennedy was our commander in chief. You have our age group, who still know exactly where they were when it happened—I was on my way to my thermodynamics class when I got the news. So people still want to understand that experience, and it will be relevant for a while. It’s an unfortunate thing for Dallas, and it was a black mark, but I think we’ve overcome it. Dallas wasn’t well liked back in those days, and I didn’t like Dallas either. But playing for the Cowboys in the seventies was a positive thing. We never had a losing season during that time, and we won two Super Bowls. That was good for Dallas. Tom Landry helped us overcome that in part because of the way that he carried himself. I think Landry’s integrity was such an asset, and it remains so to this day. He was an impeccable human being.
You mentioned the new Cowboys Stadium. Will you miss Sunday afternoons at Texas Stadium? I think that Texas Stadium lived its life—longer than most stadiums. We’re excited about the new stadium and what it will mean for the region. It shows growth, and that the future of Dallas has taken another step forward. Of course, the stadium should have been in Dallas, but we don’t have to get into that.