2012 Archives

Walter J. Humann, credited with modernizing life
in Dallas, to be honored with top ethics award April 2

Maguire Ethics Center’s 2012 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award

March 26, 2012

DALLAS (SMU) — Prominent businessman and public servant Walter J. Humann is chiefly recognized for creating the Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) system and helping desegregate Dallas schools with vision and skillful diplomacy. For these and other accomplishments he will receive the 2012 J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award from SMU at a noon luncheon at the Belo Mansion April 2.

Walter Humann
Walter J. Humann
Tickets for the event are $50 for individuals; sponsorship tables for 10 also are available for $1,500. For ticket information, contact Erin Sutton at 214-768-4575 or esutton@smu.edu.

Presented each year by SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility, the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award is given to individuals who exemplify the spirit of moral leadership and public virtue. In Humann’s case, that involves his work in improving education, transportation, race relations, government organization, urban planning and infrastructure in North Texas. It also recognizes his time as a successful businessman: Humann leads his own firm, WJH Corporation, and has held top management positions in other major corporations, including Hunt Consolidated, Memorex-Telex and the LTV Corporation.

Longtime SMU board member Ray Hunt, this year’s J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award event chair, worked with Humann during the awardee’s time (1975-1992) as president of Hunt Investments and chair of the executive committee of Hunt Consolidated, Inc., one of the largest privately held energy, real estate, agribusiness and investment companies in America. Later, Hunt was also a partner in Humann’s WJH Corporation operations.

“Having worked closely with both Walt and Erik Jonsson on many projects, I can say that Walt’s spirit of public service and responsibility to his community is cut from the same cloth as Mayor Jonsson,” Hunt says. “Everything Walt has done for Dallas and its citizens, not to mention in his private business, has been conceived and executed with the highest level of ethical conduct and moral responsibility. I believe that there is no one in Dallas more deserving of this honor than Walt.”

Humann was selected for the honor because of his lifelong commitment to improving the quality of life for the Dallas community, says Maguire Center Director Rita Kirk.

“With quiet tenacity and perceptive vision, he played a pivotal role in the desegregation of the Dallas Independent School District by founding the Dallas Alliance. The Alliance’s Education Task Force created the Magnet Schools of DISD, thereby enriching the education and lives of thousands of children.” As Humann told D Magazine in 1985, “I felt strongly that the way to go was by voluntary intermixing of the races, where you have quality education at the end of the bus rides.”

“With everything he’s done,” Kirk says, “Walt upholds the tradition of excellence that the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award was created to recognize.”

Nationally, Humann was selected in the late 1960s by President Lyndon B. Johnson as the first White House Fellow from Texas.  Later, in 1970, he was chosen as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men of America,” primarily for chairing the national committee that helped create the U.S. Postal Service. The former deficit-ridden, politically driven Post Office Department was replaced with a service run more like a public corporation. At the time USPS was created, it constituted the largest federal government reorganization in U.S. history.

During his time in Washington, Humann also co-authored with Doris Kearns (now Goodwin) and others a report, requested by the President, on ways to heal the breach between the college student community and the federal government. This report was presented to President Johnson in 1968 — one of the most turbulent years in U.S. history, marked by massive student anti-war protests. The report was titled, “Confrontation or Participation: The Federal Government and the Student Community.” He also wrote a children’s book, an illustrated poem entitled, The Little Crescent Moon and the Bright Evening Star, and co-authored with Mayor Jonsson, D: The Book of Dallas.

Regionally, the “father of DART,” also led the successful redevelopment of the North Central Corridor, with Central Expressway and the DART rail line helping solve the nation’s “oldest living highway controversy.” In addition, Humann helped mediate the Love Field dispute among three airline CEO’s and the mayors of Dallas and Fort Worth in the 80s. He founded the Jubilee Project in the late 1990s and served for more than 10 years as its chairman, helping revitalize a 62-block inner-city Dallas neighborhood. Jubilee is trying a unique approach by dealing comprehensively with all elements affecting a blighted community — public education, anti-crime, health, employment, housing, economic development and physical improvements.

Humann holds a physics degree from MIT, an MBA from Harvard, and a Juris Doctor degree from the Evening Division of the SMU Dedman School of Law (’67). He has received numerous business and public service awards, including SMU’s Distinguished Alumni Award, Dedman School of Law Distinguished Alumni Award and The Legacy of Leadership Award from the White House Fellows Foundation in Washington, D.C.

He is married to his high school sweetheart; they have three children and eleven grandchildren.

Past winners of the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award, now in its 15th year, include Ruth S. Altshuler, Bob Buford, Ronald G. Steinhart, Michael M. Boone, Zan W. Holmes Jr., Roger Staubach, Caren Prothro, Tom Luce, 
Ron Anderson, 
Jack Lowe Jr., William T. Solomon, Stanley H. Marcus, Charles C. Sprague and Curtis W. Meadows Jr.

Last year the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award raised nearly $235,000 for SMU’s Maguire Ethics Center. For more details about the award or the Maguire Ethics Center, visit smu.edu/ethics, email maguire_ethics@smu.edu or call 214-768-4255.

ABOUT THE AWARD:

J. Erik Jonsson was a founder of Texas Instruments, a strong advocate for education and a public-spirited mayor of Dallas who worked from 1964 to 1971 to improve morale and the image of the city after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He pushed through a $175 million bond that financed a new city hall, the Dallas Convention Center and the Dallas Central Library and was a driving force in the development of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. For more information, visit http://www.smu.edu/Provost/Ethics/Events/Ethics%20Award.

ABOUT THE MAGUIRE ETHICS CENTER:

Through a generous endowment by Cary M. Maguire, SMU established the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility as a university-wide center that supports student and faculty ethics-related education and activities, as well as community outreach to private and public institutions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Maguire Ethics Center serves as a forum for the exploration of issues bearing on the public good and seeks to challenge and encourage the development of ethical discernment, imagination and action. It brings together those who confront issues of social importance with resources and opportunities for ethical reflection. 

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