Dr. Marcellus Cooper. Image courtesy of the Dallas County Historical Commission

The first Black dentist in Texas was born a slave on a farm near what is now NorthPark Center, and a historical marker will go up there in his honor.

The Dallas County Historical Commission approved a marker for Dr. Marcellus Cooper, born Feb. 12, 1862 on the Caruth Farm. The Communities Foundation of Texas sponsored the historical marker, which will go up at 5500 Caruth Haven Lane.

His mother, Sallie Lively, was a slave, and his father, M.C. Cooper, was a white man, according to the foundation’s application.

Young Marcellus Cooper attended school in Little Egypt, a freedmen’s community north of White Rock Lake. He later moved with his father to Springfield, Missouri, where he attended high school.

After that, he worked at Sanger Bros. Department Store, and he saved up for 11 years until he could afford to attend Meharry Medical School in Nashville.

Cooper returned to Dallas in 1896 as the first licensed dentist in Texas and set up a practice. He moved his business into the Pythian Temple, the first commercial building in Dallas paid for, designed and built by Black people, when it was completed in 1916.

He was a popular dentist, and he also invested in the first Black-owned department store in Downtown, Lewis Dry Goods Store and the first black-owned bank in Dallas, the Penny Savings Bank. He died in 1929.

The historical commission approved markers for several other Black history sites in Dallas, including one at Anderson Bonner Park, whose namesake was born into slavery around 1840. Bonner was a shrewd businessman, despite illiteracy, who amassed 2,000 acres of farmland along White Rock Creek.

A marker also was approved for the site of the 1910 mob lynching of Allen Brooks, which drew a crowd of about 5,000 spectators and was depicted on post cards. There is a memorial for Brooks at the Old Red Courthouse, where the mob overpowered law enforcement before his arraignment and pitched him out of a window. But there is no marker at the site where Brooks was hanged.


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