Dallas, TX
United States
Lee Park, near entrance Turtle Creek Blvd. & Lemmon Ave. Allan Ross AIDS Memorial since 16 March 1992
without names
AIDS memorial that took fight with city to be rededicated
In 1989, Dallas Tavern Guild Executive Director Alan Ross began working on an AIDS memorial that he hoped to place in Lee Park. He submitted an application to the city’s park board but kept running into obstacles. In 1990, Dallas Tavern Guild members planted 1,800 daffodils in Lee Park — one for each person in Dallas County who had died of AIDS. But when Ross tried to place a plaque in the garden, he was blocked. In July 1990, the park board ruled that the Tavern Guild — an association of gay bars — could erect an AIDS memorial. They just couldn’t use the words AIDS, gay or lesbian. Not until 1992 did the two sides reach a compromise, and the plaque was installed in the garden at Lee Park.
After the original location became part of a new formal garden earlier this year, the plaque was moved. Now, promoters of the often-overlooked Alan Ross AIDS Memorial in Lee Park hope a rededication ceremony on Saturday, June 22, will bring it new attention. “It’s a place of quiet reflection,” said current Tavern Guild Executive Director Michael Doughman, who spearheaded the revitalization of the memorial.
Park board, others opposed plan
Ross originally wanted the memorial to include a time capsule and a brick walkway with the names of those who died from AIDS etched on the bricks, according to Dallas Morning News archives. The park board blocked those ideas and the fight moved to City Council. The Dallas Southern Memorial Association argued to the council that Lee Park was not a neighborhood park but a tribute to Robert E. Lee, reports said. The Turtle Creek Association said the park would not be suitable for children with an AIDS memorial. Park board members said they didn’t want to dedicate public land to one specific disease and suggested the memorial be placed at Parkland hospital, the Morning News reported. They said they didn’t like the precedent the memorial set. This was despite the fact that Ross had raised $20,000 in the LGBT community for the park department to use for upkeep. The battle continued for years over wording. The park department finally allowed the use of AIDS, and Ross relented on including the words gay and lesbian. He had the plaque and granite base made and dated March 15, 1992. The dedication took place on March 16.
A tree planted at the time died several years ago and had been already removed from the site when Doughman was approached by the Lee Park Conservancy about moving the memorial to a new location. The relocated AIDS memorial is along a walk that extends from a new formal entrance to the park at Turtle Creek Boulevard and Lemmon Avenue. The new cedar elm is placed among older trees and new plantings of azaleas and smaller bushes and flowers. The walk continues across a bridge dating from the 1930s and over a creek that runs through the park. An older stone bench is adjacent to the new garden. The area was previously an unused portion of the park that was overgrown and inaccessible.
The man behind the monument
The Rev. Carol West of Celebration Community Church will dedicate the memorial at a ceremony on June 22 at 11 a.m. “Alan was a gentleman,” West said. “He cared about people.” For years, Ross was the driving force behind the Pride parade. She said he was driven to look at every detail, which is why the parade became what it is. “What an impact he made on our celebration as a community,” she said. “He was driven to bring everyone in.” “This living tribute and surrounding beautification project is a gift to Lee Park and the City of Dallas in recognition of the AIDS community of Dallas County,” the plaque reads. The signature on the plaque is “Dallas Tavern Guild. Sponsors.” Ross wanted “lesbian/gay community” listed as the sponsor but the park board preferred the bars to gays and lesbians.
Four teak benches that cost $600 apiece were added to the garden. The benches were stolen in 1993, although one was found. Someone spotted one of the benches outside an Oak Cliff apartment. The owner said she bought it for $20 at a flea market. Lynn Albright, who was the LGBT police liaison at the time, recovered the bench and returned it to the park. The other three were never found. Albright remembered Ross with fondness and said she was delighted the new memorial keeps his memory alive. She lives in Austin now and plans to attend the rededication ceremony. She said she has been thinking of Ross lately because her daughter just graduated from high school. In 1995, Albright became a mother, which she called one of the happiest times of her life. “Two months later it was the worst as Alan passed away,” she said. “I was blessed that Alan got to meet her but I know he is still watching over us. He will always be a part of our family.” Ross died from AIDS complications on March 16, 1995, three years to the day after the memorial was dedicated.
In 1995, the Dallas Southern Memorial Association and Turtle Creek Association joined with the Tavern Guild and two other neighborhood groups to create the Lee Park and Arlington Hall Conservancy that now operates the park.
Photo © David Taffet dallasvoice.com

21 June 2013
David Taffet, Dallas