Adlene Harrison becomes first Jewish female big-city mayor
February 11, 1976
On February 11, 1976, Adlene Harrison became the acting mayor of Dallas after the presiding mayor's resignation. She was the first Jewish woman to become mayor of a major American city, as well as the first woman mayor of Dallas. Harrison, who had been a Democratic city councilwoman since 1973 and mayor pro tem, succeeded Wes Wise, who resigned to run for Congress. Harrison served only until the election of a new mayor at the end of the year.
Always an activist for environmental causes, Harrison, while on the city council, had co-sponsored an ordinance to establish a city environmental committee and supported a strict air pollution ordinance. In addition, she was a member of the National League of Cities' Steering Committee for Environmental Quality. As mayor, she continued her work for the environment, as well as encouraging legislation for historic preservation in the city.
Following her tenure as mayor, Harrison was appointed an Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator in 1977, responsible for directing the EPA's anti-pollution efforts in five states. She held this position until 1981, when she became chair of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Authority Board.
Harrison's other civic involvements have included work on the boards of the Women's Museum, the Women's Center of Dallas, the Dallas Jewish Coalition, the Metropolitan YWCA and the Dallas Arboretum. Harrison has been awarded the Women's Council of Dallas Distinguished Service Award, and Southern Methodist University's Profiles in Leadership Award. In addition, she was awarded a Special Honor Award for furthering the EPA's affirmative action program.
See also: This Week in History for April 18, 1987, "Annette Greenfield Strauss becomes first elected female mayor of Dallas."