CONNOR, WINSHIP CAPERS [BUD]

Michael V. Hazel
Winship Capers Connor (1849–1921).
Winship Connor, both as a businessman and as mayor, spearheaded major improvements for the city of Dallas during the late nineteenth century, including the establishment of the first fire department, waterworks, electric lighting, and streetcar service. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

CONNOR, WINSHIP CAPERS [BUD] (1849–1921). Winship Capers “Bud” Connor, Dallas mayor and civic entrepreneur, was born in Red Sulphur Springs, Hardin County, Tennessee, on June 22, 1849. He was the son of William J. Connor and Julia Catherine (Hines or Hymes) Connor. He moved to Texas with his mother and two younger brothers in 1861 after the death of his father and lived first in Paris and then Jefferson, where he was educated in local schools. He settled in Dallas in 1870 and opened a small drug store. Soon he constructed one of the first brick store buildings on Main Street, at the corner of Main and Austin. 

Most Dallas buildings, however, were still wood, and fire was an ever-present danger. In 1872 Connor founded the Dallas Fire Department, with an all-volunteer force, and served as its chief for nine years, providing “a determined and dynamic leadership to the youthful department.” Because fighting fires required a reliable water supply, in 1876 Connor organized the Dallas Waterworks Company, with a pump house near Browder’s Springs at City Park; in 1881 the city purchased the company and began operating a municipal water supply system. Shortly before the sale, Connor installed one of the earliest private telephone lines in town, connecting his home at the southwest corner of Ervay and Young with the pump house and the fire station at Commerce and Lamar.

In 1882, in partnership with merchants Alexander Sanger and Jules Schneider, Connor obtained permission from the city council to erect electric arc lighting on downtown streets. Connor became president of the Dallas Electric Lighting Company. Meanwhile, he also served as vice president in the Dallas Consolidated Electric Street Railway Company, which provided streetcar service linking the courthouse square with the railroad depots and other sites. Sanger later observed that Connor “was always on the lookout for something that would improve the town and make the life of its citizens more comfortable.” Connor’s obituary also credited him with establishing the first ice factory in Dallas.

Connor was a delegate to the Democratic national convention in 1884. In 1887 he ran for mayor against the incumbent John Henry Brown and was elected. He was re-elected in 1889 and 1891. In his fourth race in 1893, he outpolled his opponent, Bryan T. Barry, by two votes, but the Texas Supreme Court later overturned the election results and awarded the seat to Barry. During Connor’s tenure in office, Dallas constructed a new $80,000 city hall at the corner of Commerce and Akard, and in 1890 it was the most populous city in Texas according to the federal census.

While he was mayor, Connor also served as president of the Dallas Merchant’s Exchange in 1888–89 and as president of the State Fair of Texas in 1891. After leaving office, he organized and served as president of the Fourth National Bank; later he was a director of the American Exchange National Bank. He also devoted much time to the business of railroads.

Connor died on August 4, 1921, while on vacation in Long Beach, California. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas. He was predeceased by his first wife, Tullora Fannie Cornelius Connor, by whom he had two children, Anna and Walker. He was survived by his second wife, Ada Cheatham Rye Connor, mother of his younger son, Edward, as well as by his younger brother, William Ott Connor, who was the first mayor of Highland Park.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Sam Hanna Acheson, Dallas Yesterday, ed. Lee Milazzo (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 1977). M. E. Bolding, Origin and Growth of Dallas Water Utilities (Dallas: 1981). Jack L. Brown, Jr., “Electrifying Dallas,” Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas 7 (Fall 1995). Dallas Morning News, August 6, 1921; February 8, 1925. Jim Gallagher, “The Dallas Fire Department: The First Decade,” Heritage News 12 (Fall 1987). A History of Greater Dallas and Vicinity, Vol. 1, by Philip Lindsley; Vol. 2, Selected Biography and Memoirs, ed. L. B. Hill (Chicago: Lewis, 1909).

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Handbook of Texas Online, Michael V. Hazel, "CONNOR, WINSHIP CAPERS [BUD] ," accessed October 15, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcowc.

Uploaded on July 13, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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