The World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth has been building international bridges for the region since 1951 when Dresser Industries’ chairman and president Henry Neil Mallon saw the need for a local institution to encourage citizen understanding, engagement and involvement in international affairs.
Mallon gathered a select group from the corporate and civic communities to create the Dallas Council on World Affairs, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that would engage residents in global issues and position North Texas as a player on the world stage. The Council’s list of seventeen founders is a Who’s Who of the region’s 20th century leaders, including: J. Woodall Rodgers, Brooks Keller, John A. Steel, Charles P. Storey, Mrs. H. R. Aldredge, Jr., Tom E. Braniff, Dr. J.C. Karcher and Stanley Marcus. Later, such community stalwarts as Ray Nasher and L. Frank Pitts became involved.
Early in its history, the group became affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA), which was founded in 1918 in conjunction with the Foreign Policy Association (New York) and now has headquarters in Washington, DC.
Founded in 1954 at the direction of Lorrine Emery, the Council’s International Visitor Program was established to coordinate State Department-sponsored visits of delegations and leaders from around the world. Working with an extensive team of local volunteers, businesses and community leaders, the program plays a key role in building public diplomacy and international connections for the region.
In its first decade, the Council established itself as a key community institution by hosting visits from such luminaries as President Herbert Hoover, King Baudin of Belgium, and Countess Alexandra Tolstoy. The president of Turkey visited and met with local students as part of “Turkish Week.” For the organization’s South American Ambassadors’ Ball, men wore black ties and women donned their finest gowns, gloves and stoles to enjoy an elegant evening of the continent’s entertainment, food and music.
During the 1960s, highlights included visits by Lebanese President Malik and filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille along with special panels comprised of CBS reporters who went on to become media legends: Walter Cronkite, Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid, Marvin Kalb, Peter Kalischer, Daniel Schorr, and David Schornbrun.
It was 1961 when Les Femmes du Monde, a social and volunteer organization that supported the Council, was founded by local women interested in world affairs.
Throughout the next three decades, the Council continued to be an international force in the community. It welcomed CIA director William J. Casey, Queen Noor of Jordan, Israeli Prime Minister Ytizhak Shamir, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former President Richard Nixon, Prince Mangosutho (leader of the Zulu Nation), U.S. Ambassador to the UN Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and many more American and world leaders.
Latter 20th Century
In the early 1980s, the Council presented its first H. Neil Mallon Award (the organization’s highest honor) to Pitts Oil Company founder L. Frank Pitts, who later became chairman emeritus of the Council. Subsequent awards have been presented to an august group of individuals who have excelled at promoting the international focus of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. During the late 20th century, recipients included Ebby Halliday-Acers and Maurice Acers, Robert Crandall, The Honorable David G. Fox, The Honorable Robert Strauss, The Honorable Annette Strauss, Stanley Marcus, Trammell Crow, Sr., and The Honorable Albert V. Casey.
Early in its history, the group became affiliated with the World Affairs Councils of America (WACA), which was founded in 1918 in conjunction with the Foreign Policy Association (New York) and now has headquarters in Washington, D.C.
At the dawn of the new century, the Council entered its current phase. In 2001, Jim Falk joined the Council as president and CEO. Two years later, the City of Dallas’ Protocol Office, a unique public/private partnership between the City of Dallas and the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, was established. The Protocol Office works with city officials, the diplomatic corps, the Office of the Mayor and other international stakeholders to represent the City of Dallas in official international activities. It also advises the mayor and other city officials on matters of international protocol, serves as the secretariat to the Consular Corps of Dallas-Fort Worth, and oversees Dallas’ Sister Cities relationships and activities.
In 2004, the Council was named top medium-sized council in the nation by the World Affairs Councils of America. Later that year, the International Education Program, now called Global Young Leaders, was established to educate students and teachers about how global issues affect their lives by helping them gain a critical understanding of important international topics and empowering them to become informed, independent thinkers about world affairs.
To date, this education has impacted almost one million North Texas students and has more than fifty Junior World Affairs Council chapters on North Texas school campuses.
The Council’s Meridian: Global Young Professionals group was established in 2005 and has presented myriad special events and programs geared specifically to young adults in their 20s and 30s.
The name of the organization changed in 2006 to the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth when the Dallas and Fort Worth Councils merged to create a new regional organization. Also that year, the Council received the President’s Award from the World Affairs Councils of America, naming it “the most dynamic large council in the nation.” This honor, WACA’s most prestigious award, recognizes outstanding achievement and is given annually for “extraordinary innovation, growth, outreach, and impact.”
During the first decade of the 21st century, the Council presented hundreds of events. Among the most notable speakers were General David Petraeus, Vice President Dick Cheney, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, rock star and humanitarian Bono, The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, CNN talk show host Fareed Zakaria, author David McCullough, PBS’ NewsHour host Jim Lehrer, and ambassadors from around the world.
In 2009, “Global I.Q. with The Economist” debuted as a free monthly online audiocast that connected listeners with the publication’s journalists around the world to discuss the pressing issues of the day. Hosted by Jim Falk, the interactive audiocasts are enjoyed live or by podcast on the Council’s website. Later, this podcast became known as “Global I.Q. with Jim Falk.”
In 2009 and 2010, the Council partnered with the Town of Addison to produce WorldFest, the largest international festival in North Texas with a combined two-year attendance of more than 50,000 attendees. The Council celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2011.
The Mallon Award Dinners continued into the 21st century and recipients included Ray L. Hunt, President George H.W. Bush, Raymond D. Nasher, Gerard Arpey, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Jeff Fegan, and, at its 25th anniversary celebration, Ross Perot and Ross Perot, Jr. A future Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson, was honored in 2015.
In 2015, a philanthropic-level membership was established. The Global Forum offers its members special programs, expert briefings, receptions and travel opportunities. By 2017, our membership exceeded 4,000. The Council continues to educate North Texans – adults and students alike – through rich offerings of member-participation programs and distinguished speakers including Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, Secretaries of State James Baker, Condoleezza Rice, and Dr. Henry Kissinger, as well as diplomats, heads of state, Nobel laureates, historians, authors, and experts.
The year 2020 brought challenges to everyone in the world as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe. The Council pivoted quickly, offering a full slate of speaker programs and classroom education online instead of in person.
In February 2021, Liz Brailsford replaced Jim Falk as president & CEO upon his retirement. Jim Falk became president emeritus. Later that year, the Council was able to carefully return to in-person programs.
Finally finding our way to a post-pandemic reality and with a couple of years under her belt, President & CEO Liz Brailsford, the Council staff, and board of directors began the process of evolving the Council brand and rebuilding the Council’s website. The experience included deep evaluation of the Council’s rich history, meaningful traditions, critical values, and where this team saw the Council making a difference going forward.
Completed in 2023 – 72 years after being established – the Council’s original mission set out by founder H. Neil Mallon was as clear and compelling as ever for our community: we continue to opperate “in the belief that better community education in world affairs is necessary for sound democratic citizenship; and in order to present facts and realistic appraisals; and to foster free and informed discussions on world problems, including economic, political, and social problems.”
With new tools in place to help educate DFW about world affairs and to encourage citizens to be globally engaged, 2023 casts a vision for the Council of the Future.
World Affairs Council Founders
- J. Woodall Rodgers
- H. Neil Mallon
- Frederick C. Hamilton
- Brooks Keller
- John A. Steel
- Charles P. Storey
- M. Cullum Thompson
- George Parker, Jr.
- Harold F. Volk
- Mrs. H. R. Aldredge, Jr.
- Tom E. Braniff
- Dr. Herbert Gambrell
- Oliver W. Hammonds
- Dr. J.C. Karcher
- Stanley Marcus
- General Robert J. Smith
- Mrs. Alex W. Spence