“Open Forum” opened minds in Houston, Dallas

By Bartee Haile


As part of the popular “Open Forum” in Houston, Margaret Sanger spoke on “The Need For Birth Control In America” to an audience of 2,500 in the city auditorium on Nov. 7, 1931. While six different Texas cities held regular public lectures by wellknown guest speakers in the early twentieth century, the “Open Forum” programs with the most staying power were in Dallas and Houston. And in both cases single individuals determined to broaden the intellectual and cultural horizons of their communities were responsible for the creation and survival of the civic institutions. In Big D that person was Elmer Scott. The Ohio native was fresh out of college in 1889, when a fraternity brother hired him as an assistant for the new office his company was opening in Dallas. The midwesterner liked the people and the city, which had a population of 65,000 at the time, and made a promise to himself that someday he would return.



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