Council proclamation honors William Madison McDonald

Published on June 22, 2022

gooseneck-mcdonald-day

Last week, the City Council proclaimed June 22 William Madison “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald Day in Fort Worth.

McDonald, was born June 22, 1866, shortly after the Civil War in a small community southeast of Terrell, Texas, to formerly enslaved parents. McDonald later rose to prominence as one of the first-recorded Black millionaires in Texas and reportedly in the nation. He gained his wealth through banking, politics and entrepreneurial leadership.

He moved to Fort Worth and, with the support of black lodges, founded the Fraternal Bank and Trust Co., which quickly became the chief depository of funds for the state’s Black Masonic lodges. Under his guidance, the successful bank singlehandedly spurred the growth and development of Black entrepreneurs by lending money when white banks would not. Coincidentally, during the Great Depression, many of these same white-owned banks were saved because of loans secured from the Fraternal Bank and Trust.

This impressive trajectory was sparked by young McDonald’s advancement upon graduating from the now defunct historically Black institution Roger Williams University in Nashville, Tennessee. After settling back in his home state as principal of the segregated Black high school in Forney, Texas, he began advocating for the public-school systems and prioritizing education among students.

McDonald was also a savvy businessman and hotelier who 20 years later became owner of the city’s first Black-owned hotel, The Jim, named after his second wife, Ms. Jimmie Strickland. The three-story, 50-room hotel was at 413 E. Fifth St. downtown.

His impact stretched far and wide and can still be felt today in various ways, whether supporting the eponymous McDonald YMCA or taking a stroll by the Fort Worth Central Station (formerly called the Intermodal Transportation Center), at 1001 Jones St. On the south side of the station’s exterior, a rich and vibrant commemorative mural pays tribute to McDonald, as well as other historic local figures.

McDonald died in Fort Worth on July 5, 1950, and was survived by his fifth wife; his only child, a son, had died some 30 years previously. McDonald was buried in Trinity Cemetery in Fort Worth.

 

Sources: Texas State Historical Association Handbook of Texas Online: “McDonald, William Madison (1866-1950)”; Visit Fort Worth: “Fort Worth History: William ‘Gooseneck Bill’ McDonald.”

 

 

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