Honorary Life Member - 1980
Patricia “Patsy” Peck Swank was a Dallas cultural maven who began her career as a Dallas Morning News reporter. She later ventured into broadcast journalism, where her credentials included being a charter member of the groundbreaking Newsroom staff at KERA-TV. Her career spanned decades of newspaper and magazine articles. She worked in public relations and world affairs. In 1991, she escorted Queen Elizabeth II at a command performance at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center.
Born in Sherman, Oklahoma, Ms. Swank grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Arkansas in 1940. She was passionate about the arts from childhood. Her daughter Sallie Swank of Ft. Worth said, “They couldn’t afford piano lessons, and her piano teacher begged her mother to please let her keep teaching her; she just felt like it was a mission from God to keep teaching Mom piano.” In college, Ms. Swank couldn’t afford a record player or a radio, so she made her own music by checking sheet music out of the library.
Ms. Swank began her professional career at The News in the early 1940’s, reporting under the byline Patsy Peck. During World War II, she served as a journalist with the American Red Cross, with assignments that included covering the Nuremberg trials. After the war, she returned to The News, where she was an understudy to legendary arts editor John Rosenfield.
In the ‘50’s, she and her husband, architect Arch Swank, Jr., led an environmental effort to save much of Turtle Creek from a proposed road improvement project. During the midpoint of her career, Ms. Swank raised four children and was a correspondent for Time and Life magazines. She was instrumental in locating the Abraham Zapruder film of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination for Life magazine in November, 1963.
Ms. Swank began her career with KERA-TV in 1970 as an arts and environment reporter for Newsroom. She later had her own shows, Swank in the Arts from 1978, and Portfolio in 1980, a magazine-style series examining the aesthetic side of North Texas. In 1988, she entered the public relations field when she was appointed as Dallas deputy cultural ambassador, a post that led to her encounter with Queen Elizabeth II as escort to the Meyerson Symphony Center during the queen’s visit to Dallas.
Patsy Swank’s passion for art included many forms, from opera to modern visual arts. Her daughter Sallie said, “She loved promoting, finding and bringing people together to make it possible for art to be shown and created.” Ms. Swank died in February, 2006, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
DMagazine article by Patsy Swank: Remembering The Dallas Nine