George Schrader, former Dallas city manager who helped shape region, dies of COVID complications
George R. Schrader, who served as a city manager in Dallas for most of the 1970s and played a key role in the development of several city landmarks such as the Reunion Tower and DFW International Airport, died Thursday. He was 89 years old.
According to Cheryl Ewing Rozes, his stepdaughter, Schrader died around 3 a.m. at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Plano as a result of COVID-19. Both he and his wife Barbara Schrader were diagnosed with the virus in mid-December.
His wife stayed in the hospital in Plano on Thursday with COVID-19. Doctors said George recovered from the virus about a week after he was diagnosed, Ewing Rozes said, but his health later deteriorated and at one point he contracted pneumonia too, she said.
“He was really looking forward to his 90th birthday in February but he never fully recovered,” said Ewing Rozes. He called from the hospital before Christmas, hoping he and the family could pull names out of a hat from charities to donate to.
She said he received an honorary degree from Texas Woman’s University in August, where he was a former member of the Board of Regents.
Schrader was city administrator from 1972 to 1981. In addition to Reunion Tower, DFW Airport, and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Schrader planned or helped build the current Dallas City Hall, Dallas Arts District, and Reunion Arena, which were destroyed more than a decade ago, as well as other city projects and – initiatives.
“George Schrader is committed to his family, his community and his profession,” said Mary Suhm, who worked as a city manager in Dallas from 2005 to 2013, without seeing his effect. “
Schrader was born on a farm in Olivet, Kansas, and spent parts of his childhood harvesting potatoes by hand and as a newspaper hauler for the Topeka State Journal, now the Topeka Capital Journal. He earned a degree in political science and economics from Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas in 1953 and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Kansas two years later.
He held various jobs throughout his studies, including caretaker, dishwasher and director of the student center.
Schrader began his work in the city administration as an administrative assistant in San Angelo, about 130 miles east of Odessa. He became Ennis’s first city administrator in 1957 and was appointed to the same position in Mesquite in 1959.
He was hired as assistant city manager in Dallas in 1966. He was appointed acting city administrator in November 1972 and took over the role the next month. At the time, Dallas had nearly 900,000 residents and nearly 11,800 city employees.
In his final days as city administrator, Schrader mentioned that “surviving” was his greatest achievement in this role.
“I was happy to have helped set a course that would enable this city to be in a state that was inconsistent with many other metropolitan areas,” he told the Dallas Morning News.
Schrader said his “most excruciating time” as a city administrator was in 1973 when police officer Darrell Cain fatally shot and killed 12-year-old Santos Rodriguez while forcing the boy in the back of a patrol car to engage in Russian roulette in an attempt to break into him to confess. He also told The News at the time that his biggest disappointment was a failed 1978 city loan to pay for a new art museum, performing arts center, and Town Lake.
In 1981 he left town and became executive vice president of LDB Corporation, a company that owned restaurant and carpet businesses.
In 1983 he became the owner of the Schrader Investment Company and a decade later a partner in the business development company Schrader & Cline LLC.
“Remember to smile and have a good day,” Schrader says in the voicemail message for the company he refers to as Schrader Consulting.
He was in charge of the day-to-day running of the company until his illness, said Kristina Smith, Schrader’s managing director for 15 years. He worked from home for months at The Tradition-Prestonwood senior residence in the far north of Dallas, mostly by phone, she said. When he needed to mail documents, he put them in an envelope and left them to the concierge. He picked up documents in the same way.
“If it were safe enough, he would have been in the office every day,” said Smith.
She noted that he was also a member of several boards including the Methodist Hospitals of Dallas, Boy Scouts of America, Dallas Symphony Association, and the State Fair of Texas.
Smith said Schrader often omitted to mention his accomplishments in discussions with others.
“His passion was the city of Dallas, but he never wanted full credit for anything,” said Smith. “He always said that without everyone involved, nothing would have been done. He thought these were all things he did out of his duty to the church. “
Schrader is survived by his wife, their two stepchildren, and five grandchildren. He is also survived by a younger brother in Kansas.
Staff researcher Meagan Hurley contributed to this report.