These notable figures from Dallas passed away in 2023
As 2023 comes to a close, we take a look back at some of the notable figures in Dallas who died this year. This year's list includes musicians, animal advocates, and figures from local politics.
Here's the 2023 list of notable deaths, in chronological order:
Gregg Hudson. President and CEO of the Dallas Zoo died in early April, following a bout with cancer; he was 64. Hudson joined the Dallas Zoo in 2006, and led the organization through the creation of a public/private partnership with the city of Dallas in 2009. He also orchestrated the Dallas Zoo's 2016 removal of 18 wild elephants from Swaziland, in partnership with the Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, and Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in Nebraska — a move that drew condemnation from conservationists around the world. One elephant died in the process.
Kathy Rogers. Major figure in Dallas' animal rescue world who rescued and rehabitated thousands of birds passed away on April 9; she was 73. Rogers founded The Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, an animal facility at Samuel Farm in Mesquite, which she built into the largest not-for-profit avian rehabilitation center in North Texas, providing care for more than 5000 wounded and abandoned birds brought there every year. The Center figured prominently in a 2022 documentary called Honk - A True Story, about a goose that was abandoned at Turtle Creek.
Seth Davidow. Co-founder of Dallas art gallery Site131 died on June 16, from complications related to Amyotrophi Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease); he was 58. Davidow was a businessman and father with an appreciation for the arts - leading him to cofound Site131 with his mother, art curator Joan Davidow. The gallery became a platform for artists to share their visions and inspire the community.
David Kunkle. Former Chief of the Dallas Police Department died on July 14 at age 72, following a diagnosis of Lewy body dementia, a brain disease. Kunkle was a longtime and highly respected law enforcement officer who held the distinction of serving as chief of police in three North Texas cities: Grand Prairie, Arlington, and Dallas. He also ran for mayor of Dallas in 2011.
Frank X. Tolbert 2. Texas artist from Dallas and a member of Texas' legendary Tolbert family died on July 13;. he was at 77. Known for his vivid portraits of birds and other naturalistic subjects, his work was exhibited in the Dallas Museum of Art, Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art, and San Antonio Museum of Art.
Brad Houser. Bass player and co-founder of Dallas rock band New Bohemians died on July 24, following a stroke; he was 62. The New Bohemians, later named Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, rocketed to fame following their 1988 hit "What I Am." Houser went on to form other bands such as Critters Buggin and Dead Kenny G’s, and was an instructor at the New School of Music in Austin. Friends called him "a rare human with the most beautiful heart and soul," "a team player," and "a musician's musician."
Bucks Burnett Colorful Dallas record store owner passed away on October 2 at age 64; according to a statement from his partner, he took his own life. Burnett founded Dallas' Eight Track Museum, a tribute to the 8-track tape, which was written up in the Wall Street Journal and No Depression; and served as manager and producer for Tiny Tim, for whom he founded a fan club and produced three Tiny Tim CD releases.
Craig Watkins. Former Dallas District Attorney died at his home on December 12, cause of death unknown; he was 56. Watkins was elected in 2006 and served as District Attorney until 2015. After he left office, he opened his own law firm on MLK Boulevard in South Dallas. Beyond his history-making status as the first Black DA for Dallas, Watkins created a Conviction Integrity Unit that earned national praise for its exoneration of inmates who'd been imprisoned for crimes they did not commit. He was also the first elected official in Dallas to take the animal cruelty issue seriously, creating an Animal Cruelty unit in the DA's office.
Laura Lynch. Founding member of Texas band The Chicks died in a head-on collision in West Texas on December 22; she was 65. Lynch founded the then-Dixie Chicks with sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire in 1989, then left the group in 1995, when she was replaced by Natalie Maines.
Hugh Aynesworth. Texas journalist known for his coverage of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, died on December 23 at his home in northwest Dallas. He was 92. Aynesworth, who worked for The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, Newsweek , and ABC’s 20/20, published a book in 2003 called JFK: Breaking the News.