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Fashion / Style File

This Power Couple Changed Dallas for the Better — and Always Brings the Love

Looking Back at a 1980s Bomb Couple Wedding Moment With Matrice Ellis-Kirk and Ron Kirk

BY // 08.09.19

Escorted into a well-appointed boardroom at the offices of RSR Partners, I gazed upon Matrice Ellis-Kirk — chic in tortoise Tom Ford glasses (she admits to having five pairs), gauzy white trousers, a tunic and blush-pink Gucci heels.

Matrice and her three siblings grew up poor but they were loved. Reared by their grandmother and great-grandmother in Cleveland, Ohio. Matrice always knew she had to work hard to succeed and to make a better life for herself. She attended a private high school on a scholarship and then attended The University of Pennsylvania on another scholarship. Matrice’s impressive past, present and future warrant a lengthy biography all its own — but we’ll save that for another time.

The other half of this PaperCity Dallas Bomb couple, Matrice’s husband Ron Kirk, was the first African American mayor of Dallas, leading the city from 1995 to 2001. During his tenure, he brought diverse communities together and secured 45,000 new jobs. Post-mayoral career, Ron was appointed by President Barack Obama as a U.S. trade representative and member of Obama’s cabinet. The current chapter in his esteemed career sees him as a senior counsel with Gibson Dunn law firm.

Ron and Matrice met in Dallas in June 1984 at the Symphony in Black, a fundraiser benefiting the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Ron romanticizes it as “love at first sight.” Matrice remembers things a little differently.

Theirs was a friendship, she shares, that slowly blossomed into a loving partnership. This was the era of house parties where groups of friends would gather, often in the clubhouse of an apartment complex. Many of Dallas’ young black professionals lived in the then-fabulous Holly Hill and Melody Lane neighborhoods. DJs spun tunes and the couple always jumped up to dance if Parliament House’s “Flash Light” or anything by Earth, Wind and Fire came on.

Matrice often wore party outfits from designers such as Norma Kamali or Willi Smith’s WilliWear. Ron was a big fan of matching linen shirts and pants. Matrice adds that he often draped a sweater over his shoulders — a precursor to the style of Carlton Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

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At the time, Ron was an attorney for the City of Dallas and Matrice was working at Mercantile National Bank, so both had conservative daytime wardrobes. Matrice had a uniform consisting of a Brooks Brothers suit, which was always paired with a skirt. Underneath, she would wear a white, or pastel men’s style shirt, topped, of course, with a satin bow tie.

This was also the era of pantyhose — and for Matrice they were usually flesh colored or off-black. We both cringed as she described this outfit. But, hey, it was the ’80s.

When discussing fashion, I asked Matrice if she ever felt discrimination while shopping. As I feared, her answer was decidedly, “Yes.” This is an occurrence, she tells me, that sadly continues today. She, Ron, and many of their black friends and colleagues know the feeling of going into a store and either not being helped by the salespeople or being followed around by security, simply due to the color of their skin.

Still, Matrice is optimistic about the world that the couple’s daughters, Elizabeth and Catherine, are entering as young professionals living in New York City. Matrice helped blaze their trails. She was the third African American woman admitted to The Junior League of Dallas in 1987 — and in 1996, she was the first African American woman invited to join The Crystal Charity Ball.

Certainly, Dallas is already a much better place given all that Ron and Matrice have done for our community over the last three decades. And they do it all with style, grace, and charm.

Approximate date of this photo.

December 5, 1987.

The Occasion.

Our wedding.

What were you wearing.

Matrice: I don’t remember the designer. I so loved that pouffy veil, with a big pearl moment on the tiara in the center — which, of course, matched the pearl-detailed neckline and the numerous pearl buttons adorning the bodice and sleeves.

Ron: It’s not likely a name-brand. I owned a tuxedo, but since Matrice wanted all the photographs to match, in terms of our attendants’ outfits, my groomsmen and I rented ours together.

What price fashion.

Matrice: I was always a bargain shopper and looked for things on sale. [Ron chimes in: “She was cheap.”]  My first really big purchase was a Gucci bag from Neiman Marcus in 1983. I truly had thought I had arisen and conquered the world.

Ron: I worked retail as a salesperson at Scarbrough’s department store in Austin from the 11th grade through my first year in law school, so I knew when to buy things on sale. My first major purchase was when I became a partner with a law firm in 1990. I had long been a fan of Ralph Lauren and decided I needed a pair of crocodile loafers, which were probably around $800 — a massive amount of money for shoes at that time. They were not on sale!

Why is this a Bomb picture of you.

Matrice: It was a perfect day and I am with the man of my dreams.

Ron: A colleague had just brought over her little girl to meet Matrice before this picture was taken, and she said to her mom, “Is that the Princess Bride?” I just beamed.

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