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New city leader topples racial barrier
by Gary Kent
May 24, 2014 | 255 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Yvonne Dunn, in brown suit, holds her hand on the Bible held by her cousin, five-year-old Umaure Taylor, while taking the oath of iffice during her first meeting as a new member of the Beeville City Council Tuesday evening. Dunn made history this month when she was the first African-American ever elected to a seat on the City Council. Those pictured are, from left, Mayor David Carabajal, Dunn, Taylor, Councilman John Govella Fulghum, new City Manager Jack Hamlett (seated in the background) and City Secretary Barbara Treviño, who was administering the oath.
Yvonne Dunn, in brown suit, holds her hand on the Bible held by her cousin, five-year-old Umaure Taylor, while taking the oath of iffice during her first meeting as a new member of the Beeville City Council Tuesday evening. Dunn made history this month when she was the first African-American ever elected to a seat on the City Council. Those pictured are, from left, Mayor David Carabajal, Dunn, Taylor, Councilman John Govella Fulghum, new City Manager Jack Hamlett (seated in the background) and City Secretary Barbara Treviño, who was administering the oath.
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BEEVILLE – Yvonne Dunn said she never thought about being the first African-American elected to the Beeville City Council when she took the oath of office Tuesday evening.

It was her aunt, Martha Stovall, who brought up that bit of history when she stood up to speak to a packed City Council chamber that evening.

Everyone sitting in the audience applauded that news.

“Yvonne is my niece,” Mrs. Stovall said. “I’m so proud of her.”

“I’m more than humbled,” Dunn said as she responded.

Minutes earlier, Dunn had stood in front of the curved table where she will sit as a representative of Ward 4 for the next two years, taking her oath of office.

Dunn was the only one of the three council members elected on May 10 to place her hand on a Bible. Her cousin, 5-year-old Umaure Taylor, had insisted on holding the Good Book while his cousin took the oath, Mrs. Stovall said.

Dunn said she had considered running for a seat on the council in 2012. But she had not lived here an entire year, and that was one of the requirements of a council member.

The 51-year-old Beeville native had been gone for 26 years before that.

Born at the old Thomas Memorial Hospital on North St. Mary’s Street in 1963, Dunn was the daughter of Navy man Eddie Dunn and his Beeville-born wife, Julia.

“They met at Chase Field,” the new councilwoman said.

The fact that her father had been a Navy man was probably the driving force in what Dunn would later do with her life.

She started her education at the Ann Burke Head Start School, then transferred to R.A. Hall Elementary School, went on to Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and graduated from A.C. Jones High School in 1981.

She spent the next year at Bee County College, but Dunn said after spending 12 years in a classroom before that, school was not exactly what she wanted to do.

So she just kind of roamed around the streets of Beeville until 1985 when she enlisted in the Navy.

It was not long after she had finished boot camp in Orlando, Florida, that Dunn realized she had found her future. She spent the next 26 years in uniform, rising to the rank of senior chief (E-8) and traveling the world.

“I rode ships for 22 of the 26 years,” Dunn said this week. In fact, she did more than just ride the ships. She was a boatswain’s mate working on the 0-10 level at the top of every craft on which she served.

“I drove the ships,” she said. Working at the top floor of the craft “meant for a long day,” Dunn said. “No elevators.”

Most of that time was spent driving the big aircraft carriers, but she also piloted landing amphibian docking ships.

During her 22 years at sea, Dunn visited most of the Middle Eastern countries, a couple of places in Africa, like Egypt and Djibouti, and most of Europe, including Amsterdam and Budapest.

She also saw Australia and Alaska.

“Ireland was the best place,” Dunn said. “But after I put my lips on the Blarney Stone, I wondered how many people had put their lips there.”

Dunn survived the experience and retired in 2011. “I moved right back to Beeville,” she said.

When her commanding officer asked her what she intended to do during her retirement, she told him flatly, “I’m gonna run for mayor of my city.”

Dunn may be retired, but she is not idle. She does volunteer work for the Bee County Chamber of Commerce and Beeville Arts Association, and “I’m active in my church.” That would be the historic Bethlehem Baptist Church where she likes to help out in the kitchen.

“You work for 26 years, and you don’t want just to pound the pavement,” she said of her volunteering. “People don’t volunteer enough.”

Dunn may not be the mayor yet, but she sits just inches from the mayor.

Her goal on the council is to “improve things.”

The city needs water for the future, and Dunn wants to see more jobs coming to town.

Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.
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