#TheRootTrip: A Police Station May Have Replaced the Hotel Jim, but Not the Legacy of the Black Owner

Lawrence Ross/The Root
Lawrence Ross/The Root

You can’t expect to find every address from the 1957 Negro Travelers’ Green Book intact. Sixty years’ worth of city renewal, knocking down buildings for other buildings and then knocking down those buildings a few decades later, can transform a block.


As such, the building at 413 Fifth St. in Fort Worth, Texas, isn’t the same building it was in ’57. Today it’s a police station, parking lot and freeway ramp. But yesterday it was a black-owned hotel built by a black millionaire of the early 20th century. Welcome to the Jim Hotel.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Hotel Jim was built by local black millionaire William Madison “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald in the late 1920s; he named the hotel after his wife, Jimmie Strickland. Located in segregated East Fort Worth, the Hotel Jim became a focal point for jazz and blues in the Fort Worth area. But honestly, the story is more about the builder of the Hotel Jim than the building itself.


The son of an enslaved man, Bill McDonald would go on to become one of the most powerful men, black or white, in Fort Worth. He made his mark politically as part of the early-20th-century Republican “black and tan” political coalition of black and white Republicans. He led the Black Masons, helping to build a Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in the city, and also founded the first black bank, the Fraternal Bank and Trust. He even founded a drugstore.

Illustration for article titled #TheRootTrip: A Police Station May Have Replaced the Hotel Jim, but Not the Legacy of the Black Owner

I point out all of these details about McDonald because it speaks to how you can live as an African American in a society that is fundamentally unjust and still thrive; however, your individual success doesn’t negate the inequities and indignities.

Oftentimes (and I’m talking to YOU, you rascally racists in the comments sections of this series!), the myopia of white supremacy makes some believe that because the “Colored” and “White” signs of McDonald’s times are gone, the inequities are also gone from this society. Not true.


African Americans have always striven to thrive, whether while enslaved, segregated or integrated, and we have. There is no so-called victimhood in the history of our struggle, since that’s only said as a false narrative for those interested in maintaining the inequity of the status quo. The African-American fight for an American society, where each and every black life matters, is perpetual, even when the buildings have been replaced by a police station.

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I know the term “poetic prose” but I have no idea what it would be for poetic non-fiction. Whatever that term is, this is that. You are killing it with this series. Thank you.