The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Small Town Celebrity

photo courtesy of David McMahan
David McMahan

David McMahan (photo courtesy of David McMahan)

One might question the measurements developer David McMahan records on his yellow‐lined notepad after he step‐counts his vacant and weedy lot on the corner of Dove Road and Kimball Avenue in Southlake, Texas. He uses a heel‐to‐toe method of measuring the lot and it looks as if his feet are well over a foot long. Still, McMahan converts each of his steps to one foot long and continues examining his property, just as he has for the past 43 years.

“She’s a beauty, ain’t she?” he bellows in a deep voice and Texas accent, referring to the empty lawn we are standing on.

McMahan, or “Mac,” as many of his friends and colleagues call him, shielded his eyes from the sun and looked at me, awaiting my answer. At 69, Mac is an intimidating six‐foot‐five‐inches and has a substantial amount of salt-and‐pepper hair atop his head.

The five‐acre plot of land doesn’t look like much. However, with Mac’s skill and creativity, it is likely that these dirt mounds and weeds will be transformed into a beautiful winding cul‐de‐sac with multi‐million-dollar homes nestled along it.

A native Texan

McMahan was born in Garland, Texas on October 14th, 1942. His father, Grady McMahan, was the chief of police of Garland and his mother, Marie, was a housewife. He recalls his childhood as “some of the happiest damned days of my life that made me the crazy bastard I am.”

Mac is a local celebrity in the small and ritzy suburb of Southlake. When he arrived there in 1979, he started his own development and mortgage company, Preston Mortgage Corporation. Since then, McMahan has developed over 1,700 lots, approximately half the landmass of the city, and has made Southlake the glittering neighborhood it is today. Coventry Manor, one of his favorite projects, contains 120 mansions with an average price tag of $850,000. The development showcases two lakes, a park with a gazebo, and walking trails, all masterminded by McMahan.

“David McMahan is a damned fool, but I love him and so does everyone in

Southlake. He transformed that city from pastures to perfection as he does with all of his projects,” close friend and colleague Frank Piani said.

His work spans the country

Although much of his work lies in Southlake, Mac’s projects have extended well beyond Texas suburbs. He has developed over 3,500 lots, commercial and residential, from Massachusetts to Hawaii. In the 32 states Mac has developed in, he estimates he has helped create over 6 million square feet of retail space, 2 million square feet of office space, and 6 million square feet of warehouse space.

“My father has an incredible work ethic and quick wit. Each one of his projects is unique,” Mac’s daughter, Lisa McMahan, 41, said.

Mac is currently working on three new developments in the cities of Southlake, Grapevine and Keller, all of which will feature villa‐style homes.

“I wanted to do something different here. You see all these mega‐mansions and I felt it was time for a change,” McMahan said of his villas.

After he finished counting the feet and kicking dirt around the lot, we headed for his royal blue Ford Explorer parked beyond a cluster of trees. A silver‐plated longhorn emblem was proudly located on the left‐hand corner of his trunk, representing Mac’s alma mater, University of Texas at Austin. It was there that Mac’s large frame earned him a spot on the Longhorn’s football team and jobs at many of the local bars as a bouncer.

“Some crazy sh** happened at those Austin bars. Lotta bar fights, lotta calming people down. I was stabbed in the stomach once. Oh that made me mad. I almost beat that boy damn near to death,” he said.

A last remaining eye-witness

When Mac returned to Dallas, he continued to work as a bouncer at local bars and clubs. His job at the Carousel Strip Club, owned by the infamous Jack Ruby, ties Mac into one of the most well known events in American history.

“I am one of the last remaining eye‐witnesses to the murder of John F.

Kennedy and I worked for Jack Ruby. I’ll never forget what I saw that day,” Mac recounted as we drove back to his home office.

During the day, McMahan, 21 at the time, worked for the Dallas County Court

Office. The office was located across the street from the famous grassy knoll near the intersection of Houston and Main. The day of the assassination, McMahan was outside watching the parade. It was then he heard the shots that rung throughout the world. Police surrounded the area Mac was standing in and arrested a man who was later proved innocent.

“They asked me and a few other big men in the area to form somewhat of a ‘gauntlet’ around this man and walk him down to the county jail which was just a couple blocks away. At that point they knew some son of a b*tch shot the president and they didn’t want anyone gettin’ hurt until they got down to the bottom of it,” he said.

McMahan remembers the screaming and fleeing of many people after the president was shot. He described the scene as “utter chaos” and recalls seeing Jacqueline Kennedy ushered away by Secret Service men.

Just as Mac finished up his recollection of that terrible day and recounting chess games he played with Jack Ruby after Ruby was arrested for the murder of Lee

Harvey Oswald, we arrived at Mac’s stone‐and-brick home.

Back at the ranch

McMahan’s home office desk is stacked with papers and blueprints. Three oversized file cabinets are perched in the corner, filled with his ideas, paper work, and printed versions of his email correspondence. Mac’s assistant, Jana Murphy, a tall woman with golden blond hair, looks as if she is frantically stuffing the paperwork from the desk into manila folders to file away in the cabinets.

“All of his work is pretty incredible. He makes this city beautiful,” Murphy said as she looked at a blueprint on top of one of the files.

Mac sat down in his large leather desk chair, put on his reading glasses and turned towards me as I stood in the doorway.

“I could tell you a million more bat sh** crazy stories, but I’ve got a million things to do in here,” he said.

With those words, Mac turned his desk chair towards his Apple computer and began a new spreadsheet with a to‐do list for the weeded lawn we had just visited, which will surely become yet another one of his masterpieces.

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