He was 54. No word yet on the cause of his sudden death.
Before he took over the Sixth Floor Museum as its executive director, Jeff served only five years at the Dallas Theater Center but he worked with three artistic directors: Adrian Hall, Ken Bryant and Richard Hamburger. And because of Ken’s untimely death, Jeff more or less ran the DTC during 1991-’92 season while it searched for a new director. Before the DTC, he ran the Dallas Shakespeare Festival, and while he was at the Sixth Floor for 10 years, Jeff executive-produced documentaries about JFK in Dallas and established an oral history program. He seemed capable of running anything arts-related.
Although married and with children, Jeff, while working at the Dallas Theater Center, came out as a gay man and eventually worked with DIFFA, the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS.
The last time I saw him was at Bright Lights, Great City?, the panel discussion on the exterior illumination of downtown skyscrapers held by the Dallas Center for Architecture. I was surprised to see him there because I hadn’t known he was a vice-president at Matthews Southwest, the development company responsible for the Omni Hotel, the subject of much talk at the panel.
That was typical of Jeff: He always seemed to be involved in something combining arts, business and politics — and involved whole-heartedly, trying to sell you on it, finding a way to get you to sign up. He once told me that he came from a religious background, he’d studied to be a preacher. But in the end, he joked, theater, politics and preaching, they were all about the same thing.
Getting people in a room and yelling at them. Getting them to convert.