Amon Carter: A Lone Star Life
Brian A. Cervantez (Author), Bob Ray Sanders (Foreword)
University of Oklahoma Press
Hardcover, 978-0-8061-6198-3 (also available in ebook format), 264 pgs., $29.95
March 6, 2019
Amon G. Carter’s accomplishments are almost too numerous to list, and, sixty-four years after his death in 1955, at age seventy-six, his influence continues to be felt in Fort Worth, across Texas, and beyond.
“Mr. Fort Worth,” as Carter sometimes is labeled, made many millions in the oil business and as owner of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He spent much of that wealth on philanthropy, becoming “one of the most influential boosters of his time,” writes Fort Worth author Brian Cervantez in this solidly researched, well-written biography of the man who gave Cowtown its enduring “Where the West Begins” moniker.
Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum of American Art, the Will Rogers Complex, and the Amon G. Carter Foundation are some of his most visible legacies. Carter also established Fort Worth’s first radio station and the Southwest’s first television station. He had important roles in the births of American Airlines and Lockheed Martin and in the growth of Texas Christian University. His philanthropy, meanwhile, also helped fund churches, parks, camps, and other facilities and activities.
“I have come to realize,” Carter stated near the end of his life, “that they who acquire wealth are more or less stewards in the application of that wealth to others of the human family who are less fortunate than themselves.”
He did not limit himself to boosting Fort Worth, although “many industries and institutions ... came to Fort Worth as a result of his efforts,” notes Cervantez, an associate professor of history at Tarrant County College, Northwest Campus. Indeed, Carter figured prominently in the creation and growth of Lubbock’s Texas Tech University, as well as Big Bend National Park.
He played influential roles in Texas and national politics, too, backing several campaigns and serving as a powerful delegate at political conventions. He also indulged in “celebrity culture,” becoming a celebrity himself who hosted famous guests and hung out with friends such as Will Rogers and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eventually, Carter possessed “a vast national network of business and political contacts that he could exploit whenever he deemed necessary,” Cervantez points out.
Amon Carter: A Lone Star Life offers readers a balanced account of Carter’s life and achievements while also dealing with some of his struggles and failures. A child of rural poverty, Carter grew up addicted to work and his ambitions, and this contributed to three troubled marriages. “Sacrificing domestic bliss for public success would be all too common throughout his life,” the author notes.
“Much can and should be made of Amon Carter’s contributions to Texas’s transition into urban modernity, a transition mirrored by the details of his own life,” Cervantez contends. The famed Fort Worth philanthropist and booster “helped lead his adopted hometown from a glorified market town to a major hub of business and commerce that truly served as a gateway city to West Texas.”
Brian A. Cervantez is an associate professor of history at Tarrant County College, Northwest Campus, in Fort Worth, Texas.