The Idle American: The man who built Fort Worth

Portrait of Amon Carter: Photograph from Texas Christian University

Amon Carter “rubbed shoulders” with political leaders, as well as luminaries such as Will Rogers and Bob Hope.

By all accounts, the late Amon Carter Sr. was the “real deal.” This icon–founder of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1906–was a “mover and shaker” who would gain wide renown.

Never one to sit back and watch, his “MO” was to dive in and deal. He was to Fort Worth and Texas what the energizer bunny is to battery-powered devices, this major player in “all things Fort Worth” for more than 40 years.

His newspaper had the largest circulation in the South for many years, and its success spawned his entry into electronic journalism. He established Radio Station WBAP in 1922, and its ultimate “clear channel” licensure assured the largest geographic daytime coverage of any station in the USA. In 1948, WBAP-TV was Texas’ first television station, beginning with “live” coverage of a visit to Fort Worth by President Harry S. Truman….

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   A leader in philanthropy, Carter was successful in business from an early age. It may have stemmed from sandwich sales on passenger trains stopping in Bowie, not far from his birthplace in Wise County.

He boldly hawked “fried chicken sandwiches” to travelers. (It was speculated that his profits were enhanced by substituting rabbit for chicken. Rabbits abounded in the rural community.)

Carter “rubbed shoulders” with political leaders, as well as luminaries such as Will Rogers and Bob Hope. His friends knew they could always find the best of “R&R” at Amon’s Shady Oaks Farm….

Don Newbury

Carter is remembered for his “dissing of Dallas.” He avoided ever spending a dime in Dallas and was said to take sandwiches to maintain his vow during day visits there.

Decades after Carter’s death, however, Ruth Carter Stevenson, his late daughter, surprised a Texas Press Association Convention with the revelation that her parents had honeymooned at Dallas’ Adolphus Hotel.

Amon’s competitive spirit with “Big D” came alive in 1936 when the Texas Centennial Exposition was going full bore at Fair Park….

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   He encouraged visits “to Dallas for culture and Fort Worth for entertainment.” Many “Big D” leaders were flummoxed that thousands of exposition visitors opted to check out the “frontier exposition” offered by Carter in Cowtown.

A nearby “cow pasture” became a midway of exhibits, sideshows, a “wild west” extravaganza and a musical circus. They had an outdoor amphitheater and featured Billy Rose, a noted composer, and Sally Rand, an acclaimed fan dancer.

Rose’s “show of shows”–produced in record time–was performed on “the world’s largest revolving stage.”…

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   Were he alive today, he’d have “hip deep” involvement in at least two mammoth projects, one a trail and the other a train. Both are scheduled for the early 2020s.

He might choose to expend energies to divert the rails from Houston to Fort Worth instead of Dallas. Yep, his “moxie” and contacts might be “rail-benders.” (“Passengers can get to Dallas from Fort Worth the best way they can,” he might utter. Or, he might have changed their minds about visiting “Big D.”)

Costs of both projects are “jaw-droppers.” The trails–proposed for walkers and cyclists–stretch 64 miles, meandering from Benbrook to Dallas. Cost of the trails is expected to be some $40 million. The 250-mile rail project–featuring Japanese-made bullet trains reaching speeds of 205 MPH–is expected to exceed $12 billion….

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   Who knows what Carter might have suggested? He wouldn’t have counted on bullet trains stopping for sandwiches. He might have focused on the trails, where folks may stop to “smell the flowers,” as well as nibble on sandwiches.

Few figures in Texas history compare to this bigger-than-life magnate. The late Jerry Flemmons, an all-time great Star-Telegram writer, captured the essence of this icon in Amon: the Life of Amon Carter Sr. of Texas. It is nothing short of brilliant.

Old-timers remember Amon. His stories are told and re-told, and the jury remains out on whether he actually substituted rabbit for chicken in those sandwiches….

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     Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments/inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.comTwitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.

Don Newbury is the author of the humorous, inspirational, and autobiographical When the Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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