San Angelo Standard
5 April 1964
The stairs still creek a little. The small elevator still operates, but
isn't used too much anymore.
In the G. R. White & Co. office on the Commercial National Bank Building's upper second floor, Mrs. Lo Rea Engdahl and Charles Darley still maintain "vigilant watch”" over the ranch operation ledgers started by their boss more than a half-century ago.
"The office isn’t as lively anymore," Darley said. "We still have lots of work to do but it's just not the same," he continued.
Darley and Mrs. Engdahl, like most other long time residents of this West Texas community, miss seeing G. Rollie White strolling through his office and along the sidewalk outside.
The veteran ranchman, known for years throughout the Southwest as "The Steer King," has been hospitalized for more than a year after suffering a stroke,
The long-time civic leader, horse breeder and philanthropist will celebrate his 89th birthday this summer.
White recalled six years ago during an interview with a Standard-Times reporter that he "literally crawled into the Brady country in 1876" since he wasn’t quite a year old when he came from Lockhart with his late parents, W.B. and Laura Thompson White, to McCulloch county by covered wagon.
His father was a Missourian who rode to Texas horseback after the Civil War. His mother was a native of Lockhart. White was born on Plum Creek Ranch near Lockhart Aug. 22, 1975.
White was a popular figure for years around Brady’s courthouse square until his health failed. He could be found almost daily outside the bank building talking business or just swapping yarns with friends.
He could be instantly recognized from a distance with his Stetson pulled down low on the forehead, trousers tucked into handtooled boottops.
West Texas, White’s ranging area since man hood, is burned deep upon him by sun, wind and inheritance.
The veteran cowman has always called himself a ranchman first, although he has had a finger in many other investments – race horses, oil and financial institutions.
When he was 12, he made his first trail drive to Oklahoma with 400 head of cattle. This was in 1887. He once recalled that the drive took a month and went through Coleman, Baird, Albany, Vernon, Quanah, and on into Oklahoma Territory.
He sold his first herd of steers when he was 16. He was paid $600 for the doggies he had started gathering up when barely a teen-ager.
The money went for bank stock at Quanah but the bank failed and he suffered his first business setback.
Before his father allowed him to enter the ranching business, White was sent to college. He entered Texas A&M College in the early 1890’s and graduated with an engineering degree in 1895. He later attended Eastman Business College in New York.
After graduation, White and his father entered into a ranching partnership. His father gave him $1,000 and lent him another $20,000 to get started. They leased the Ford Ranch in the Whiteland community. It had approximately 30,000 acres. Two years later, they bought the land and it has been operated by White continually since then.
When the Whites acquired the ranch, it had only one stock watering tank.
Two years later 600 head of cattle died from lack of water.
"Losing those cattle was perhaps the biggest shock I ever had," the ranchman recalled, "But it taught me the importance of having sufficient water on the ranch."
During the first few years that White and his father were in partnership they ran mostly Herefords and Shorthorns. Then came a period when White started dealing in steers. He soon became known as "the Steer King of Texas."
Few cowmen have marketed such large herds of cattle as White. At one time the Whites were running 35,000 steers, 85,000 sheep and 20,000 goats in McCulloch, Concho, Menard, Mason, and Pecos counties. They also had rangeland in Oklahoma and Kansas.
"My associates and I had 14,000 steers on corn in Illinois when the 'market fell'. We practically lost those steers," he said. "They hardly paid the feedbill."
Shortly after the railroad came to Brady in 1903, Mr. White made a deal with the Santa Fe Railroad to load 200 cars of cattle in Brady and take them straight through to Elgin, Kansas without unloading them.
White recalled that 50 cars were loaded at a time and a locomotive was placed in between each 30 cars. Travel time to Kansas was 36 hours.
White said he has seen land prices in the Central Texas area go from $1 per acre to $50 per acre.
"I have bought a lot of land in the Brady region. I never bought any too high, and never sold any high enough," he recalled.
He also has had large landholdings in the Pecos area. However, over the years much of the Pecos land has been sold. He still has about 4,000 acres in the area.
Brady's water and light plant was first owned by White and C.C. Bumgardner. They organized the water and power company shortly after 1900.
After operating it for about four or five years, it was sold to the city for $40,000 on credit with nothing down.
"We sold too cheap," White recalled, "But we were in the cattle business and I didn't like the water and light business."
The City of Brady still owns the company, and it is valued at more than a million dollars.
"When the company started there was no meters. Everyone paid a flat rate," White said. "Water and electricity was going out and collections were bad," he recalled. "To straighten out the situation, a man was sent out on horseback early every morning and night to see who was using the most water and power."
"...the first man they caught was one of my brothers," the cowman quipped.
Next to ranching, race horses and Texas A&M University have given G.R. White probably his most pleasant hours.
This May will mark the 69th year since White graduated from Texas A&M. He has probably taken a greater part in the growth of the university than any other Texan. He was first appointed to the board of directors of the school in 1926 by Gov. Dan Moody. He became president of the board in 1944. He served until January 1955.
In 1954, the school named the largest building on the campus for him. The G. Rollie White Coliseum cost more than $1 million and will seat 13,400 persons. A dormitory is also named for him.
White's thoroughbred horses have run on some of the biggest tracks in the country. One of his horses, Trim Destiny, won the Arkansas Derby and went on to run in the Kentucky Derby.
White has been one of Brady's most active civic leaders. He helped to finance Brady’s $50,000 July Jubilee race plant, consisting of a 5,000 seat, all-steel covered grandstand. He served as president of the July Jubilee more than 10 years.
He is also president of the Commercial National Bank at Brady, which he launched in 1906. He has been the bank's only president.
He is a past director and honorary vice president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, is past president of the Brady Chamber of Commerce, was a director of the Texas Livestock Marketing association, and helped organize Stock Yards Loan Co. of Kansas City and the National Finance Credit Corp.
White recalled that one of his greatest honors came a number of years ago when the Brady Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon him the "Outstanding Citizen's Award."
He is a long-time member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Brady.
He has a brother and sister living in Brady. They are W.N. White, a ranchman, and Mrs. Fred Wulff, Sr.
(Compiler's Note: Mr. G.R. White died on 2 February 1965, following shortly the death of his wife on 15 January. They were members of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Brady.)
San Angelo Standard Times
5 April 1964