I’ve recently been trying to find some pictures of Rice trustee Newton Rayzor that I know for a dead-lock certainty are somewhere in a bunch of scrapbooks that belonged to Gus Wortham, another Rice trustee. (And a very important one, I might add. Wortham, the head of American General Insurance, joined the Rice board around the end of World War II and was instrumental in modernizing the Institute’s investment policies.) I haven’t been able to find the pictures I’m looking for (yet!), but just like yesterday, I did manage to stumble into something else interesting.
Wortham had a lot of ranching interests, mostly in Texas and Louisiana, and he was interested in breeding cattle. One of his ranches was a big one, quite close to Houston, called the Nine Bar. (It was north of town then, and is covered with housing developments now.) Every spring for many years Wortham held a big cattle auction there, with a fancy party the evening before, all of it carefully documented in photographs which were kept in immaculate scrapbooks. These auctions were clearly major social events, attended by important business and political figures and their wives as well as ranchers. The scrapbooks are sometimes breathtaking, full of powerfully evocative images of Texas in the 1950s and 60s.
Scandalously, almost all of the pictures are unlabeled. This is incredibly frustrating. But sometimes the people in them are so famous that I know who they are just by looking. This photo below is the one that stopped me in my tracks. The man on the right is none other than Ben Woodson, Wortham’s colleague at American General, member of the Rice Board of Governors and namesake of the Woodson Research Center at Fondren Library, where I work. Now that’s a celebrity! I just discovered today that we have 25 years worth of Woodson’s business diaries in our collection. (There’s a short bio of him at the link also.) It took all the restraint I could muster to stay away from them.
Bonus picture: At the party the night before, there was a birthday cake for another important member of the Rice community, Congressman Albert Thomas, class of 1920. We also have Thomas’s papers in our collection at the Woodson Research Center. It all gets kind of tangled, doesn’t it?