Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of weekly articles on individuals, who made positive contributions to Stephenville, the Cross Timbers area and/or the State of Texas. Many other noteworthy individuals, other than those in this series, have made their “mark” in this area. Perhaps some of these persons can be included in future stories.
By STUART CHILTON
Hard luck mixed with success has been the story of this individual’s life.
He was born June 13, 1912, in Mason, TX. When he was seven years old, his family moved to Stephenville so his father could establish a pecan nursery.
As for the adversities in his life, three years stand out - 1914, 1925 and 1957.
In 1914, he contracted German measles, which severely damaged his eye sight.
In 1925, he was hospitalized with what later was thought to be botulism, a food poisoning. During his recuperation, he lost 38 pounds, finally leveling off at 97 pounds. He also lost all his hair, his fingernails and his toenails. His stomach was a mass of sores. Nurses peeled the skin from his hands and feet.
Then in 1957, he was involved in a head-on automobile accident between Stephenville and Fort Worth. His glasses were buried in his face, his jaw was broken in two places and knocked into his throat, his right ankle was crushed, his right hip joint and socket shattered, his left forearm, 17 ribs, left hand, fingers and many bones were broken.
He was not expected to live much less walk again. He survived and six months after the accident, he played nine holes of golf with a cast on his left arm.
The Humble Oil Co. (now EXXON-Mobil) filmed his life. It was titled, “Profile of A Texan.” It was televised and shown on Texas television stations.
People he has known or met reads like a “Who’s Who.” The list includes Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Roy Rogers, Grantland Rice, Clark Gable, Harry James and many, many other notables over the world.
He was given a golf putter, known as a “Gimme Stick,” by the famous golfer, Jack Nicklaus. Another great golfer, Ben Hogan, was one of his closest friends.
His fraternity (Chi Phi) brother at the University of Texas in Austin was the noted television newscaster, Walter Cronkite. This individual excelled in three sports at John Tarleton Agricultural College in the early 1930s - football, basketball and track. He then enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin and became an All-America running back for the Longhorns. He graduated from UT in 1938, and later played professionals football.
He plays the clarinet, piano, baritone ukulele and the Hammond organ.
His idea of using surplus World War II aluminum to build farm and ranch gates became his most successful business venture.
Following the death of his father in 1957, he directed the operations of the family pecan business. His mother passed away in 1982.
While in the Army Air Corps during World War II, he met his future wife, Ernestine (Ernie), in Waco. She was a student at Baylor University, while he was stationed at Waco Army Air Field. They were married in 1943, and the couple later had two daughters. The two daughters now live in Fort Worth. Ernie died from the effects of cancer in 1996.
He has been most active in the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Tarleton Alumni Association and the First Christian Church. He and his late wife have given an extensive art collection to Tarleton State University. Many of these painting were collected during the couple’s trips overseas. He was an Eagle Scout and later a scoutmaster. He served three terms on the Stephenville ISD Board.
Numerous other accomplishments have been obtained by this individual, and these have contributed much to the betterment of this area of Texas.
A Name to Remember - Mr. Hugh Wolfe.
Dr. Chilton, a retired educator/journalist, lives in Stephenville. He occasionally writes for this newspaper.