The Idle American: The Man Who Knew Where the West Began

The humorist Will Rogers (left) and Amon G. Carter in Fort Worth, February 16, 1930. “Amon, this is a remarkable photo,” Rogers wrote to his friend. “It caught us both not talking!” Photo: Amon Carter Museum

Amon Carter twisted Big D’s invitation for visitors to “come to Dallas for culture” by adding a few more words: “And to Fort Worth for fun.

My aged Uncle Mort is accustomed to numerous cat calls–as well as some from yelping dogs–when he expresses opinions that fly in the face of contrary views.

He lined up on the women’s side when their liberation movement started almost a half-century ago. During a mock referendum in the 1960s, Mort joined the bunch campaigning to change the University of Mississippi’s informal moniker.

The initiative went down in flames, though, as an idea whose time likely should never have come. Sentiment for long-recognized cheers was simply too strong. Yelling for “Ole MS” didn’t have the same ring to it as for “Ole Miss.”…


   During the current inflationary economic climate, however, the shoe is on the other foot, Mort claims.

“Think about all the new charges,” he said. “Additional fees–imposed by restaurants and a host of other businesses–abound. He claims that in most instances, such fees are called “sir charges.” He feels that some of ‘em should be called “ma’am charges.”

At my age, I avoid arguments. Besides, I’d never convince him that “sir” and “sur” have two different meanings….


Don Newbury

I doubt that my uncle ever met Amon Carter, pioneer newspaper publisher of the Star-Telegram and civic leader of Fort Worth for a half-century. He died in 1955, several years before drumbeats heightened for women’s liberation. Mort and Carter clearly marched to the beat of different drummers.

A powerful figure who loved Fort Worth, Carter was miffed when the Texas Legislature chose Dallas for the Texas Centennial in 1936. This decision meant that Dallas would be in the spotlight nationally.

This was true. The celebration was widely ballyhooed, spawning 50 new buildings in the city….


   It is said that Carter twisted Big D’s invitation for visitors to “come to Dallas for culture.” Carter added a few more words: “…and to Fort Worth for fun.”

“Fun” to the longtime icon meant the introduction of a new entertainment venue in Cowtown. The star of the show was Sally Rand, who deftly performed dances involving dexterous employment of fans for “coverage” that minimally met decency standards. (Amon, a lauded book written by longtime Star-Telegram reporter Jerry Flemmons, is a fascinating read, and a grand play about the newspaper magnate was written by Morning News columnist Dave Lieber.)

It was Carter who insisted that Fort Worth is “where the West begins.”…


   For a couple of decades, Carter “jabbed” Dallas many times, usually playful in nature.

He bragged that when he had to be in Dallas for a day-long meeting, he’d leave home early and get home late, thus avoiding patronizing a Dallas hotel. Carter felt the same way about lunches. When in  Dallas, he brought along his own meal in a paper sack.

The magnate and generous benefactor won enough awards to start a trophy museum. One was made posthumously by the Texas Press Association 50 years after his death….


   His daughter, the late Ruth Stevenson, was at the TPA meeting–in Dallas, by the way–to accept the award.

During her acceptance remarks, she mentioned that her father enjoyed the image he’d worked hard to maintain, but that down deep, he had an appreciation for Big D.

“Mother and Daddy spent their honeymoon in Dallas,” she revealed….


   An editorial in the Dallas Morning News earlier this month would have riled Carter. It was a response to an invitation seeking help in naming three new bridges under construction at Fort Worth’s Panther Island project. (Responses guarantee nothing, authorities maintain, but will be considered.)

Carter might have reacted with something like, “We are perfectly capable of naming our own bridges in Fort Worth. If we listened to a suggestion originating in Dallas, we’d probably wind up with a bridge named ‘Pink’.”

This wheezing attempt at humor–that Fort Worth would have a “Pink Panther” bridge–is lame. But, maybe it is no deeper in left field than the aforementioned fabrication about “sir charges.”…….


   Dr. Newbury is a long-time university president who still writes weekly and speaks regularly. Contact: Phone, 817-4473872. Email, newbu[email protected]. Twitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: Don Newbury.

Please click HERE to find Mostly Mort, Don Newbury’s book about the wit and wisdom of his mythical Uncle Mort. The book can be found on Amazon.

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