I wish the ghost of Anne Armstrong were alive, so she could come at the Republicans – with a bullwhip. There was an effort to draft her and put her on the ticket with Gerald Ford, who received no votes for the office of President. Anne went to Vassar. I dated a Vassar student when I lived on Beacon Hill, where I took the Mafia to court – and won!
It’s High Noon – folks! Most Republicans are getting behind the President and Vice President becuse it is these two who are up against the Badest Hombre the West has ever seen. Putin is waving nuclear weapons around and threatening nuclear plants. These Texans took his and his oligarchs’ yachts away. Where did they get the permission….to be the Sheriff Mundi?
- Feb. 19, 2006
ARMSTRONG, Tex. – MORE than a century before it became the scene of a vice presidential hunting accident, this humble stretch of property had connections to another gun incident.
On a manhunt in 1877, a hard-bitten Texas ranger named John B. Armstrong captured the notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin after what the officer later described in a telegram back home as a “lively shooting” aboard a train in Florida. The capture made a hero of Mr. Armstrong, who bought a 50,000-acre plot from the owners of an old Spanish land grant using, according to one account, the $4,000 reward from the capture of the notorious gunman. When Mr. Armstrong died there in 1913, the land passed down to his heirs and soon was known by the family name.
Vice President Cheney’s mishap on the property last weekend drew the curtain back on a place that has become a quiet destination for the powerful, rivaling Hyannisport, Kennebunkport and the Hamptons as a setting where important relationships have been nurtured. The rise of the Armstrong Ranch, and its even larger and more famous neighbor next door, the King Ranch, is as much a story of the rise of the Republican party in Texas, and George W. Bush as it is about the Armstrong family itself.
Over the last five decades, the Republican pilgrimage to the Armstrong Ranch has become a familiar ritual, dating back to the 1950’s, when John Armstrong’s descendant Tobin and his wife, Anne, first became active in Republican politics, putting them at the center of a small circle in a time when most Texans were still yellow dog Democrats. The South Texas property became a meeting place for rising political figures.
Anne Legendre Armstrong (December 27, 1927 – July 30, 2008) was a United States diplomat and politician. She was the first woman to serve as Counselor to the President and as United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, serving in those capacities under the Ford, Nixon, and Carter administrations. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.
She was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, and was graduated from Vassar College in 1949. In 1950, she married Tobin Armstrong and moved to Kenedy County, Texas. From 1966 to 1968, she was the vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party. From 1971 to 1973 she was Co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, and she was the keynote speaker at the 1972 Republican National Convention. (She was the first woman from either major party to keynote at a national convention). Nixon named her as Counselor to the President on 19 December 1972, which she held from January 19, 1973 to November 1974 under President Ford. During her tenure as Counselor, Armstrong founded the first Office of Women’s Programs in the White House, predecessor to the current White House Council on Women and Girls. Fluent in Spanish, she was Nixon’s liaison to Hispanic Americans and was a member of a Cabinet committee on opportunities for Spanish-speaking people. In 1973, a young Karl Rove, then on his way to becoming the chairman of the College Republicans, suggested in a memorandum to Armstrong that the Republican Party show nonpolitical films (such as John Wayne movies and Reefer Madness) at College Republican clubs as part of a strategy to raise support for the party among students and for fundraising.
From 1976 to 1977, Armstrong was the first woman United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. At the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri, there was a draft effort to put Armstrong on the ticket as the vice presidential nominee with incumbent President Gerald Ford; Senator Robert Dole of Kansas was instead chosen by Ford. In 1978, Armstrong supported George W. Bush in his successful primary challenge to Jim Reese in their congressional runoff primary in Texas’s 19th congressional district. Bush, however, lost the general election that fall to then-Democrat Kent Hance.
In 1987, Armstrong was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan. In 1989, she received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement. She received an honorary Doctor of Laws from St. Mary’s University in 1978.
In addition to her public life, Armstrong served on the boards of many U.S. corporations, including American Express, Boise Cascade, Halliburton, and General Motors. She also served on the board of non profit organizations such as Center for Strategic and International Studies and was a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute, and the University of Oxford.
Armstrong died of cancer at a hospice in Houston in 2008. She is buried at Oakwood Cemetery, Austin, Texas. She was survived by her 5 children, John Barclay Armstrong II, Sarita Hixon, Tobin Armstrong Jr., Katharine Love and James L. Armstrong.
John B. Armstrong, Texas Ranger and Pioneer Ranchman
Foreword by Tobin Armstrong
Afterword by Elmer Kelton
“Texas, by God!” cried notorious killer John Wesley Hardin when he saw a Colt .45 pointed at him on a train in Florida. At the other end of the pistol stood Texas Ranger John B. Armstrong.
Hardin’s arrest assured Armstrong a place in history, but his story is larger, fuller, and even more important—and until now it has never been told.
Serving in the Rangers’ famed Frontier Battalion from 1875 to 1878, Armstrong rode with Captain L. H. McNelly in the capture of King Fisher, was called to Round Rock when Sam Bass was cornered, and helped patrol the region caught in the Taylor-Sutton Feud. His more lasting legacy, though, was as founder of the Armstrong Ranch, an operation that remains active and important to this day. From this family base he helped change ranching techniques and was an important sponsor for bringing the railroads to South Texas. In the 1890s he joined a special Ranger division that supplemented the force’s efforts, especially in pursuit and apprehension of gunmen and cattle rustlers in the region.
As Elmer Kelton notes in his afterword to this book, “Chuck Parsons’ biography is a long-delayed and much-justified tribute to Armstrong’s service to Texas.” Parsons fills in the missing details of a Ranger and rancher’s life, correcting some common misconceptions and adding to the record of a legendary group of lawmen and pioneers.
TxN: What led you to founding Texan by Nature?
Katharine: It really is not a very complicated story. Regan and I were with Mrs. Bush and she said something along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be terrific if we could get every Texan involved in conservation,” and off we went to the races with her as our leader. I can’t think of a better leader than Laura Bush to catalyze Texan by Nature. She was the original catalyst and inspiration for starting Texan by Nature. It really was just one of those moments where we were sitting around talking and Laura just started thinking out loud. And that’s really how it all started.
Don’t be fooled by the desolate setting. Although Persimmon Gap Ranch is miles from its nearest neighbor, the amount of scintillating conversation one encounters in the company of our 2014 Legacy Landowners, Katharine Armstrong and Ben Love, rivals anything one might overhear in New York or Washington.
Why do Americans venerate property rights to a degree unmatched anywhere else? How much value do private landowners create for their fellow citizens? Care for a little more crawfish Ã©touffÃ©e?
Topics ricochet and laughter reverberates throughout our stellar luncheon at the ranch’s sturdy headquarters.The fact that it’s the wettest spring in memory heightens the tempo. The Loves bought Persimmon Gap in 1960, and Ben subsequently acquired it from his family.
That’s how often he’s seen this much moisture this early in the year. He happily admits to eyeing wildflowers that he’s never seen before.
“I don’t even know their names.”
Ben says this with a smile on his face. Katharine wears a grin as well. When this couple’s land is happy, they are happy too. It’s contagious.
The couple’s personal histories parallel one another to a remarkable degree. Both grew up on Texas cattle ranches: Katharine, 63, on the Armstrong Ranch in South Texas, and Ben, 70, along the Llano River on part of the Fitzsimons Ranch. Each has earned national renown: Katharine as a board member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and later as the first woman to serve as its chairman, and Ben as a real estate attorney whose client list reads directly from The Land Report 100.
In addition to real estate, his legal expertise includes oil and gas, agriculture, natural resources, and property rights. He has been a Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association director since 1977, which is when he befriended Katharine’s father, Tobin Armstrong.
“My father would come home from Cattle Raisers meetings singing Ben’s praises. But he was married, and so was I. Funny how it only took a couple of decades for things to work out the right way,” Katharine says.
It was while he was attending Texas Tech that Ben ended up migrating from the Texas Hill Country to the Trans-Pecos.
“In the late 1950s and early 1960s, my family was sending 2,000 to 2,500 yearlings to South Dakota every May, and they’d come out in October. We ran a full-time cow/calf operation at Llano. We ran about 500 mama cows in Dakota year-round. We were leasing ranches in Mason, Menard, and Llano counties to warehouse all of them. That’s a lot of cattle. You’ve got to have a lot of places to put them. There are not many places where you can park 2,000 to 2,500 head of steers for several months. It took a long time to assemble them. We started receiving those cattle about the end of January, buying big-framed, lightweight steers out of Mexico. We were getting them at Presidio [100 miles west of Persimmon Gap Ranch] through a broker. Man, there was a lot of freight involved. Coincidentally we stumbled onto this place. It fit the steer program perfectly, and my family bought it in 1960,” Ben says.
“As remote and wild as this country is today, what was it like back then?” My question elicits a long laugh from Ben.
“It was the biggest, wildest thing I’d ever seen, with mountain lions, bears, smugglers, and maybe a renegade Indian left over here and there. I couldn’t get enough of it. This highway had been paved for about six months when we came here. You could break down on it, and you might be there for two days before somebody ever came along,” he says.
Then why buy it?
“Because it was available, it was cheap, and it was an ideal place to warehouse steers heading to Dakota. Nobody in my family really had any affection for this ranch but me. I was the only one in my family who really fell in love with this place. It took me about 20 years to buy and trade and acquire the whole thing from my family. This is home to me and has been. I took care of it when I was going to school at Texas Tech. I was down here nearly every weekend if I wasn’t playing polo somewhere.”
By comparison, Katharine grew up on a legendary landmark. She knows it now, but she didn’t realize it then. “I think I was a little bit provincial as a child. I had very sophisticated parents. We were not provincial in the sense that we didn’t see the world. We certainly did. I think I was provincial in my attitude of how things were being done and taken care of. I lived in this incredible situation in South Texas where it’s, as they call it, the last great habitat. The reason it’s the last great habitat is because it’s privately owned, privately managed, privately funded. I never thought of it that way until I started thinking about these things in policy terms. That forces you to think about not just your situation but everybody’s situation,” she says.
That approach is evident on her husband’s ranch. “This ranch doesn’t have cattle, but Ben keeps all the waters going. He is so religious about stuff that benefits wildlife. There’s no economic return for doing that. He does it because he loves this place, he loves wildlife, and it’s the right thing to do.”
“Imagine if this ranch were a state park or a federal park,” Katharine continues. “Imagine what it would cost taxpayers in full-time employees and all that sort of thing. This is a wildlife preserve that is virtually no cost to the taxpayers, and Texans do that all over this damn state.”
Katharine’s latest venture, Taking Care of Texas, is a project devised by her good friend Laura Bush. The two first met on Armstrong in 1977 when Laura’s fiancÃ©, George W. Bush, brought his bride-to-be for a polo match.
“Katharine and I work together on our new non-profit, Taking Care of Texas,” Laura says in a video tribute to her friend that aired the night Katharine was awarded the 2015 T. Boone Pickens Lifetime Sportsman Award by Park Cities Quail in Dallas. “Her dedication to conservation comes from the heart, and her efforts are informed by a lifetime of ranch and hunting experience in South and West Texas. Her work has built a statewide legacy that will benefit Texans for many generations.”
“Having shot quail with Katharine, I can attest to the fact that she is an incredible wingshot,” says Laura’s husband, the 43rd President of the United States. A guest at the Armstrong Ranch and at Persimmon Gap, President Bush has witnessed Katharine’s talents firsthand. “She has a sharp eye, cracks great jokes, and she’s a lot of fun.” Katharine’s sporting heritage dates back to her childhood on Armstrong. “When I was a little girl, I was just very competitive. So was my mother. She would never let being a girl stop her from doing anything. Anyway, I was about eight or nine, and I went to my mother, and I said, ‘Mommy, I want to go shoot a buck.’ And the way we did it back then, the first buck you ever shot, you would get your .222 – it was my mother’s .222 rifle; I still remember that gun so well – you would take the gun and you would walk by yourself into this giant live oak mott on the north side of the headquarters. You just walked out there by yourself and you went and found a deer and you shot it and you marked it,” she says.
“Then you would go get your father or a cowboy, and you would walk back out there and clean your deer with their help. My brother, Barclay, had done it the year before,” she recalls.
“‘Katharine, you can’t do that.’ Mother said.”
“‘Well, why not?’ I asked.”
“‘Well, you’re not old enough,’ Mother said.”
“‘Well, Barclay did it. Barclay got to do it, Mommy.’ I had a Mexican accent. ‘Mami, it’s not fair. Barclay did it. How come I can’t?’”
She said, “Well, Katharine, you’re a girl.”
“I looked at her like really?”
“‘No, you’re right. You can do it,’ she said.”
“So I went out and shot my first deer that way. If you think about it, with kids today, you can’t ride your bike one block without wearing a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads, and your mother hanging on. I got to go walk out on my own with a loaded gun, shoot an animal, and do it responsibly at the age of eight or nine. That tells you a lot about how you go through life. My brother did it. My sister did it. Everybody did it. Too bad that’s being lost.”