A Tribute to Ruth Carter Stevenson

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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She was a guiding spirit of the city who built a world-class museum of American art with the grit she inherited from her famous father, Amon Carter Sr., and the intelligence and passion that she developed on her own.

Ruth Carter Stevenson, who died Jan. 6 at the age of 89, was only 26 years old when she brought the first major American art exhibit to Fort Worth in 1949. A year later, she instituted an art education program for every fifth-grader in the city. This was the beginning of an art education mission that she sustained for the rest of her life. Today more than 20,000 students visit the Amon Carter Museum of American Art each year.

Ruth sought to open educational institutions and the arts to everyone. In the '60s, she served on the board of regents of the University of Texas at Austin, where she played an instrumental role in desegregating the UT school system.

Her influence in the art world extended far beyond the reaches of the state and hometown she loved; she served on the boards of the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Trust for Historic Places and the American Federation of Arts and, in 1987, she became the first woman to chair the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

She befriended artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who was cut from the same fiercely independent cloth. But those who knew Ruth well -- and there were many -- describe her as elegant, thoughtful and generous. The mother of five loved her garden, and she was a tireless promoter of civic volunteerism.

"We will miss Ruth's tenacious spirit, thoughtful guidance and loyal friendship," said Amon Carter Museum director Andrew J. Walker upon learning of her death. "Her legacy will enhance the lives of generations to come."

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