We were driving in our car 30 years ago when my husband looked me in the eye and said, “Honey, we are going to invest in the Stockyards and help save it.”
Holt Hickman did exactly what he said he would do; he worked every day the rest of his life to preserve and honor Fort Worth’s Stockyards — the place he fondly referred to as “the center of the universe.”
His love and passion for the Stockyards began in the 1940s when he accompanied his dad there, where they bought and sold livestock. Holt treated every trip as an adventure and explored every inch of the place.
He met businessmen, cowboys and characters. When asked about those childhood trips decades later, he replied to a reporter by saying, “I just loved it. I loved the smells and everything about it.”
Rescuing and preserving the Stockyards meant more than a purchase of some buildings and land.
Holt worked to bring Billy Bob’s back to life after it closed. He purchased the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame and moved it from Central Texas to a permanent home in the Stockyards, followed by his purchase of the Sterquell Wagon Collection.
When Jim Lane, our city councilman, championed The Herd — a daily cattle drive in the Stockyards — Holt volunteered to house the longhorns and ensure their wellbeing free of charge, which is still happening today.
He remained forever grateful to Lane for this important contribution.
A place his grandchildren’s children should know
The slow revival of the Stockyards brought such joy to Holt because he loved Fort Worth, and he wanted his grandchildren’s children to know the wonderful Stockyards he experienced as a child.
But with progress and rebirth came the realization that time and weather had taken a cruel toll on “the center of the universe.”
It broke his heart to know that more wear and tear was inevitable and without significant attention and deep investment in preservation and reuse — he just didn’t like to talk about what might happen as rain, wind and sun continued to attack his love.
Enter Ed Roski in 1997 — Oklahoma native, successful business owner of Majestic Realty, decorated veteran, father, grandfather, and his word and handshake, like Holt’s, never ever to be doubted.
Over many years, their friendship grew until one day my husband said, “Jo, Ed looked me in the eye and said he is willing to partner with us to preserve and enhance the Stockyards.”
Holt was elated. This was the opportunity for his grandchildren’s children to eventually experience the Stockyards as he had. This is the opportunity he desperately sought.
The project he believed in. A partner he trusted. It was another of his gifts to Fort Worth.
About 15 months ago, Holt appeared before the Fort Worth City Council as it was deliberating the Stockyards opportunity he had brought forward. He had deep respect for those serving our city and felt they deserved to hear from him directly.
As was my husband’s habit for all of his 82 years, he looked them in the eye and committed to each that the Stockyards Heritage Project would preserve and protect the “center of the universe.”
His family and all involved share and own his commitment, and we extend it to every Fort Worth resident, especially to future sons and daughters who will spend time in the Stockyards with their dad or mom, just like Holt did decades ago.
Jo and Holt Hickman were married for 60 years before he passed away in 2014. She, her son, daughter and seven grandchildren are partnering with Majestic Realty on projects in Fort Worth. fortworthstockyardsheritage.com