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Exchange Club honors a local success story

FORT WORTH — By the time someone receives the Golden Deeds award from the Exchange Club, it's typically far too late to properly summarize what makes him or her an outstanding citizen of Fort Worth.

The list of accomplishments is too long.

That's the case with this year's winner: J. Luther King Jr.

For his part, King says he's humbled to receive the award. The roster of past recipients includes some high-profile individuals, which King says he doesn't consider himself to be.

"I am stunned," he said.

King is a businessman at heart. (Luther King Capital Management, an investment advisory firm, has more than 400 clients whose portfolios total about $8 billion.)

At 68, his schedule is still packed. This week alone, he's already flown on several business trips.

"If you want something to get done, you ask a busy person to do it," he says.

That's one of the sayings he uses.

Here's another one: "If you take care of your clients, the clients take care of you."

It's that serious, focused approach that made him a desired asset right out of school.

Born in Odessa in 1940, the son of an oilman, he moved to Fort Worth when he was young. He went to Polytechnic High School, then Arlington State before graduating in 1962 from Texas Christian University. He got an MBA from TCU in 1966, going to school at night while he was in the Air Force Reserves.

Beginning as a credit analyst in 1963, he eventually became a director and Dallas-office manager for New York-based Lionel D. Edie & Company. In December 1978 his company was sold. The next step would have been to head for New York. Instead, King, about to turn 40, started his own company — working out of a 400-square-foot office at Dee Kelly's law firm.

He had one client.

"I was a beggar," King says, laughing.

That client, however, was the Bass brothers.

Less than two years later, Luther King Capital Management was in good shape — and on its way to earning an international profile as a top investment firm. Instead of taking his business to a higher-profile city, King had brought high-profile business to Fort Worth.

"This is the standard for all cities," he says. "People elsewhere always say they want to live somewhere else — San Diego, Denver. People from Fort Worth don't say they want to live somewhere else. I would love to be here 50 years from now, still watching the evolution of Fort Worth."

Although he makes his home in Dallas, he still has many ties to Fort Worth. His sons, Bryan and Mason, work with the firm.

He has been a greek system adviser at his alma mater, TCU, and taught finance there and elsewhere. His company's intern program has given dozens of future financiers and investment analysts their first hands-on experience.

Here's another saying: "You should learn as if you're going to live forever."