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Flamboyant ex-Fort Worth public events man Magness dies

FORT WORTH – B. Don Magness was, of all things, a showman.

He knew how to run a beauty pageant, how to help a contestant win or place and how to turn the city's Will Rogers complex into a thriving business.

Mr. Magness, whose personality was as big and flashy as the Miss Texas beauty pageants he oversaw, died Thursday afternoon.

"He served the city well and did it with style and flamboyance," former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr said. "He was in entertainment and he had a promoter's flair for what the public wanted to see.

"He was a colorful character," he said. "That's just the way he was."

Mr. Magness spent 33 years as the city's public events director and is credited with overseeing key developments in the Will Rogers Memorial Center. He also spent decades shaping the Miss Texas pageant into the nation's largest state beauty contest, as well as working with contestants to help them win.

Through the years, he drew nicknames such as "the Wizard," "Mr. Miss Texas," "Mr. Pageants," even "God."

His former office at Will Rogers once boasted photos of entertainers, stars and many Miss Texas contestants.

"He was a great story-teller, an entertaining kind of guy," said Larry McMillen, a former Fort Worth fire chief. "He was in the right field to do the right thing."

He and his wife, Jean Magness, met through pageant connections. Jean Magness had been executive director of the Greenville pageant as Mr. Magness served as chairman of the Miss Texas pageant.

Funeral arrangements were pending Thursday night.