Fort Worth

These papers show Ike's ties to Fort Worth duo

Amon Carter, left, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Sid Richardson, right.
Amon Carter, left, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Sid Richardson, right. TCU Special Collections

This article was originally published on Jan. 24, 2011.

Fort Worth's kingmakers weren't exactly sheepish about their desire to make their favorite general a king.

One, though, just by nature, was a little more outspoken about it.

"Sorry the country does not have more Ike Eisenhowers," Amon G. Carter Sr. wrote to Dwight Eisenhower after the general made a trip to Fort Worth in 1950. "Sid will join me in New York on your return."

Amon Carter's personal papers, stored at TCU's Burnett library, provide insight into the depth of the mutual friendship and admiration Carter, Sid Richardson and Eisenhower shared for one another. The papers also provide a glimpse into the roles the Star-Telegram publishing magnate and the oil giant played in Eisenhower's ascent to the presidency.

"About three days after Pearl Harbor, Eisenhower was summoned to Washington to join [George C.] Marshall's war plans staff," said David Eisenhower, Ike's grandson, who was in town last month to promote his new book, Going Home to Glory. The book details his relationship with his grandfather after he left public life in 1961, 50 years ago.

"He was taking a train from San Antonio to Washington and aboard that train he met Sid Richardson. They became lifelong friends. Amon Carter, too, was a very good friend."

Richardson, the Fort Worth oilman and great-uncle of the city's Bass brothers, was himself a significant figure of mid-20th-century American history. He counseled political figures from both parties, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he was traveling to visit when he met Eisenhower.

"General Eisenhower's two political advisers, who have been conferring with him here for two weeks, left suddenly Tuesday aboard the French liner Ile de France, summoned back abruptly to the United States by Eisenhower's campaign managers," read a story in the Chicago Tribune dated Feb. 26, 1952. "They are George E. Allen ... and Sid Richardson, Fort Worth oilman."

Richardson, the story read, "made no secret of the fact that they were trying by all means to persuade Eisenhower to return to the United States at the earliest possible moment to begin his campaign to capture the Republican nomination for president."

'My Dear General'

Eisenhower and Carter became fast friends in 1947, when the general visited Fort Worth to unveil the Will Rogers statue that still greets visitors to the coliseum and auditorium.

He returned in 1949 after vacationing at Richardson's home on St. Joseph's Island off the Texas coast in Rockport to make the keynote address at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon in December 1949. His words resonated with more than 3,500 at the Will Rogers Coliseum:

Creeping paralysis of state paternalism can be as fatal as the sudden destructive blow of an enemy. ... The fundamental principle of the dignity of the human soul written into the Constitution must be the daily guiding philosophy of every citizen lest we gradually lose the ability to think and act for ourselves.

Eisenhower, by then president of Columbia University, was marshaling through a vision of creating a nonpartisan public affairs think tank, the American Assembly, which would examine the great issues of the day and issue reports and publications on its findings.

Think tanks also need money to operate.

"Dear Amon," Eisenhower wrote a few days later. "The family dinner with you was one of the pleasant interludes in a full schedule. I was certainly glad to have the opportunity for a visit, although it was all too brief. With kindest regards ... Ike."

Whatever the general said struck a chord. Carter and Richardson proved their support.

"My Dear General," Carter wrote. "Pursuant to our discussions with you during your recent visit in Fort Worth, I take great pleasure in enclosing herewith two checks for your American Assembly fund. One for $15,000 from Sid Richardson and one for $10,000 from Amon Carter. This is a great work you are carrying on and if followed through ... in its entirety, it will be a blessing to our country and humanity in general."

That was but one of many contributions from the fortunes of Carter and Richardson.

"Dear Mamie: Minnie, Amon Jr. and I were distressed to learn the passing of your father," Carter wrote June 26, 1951, to Ike's wife. "Naturally, none of us are ever ready to face these sorrows. We know what it means to you and wish we could say or do something to lessen your sorrow."

"More than the tribute of flowers we appreciate your loving thoughts" was part of a handwritten thank-you note signed Mamie Doud Eisenhower and dated July 15, 1951.

'A man above politics'

"In keeping with my promise the day of your departure for Europe, I am sending" clippings, editorials and stories in recent editions of the Star-Telegram, Carter wrote to the NATO supreme commander in March 1951.

Carter was also sending steer meat "together with various other sundry things."

"I had dinner with Sid tonight, and he is fine," Carter told Ike. "Incidentally, hardly a day passes that we don't discuss you and all of your great qualities, the fine work you are doing and how much the country needs you."

At Christmas, there were more gifts.

Eisenhower and Mamie "appreciate your thoughtfulness in providing a touch of the American Holiday to the Eisenhower household. Possibly by next Christmas, we can all be free to relax together down at San Jose. (Of course, I assume we can beat an invitation out of our friend Sid.)"

The election of 1952, of course, would interfere with any real down time for the Eisenhowers, and Carter was helping make sure that was the case.

Political and national business leaders received copies of a Star-Telegram editorial dated Feb. 10, 1952, pleading for the uncommitted Eisenhower to jump into presidential politics.

The probable nomination of Robert Taft by the Republicans and the renomination of Harry Truman would result in a "bitter, rancorous, disruptive campaign which would divide the country sharply at a time when unity is urgent. ... What the country needs ... is a man who is above politics and above party."

Richardson, meanwhile, as the Tribune reported, was in Europe twisting Eisenhower's arm.

"Sid is not a very good Gin Rummy player," Carter wrote in mid-February 1952. "Although he is good pay, he is slow. Still, the old buzzard is full of good, country horse philosophy. Sorry, I cannot be with all of you, including Mamie. Minnie joins me ... Amon."

'Utmost importance'

Richardson and Eisenhower would eventually have a political falling-out in 1956 over Eisenhower's veto of a natural gas bill. Carter and Eisenhower had a disagreement in 1952 over the Tidelands imbroglio, an important issue in Texas.

The Supreme Court had ruled that the submerged portion of land in the Gulf of Mexico between low tide and the state's boundary more than 10 miles offshore was, in effect, owned by the federal government. The decision had far-reaching consequences on the claims on ocean property of every other coastal state and overturned court precedent that it belonged to the states.

Since the decision, Truman had twice vetoed bills vesting ownership in the states.

Carter wrote to Ike, now a full-fledged candidate: "Press reports of your Sunday press conference quote you as having said with respect to the Tidelands issue, 'I understand the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the federal government ... and I am one who obeys the Supreme Court.' If the quotation is correct I am sure it is due to your being misinformed."

Carter told the candidate that the issue was of utmost importance to Texas and that the state enjoyed a different status from the other states because of the treaty of annexation in 1845. The treaty allowed Texas to keep its territorial boundaries as established by the pact ending the Texas Revolution.

"We are vigorously fighting the federal ownership theory and for overriding the President's veto," Carter wrote.

Eisenhower wrote back: "Thanks for your wire. Searched everywhere for a copy of the 1845 treaty of annexation without success. Would appreciate if you could have one sent."

The next day Carter's secretary, Katrine Deakins, did so. "Should reach you about 11 tonight," Deakins wrote to Eisenhower's people. "If too late please notify and contents will be telegraphed."

In the new session, Congress again passed legislation restoring ownership to the states. President Eisenhower signed it into law in May 1953.

Eisenhower declined Carter's invitation to the grand opening of the Greater Fort Worth International Airport in 1953, citing the demands of a full presidential schedule.

That didn't mean he didn't have time for old buddies, one of whom, Carter, was recovering from a heart attack at St. Joseph's Hospital on South Main.

"Dear Amon: Sid Richardson came over to have lunch with me today, and quite naturally you became a subject of our conversation.

"Sid remarked that you had not had a picture of me made since my inauguration. While I think you could easily survive such a calamity, I yielded to his insistence that you would like one of the things - so he will be handing it to you in a day or two.

Devotedly ... Ike."