Bud Kennedy

Fiorina: A Texan by birth with a story to prove it

The former Sneed home in Calvert is now a bed-and-breakfast.
The former Sneed home in Calvert is now a bed-and-breakfast.

Carly Fiorina brings a Texas ranching legacy to the presidential campaign.

And one Texas rancher has come forth to help.

Although she’s known more as a California Republican, Fiorina was born in Austin to the Sneed family, Texans since 1839 and known for oil, cattle ranching, cotton farming and for an early 20th-century love-triangle feud and scandal.

In the 1960s, she grew up spending summers with her grandparents in a historic home in Calvert, between Waco and Bryan.

Every summer, Sneeds still gather at the home, now a bed-and-breakfast.

“I still feel really Texan,” said her sister, Clara Sneed, in a phone call from Berkeley, Calif.

In a 2003 Houston speech, Fiorina said, “We had a little bit of cattle in our family, a little bit of oil — emphasis on the word little.”

Clara Sneed has written about a notorious great uncle, rancher Beal Sneed, and what Texas historians call the “Boyce-Sneed Feud,” including Sneed’s 1912 killing of a former XIT Ranch manager in the lobby of Fort Worth’s long-gone Metropolitan Hotel.

In her out-of-print Because This Is Texas (1999), Clara Sneed describes Beal Sneed’s revenge killings of Albert Boyce of Amarillo and later his son over the son’s affair with Sneed’s wife, Lena.

Beal Sneed was acquitted both times in sensational trials, the first in Fort Worth drawing a huge and brawling crowd of both men and women to the county courthouse.

The Star-Telegram quoted jury foreman J.D. Crane, a farmer, as saying the all-male jury sided with the jealous husband “because this is Texas.”

(The Sneeds reunited and died in the 1960s in Dallas.)

More than a century after those storied cases, Texas Republicans are about to meet Carly Sneed Fiorina.

Her father, the late U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Joseph Sneed, came from the cotton-farming side of the family in Calvert. He also cowboyed on another uncle’s ranch before going to Southwestern University in Georgetown and the University of Texas Law School, staying as a professor.

Fiorina carries a family name handed down through late grandmother Cara Carleton Weber Sneed, who lived in Calvert in a five-bedroom, 3,717-square-foot home built in 1900 and marked by historians as the Stricker-Sneed House. It operates as the Pin Oak Bed & Breakfast.

Only about a “double dozen” friends and neighbors know the connection, Pin Oak owner Walter Qualls said.

“But now my guests are talking about her and her debate performance,” he said.

Fiorina has visited for a niece’s birthday, he said. Family members gathered as recently as last weekend.

The Pin Oak’s advertising does not mention Fiorina or the Sneeds.

“This is the first time people have asked,” Qualls said.

More may ask soon.

Former state Comptroller Susan Combs, an Austin lawyer, is also from a Texas ranching family.

On Tuesday, before Fiorina upstaged front-runner Donald Trump in her debut as a top contender, Combs came out backing Fiorina in social media posts and in a column on the Salem Media Group website Townhall.com.

“Yelling and Trump-style bullying aren’t the real solution,” Combs wrote, calling Trump’s insults of Fiorina “extraordinarily sexist.”

Combs wrote that Fiorina “best reflects what conservatives are at heart: experienced, thoughtful and honest.”

She’ll come back to Texas soon.

Bud Kennedy: 817-390-7538, bud@star-telegram.com, @BudKennedy. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Subscribe to the WFAA/Channel 8 “Inside Texas Politics” webcast at wfaa.com/local/politics/

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