Anne W. Marion

Anne W. Marion 

 

This story is from 2003 when the Fort Worth Business Press honored Anne W. Marion as a Great Woman of Texas.
 
 
Giving…Gregarious…Greatness

She was about eight then, a diminutive and reticent child, with dark wind-blown hair framing eyes the color of the blue Texas sky on a hot summer's day. Her tanned legs were barely long enough to allow a peek into the candy case in the supply store at 6666 Ranch in Guthrie.

But, she was determined, and she had an ally. "Would you like some of that candy?" the visiting rancher asked. The little girl nodded.

"Absolutely not!" the store clerk said, noting the child's mother had set the rule.

##M:##

"Aw, give her some candy," rancher George Beggs said.

She got her candy, smiled and wiggled a bunny nose. Beggs winked back, their communal promise treasured until another day.

This wasn't the first-and certainly not the last-time that "Little Anne" would create her special brand of magic. For most of her life, Anne Windfohr Marion has wiggled her nose and made great things appear. For her lifetime of achievements and successes, the

Fort Worth Business Press recognized Marion Nov. 5 when she received the "Great Woman of Texas Award," honoring her generosity and philanthropy, as well as her guiding hand as the chief executive of business interests that include ranching, oil and numerous investments.

Anne Marion is appreciative of the tributes that come her way, but does not seek recognition. She seeks results, and she understands the responsibility and the value of hard work to achieve those results. "Nothing ever comes to you without ethical standards and hard work," Marion said. "I have always believed that you do what you have to, and what is expected of you. I think I do a pretty good job of balancing my life."

Marion's only child, Anne "Windi" Phillips Grimes, who resides in Houston, says that written accounts have depicted her mom as a strong, decisive and astute businesswoman, as well as a generous philanthropist.

"And, rightly so," Grimes said. "Mom cares deeply about the community of Fort Worth, and she gets things done. What may not come through in those sober articles is that when mom's work is done, she has fun, too. She loves a good laugh. She adores dancing, especially Western Swing. She reads Danielle Steele novels. We both have an uncanny ability to wiggle our noses like bunnies. Some people may think that's a silly thing to attribute to Anne Marion, but it's my earliest and fondest memory."

Long-time friend and hog-hunting buddy Gunnie Corbett agrees. "Anne enriches the lives of the people around her in many ways," Corbett said. "She is fun to be with, and we have laughed a lot over the years. We have acted silly in Paris, driven around the ranch and shot wild pigs in Guthrie, and watched the midnight sun in Norway."

Corbett said Marion is the kind of person who lifts her friends because of her high ideals, loyalty and kindness. "When my mother died in Norway," Corbett recalled, "magically, who should happen to be taking a cruise of the fiords of Norway at the time? 'Why don't you join us?' And so Anne and John took me away from a sad time for several days."

Marion will not tarry on the telephone, nor is she a computer person. She doesn't need to do those things. She has Julie Phillips, her right arm. The answers to most any question about Marion may be obtained through 1-800-CallJulie, according to Anne. Phillips, who has been Marion's assistant the past 17 years, said that her boss is in charge at all times. "Everybody just knows what needs to be done. And, there is no need to delegate responsibility ever," Phillips said. "Mrs. Marion surrounds herself with competent people, and never has been a silent owner of anything."

Phillips said that Marion is silent about her personal accomplishments. "There are names in Fort Worth that most people recognize right away," Phillips said. "Mrs. Marion has deliberately maintained some silence about her life. And I try to shield her from unnecessary disturbances. The general public may not know her name, and may not know who she is. But, it doesn't bother her one bit. In fact, she prefers it that way. Mrs. Marion quietly and effectively goes about her business."

Marion is genuinely concerned about the people who work for her. "When my dad was ill, she constantly asked how he was doing and how I was doing. She is always like that. She takes the time to care," Phillips said.

Phillips said that her boss only wants a positive response when it involves business.

"One time she asked me to do something, some silly something, I thought, and I made the mistake of responding, 'I can't do that!' Mrs. Marion told me that I could and would do it. I said, 'Yes Ma'am, I can. How high? Which direction? Which foot should I lead with? Case closed.''' Phillips laughs.

Marion admits she has little tolerance for negativity in herself or anyone else.

"I guess I was born with a can-do attitude," she said. "The thing I dislike the most is when someone tells me 'it can't be done' or 'you can't do that.' Accepting responsibility is of great importance to me."

Neils Agather, executive director of The Burnett Foundation, describes Marion as sure-footed, decisive, unambiguous and engaging.

"Anne is not demanding," Agather said. "Yet, she makes me and many people I know become demanding of ourselves. We simply cannot imagine doing anything that would be less than satisfactory to her. As a result, without insisting on it, Anne brings out the best in each of us."

As president of the Burnett Ranches, Ltd., the largest individually owned ranch property in Texas, president of The Burnett Foundation, and chairman of the Burnett Oil Co., Marion must be demanding of herself to make her businesses run smoothly.

Her contributions to the cultural world require perfection as well.

Marion is chairman of the board of The Georgia O'Keefe Museum of Santa Fe, N.M., and past chairman of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. She also is a past trustee of the Museum of Modern Art of New York.

She was the driving force behind the project to build the new Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, which was completed and opened to the public December 14, 2002. The $60-million-plus museum was designed by the world-renowned Tadao Ando.

"The birth of my child and the opening of the museum have been two of my proudest moments," Marion said.

"She was very emotional the evening of the opening," said Dr. Marla Price, director of the Modern Art Museum. "We were all emotional, and nobody made it happen more than she did. I rehearsed my remarks at least 10 times before I got through the speech without crying. Among the people I admire in my life, Anne is certainly at the top of my list. I often joke that I want to be just like Anne Marion when I grow up."

Good friend Rick Perry, Texas' Governor, described Marion as a person who embodies the Texas spirit. "Anne's energy and optimism have ensured the success of numerous museums and artists and enriched the lives of many," Perry said. "[She] is a Texan committed to nourishing our state's flourishing arts community. I am proud to call her my friend."

Realtor Martha Williams, who shared the Great Woman of Texas award with partner Joan Trew last year, said Fort Worth is very fortunate to have Marion as a citizen. "In addition to being an astute businesswoman, she is a community leader," Williams said. "Anne has been involved in almost every aspect of the cultural development and business planning for the future of Fort Worth. And the wonderful thing is that she never seeks recognition. She loves her friends, her ranches, her community and her life. She is so deserving of this award."

Little Anne was born Nov. 10, 1938 in Fort Worth, the daughter of Anne Burnett Tandy and her second husband, James Goodwin Hall, who helped establish the American Quarter Horse Association. Her mother's third husband, oilman Bob Windfohr, adopted her. Her mother eventually married Tandy Corporation founder Charles Tandy.

Marion recalls a happy childhood, being raised by her mother and stepfather in Fort Worth, spending her summers at the 6666 Ranch in Guthrie with her nanny, and later with the ranch foreman and his wife.

At the ranch is where she gained appreciation for protecting the land, and she says the foreman taught her "true, down-to-earth American values." She rode with the cowboys, put nails under their saddle blankets (for which she got spanked by the cowboys), and hunted quail. Trying to be like the cowboys, she cursed, and promptly got her mouth washed out with soap (by the cowboys).

The 6666 Ranch was founded by her great-grandfather, Samuel Burk Burnett. He had one son, Tom, who had one daughter, Anne, who, in turn had a daughter, also named Anne.

Marion's great-grandfather, Burk Burnett, left the 6666 Ranch in Guthrie to her before she was born. Marion took over the ranch in 1980 after her mother's death.

Three ranches fall under the name of Burnett Ranches, Ltd.: the 6666, Dixon Creek in the Panhandle and another in Montana, near White Sulfur Springs.

Through the years, there have been just five foremen at the ranch headquarters in Guthrie. The current foreman, Mike Gibson, is second generation at the job. He took the reins in 1991 from his father, the much admired and now deceased J.J. Gibson.

"Anne is very involved," Mike Gibson said. "She is dedicated to her ranching interests and to her employees on the ranch. She's the kind of leader that makes you want to back her up 100 percent. She is conscious of her heritage, of course, and she always wants the best. She knows what she wants, and we deliver it for sure.

"Anne always told me that growing up on the ranches has grounded her and helped her identify with people. The cowboys just call her 'Anne.' We all do."

Gibson said Marion has a presence and that there is no doubt as to who is in charge, but that she is never intimidating. He said it gives comfort to everyone who works for her.

"If she doesn't like something, now, she will tell ya. And, that's the way it should be," he said. "That way, you know your direction. You're not confused about where you're going or what you're doing. She just does the right thing."

Doing the right thing includes being the first in the ranching industry to provide medical insurance and retirement plans for staff. She serves on the Board of Regents of Texas Tech University in order to be involved with kids who grow up on ranches and plan to make ranching a business career. She donated American Indian shields and other artifacts that belonged to her great grandfather to the Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech in 1980 during the remodeling of the 6666's ranch house. She generously shares her western heritage, and says that she doesn't stray far from it.

Marion has continued the Burnett tradition of quality cattle and horses. In 1993, she returned racehorse breeding to the ranch in style by securing Dash for Cash, Special Effort and Streaking Six for stud duty, and expanded the breeding facilities to house 160 race broodmares. In 1994, the ranch was selected as the winner of the AQHA Best Remuda Award.

Marion was honored Sept. 19 with the "Boss of the Plains Award 2003," given by the Ranching Heritage Center. The award is named for Stetson's first hat and recognizes those who made significant contributions in support of the National Ranching Heritage Center. Marion received the honor during dedication of the J.J. Gibson Memorial Park at the National Ranching Heritage Center. The park, which features 14 life-size bronze steer structures, is located on the front lawn of the National Ranching Heritage Center in Lubbock.

She serves on the executive committee of the Fort Worth Stock Show and is an honorary vice president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. She also is an honorary board member of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center.

Because of her devotion to the land, Marion received the prestigious Charles Goodnight Award in 1993. That same year, she was the Fort Worth Exchange Club "Golden Deed Honoree." Other honors over the years include the Fern Sawyer Award from the National Cowgirl Museum in 1994, Texas Business Hall of Fame recipient in 1996, The Governor's Award for Excellence in The Arts, Santa Fe, N.M. in 1996, The American Quarter Horse Association Merle Wood Humanitarian Award in 1999 and the Golden Spur Award in 2001.

"Anne Marion is a very responsible rancher," said Bob Watt Jr., president of the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show. "She has the best cattle in the country and raises top-notch horses. And, she makes strong decisions as far as that ranching operation is concerned.

"Anne is an extremely generous person. Her foundation has provided considerable assistance on the two major building projects we have had here over the last 15 years. Secondly, and more importantly, she does it in a quiet unassuming way. And, for that, I have the greatest respect for her."

Marion was educated at Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, at Briarcliff Junior College in Briarcliff Manor, New York. She also attended the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Geneva in Switzerland, where she studied art history.

In 1988, Marion married John L. Marion, honorary chairman of Sotheby's Inc., who, for many years, was chairman. He is highly regarded in the art world, and a perfect complement to his wife's personality and lifestyle.

John described how they met. "In the late 1970s, Anne's mother wanted to make provisions in her will for an art collection," he said. "I was asked to come to Texas and advise her on the collection. Her mother and I were getting along well, and one night she said that I needed to meet her daughter.

"We had lunch, and that was all-just business for a long time. Anne and I were friends for several years before we married. In fact, on our first date, we ended up double dating in 1987, with Windi at a restaurant in New York. It was unusual, but we had a wonderful time."

John says his wife is a perfect match for him. "Anne and I explore the world together. We have traveled from Africa to Vietnam to China to the North Pole and back," he said.

Worldly, yes, but Windi says her mother's idea of a great weekend morning is piling up in bed with loads of newspapers and magazines and their two dogs, Kelly, the Wheaton terrier, and Pepper, the Schnauzer.

Anne and John worked as a team from the beginning to start the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe. "For a long time, it was just the two of us," John said. "We didn't even have a building then. It was her baby and her idea, but is very important to me because it is something that we shared. We take great pride in that museum."

He said that even though he was a Yankee, he learned fast how to be a Texan. "Anne loves to western dance," he said, laughing. "She takes me to Billy Bob's, and I'm learning fairly well. And, I have the hat with the Fort Worth crease."

He also is proud of the Montana ranch, the Four Sixes, which he and his wife bought and rehabilitated.

John says that his wife is very loving, supportive and understanding. "She has done remarkable things. All you have to do is talk to anyone who works for her. They all love and respect her. She tells it like it is, but on the other side, she is more than willing to listen to the opinions of others.

"And, isn't it nice to have someone say what they really mean?"

When asked about her heroes, Anne Marion named only one, her great grandfather, Captain Samuel Burk Burnett. The woman who influenced her the most, Marion said, was her grandmother, Ollie Lake Burnett. Sid Richardson, a legendary oilman/businessman and philanthropist, and Gillis Johnson, a lead trial lawyer at Cantey & Hanger, were father figures to Marion when she was a child. "These men taught me values that have stuck with me all my life," Marion said.

Perry Bass, patriarch of the Bass family and a legendary supporter of Fort Worth, also was a strong influence on Marion. "He has given me good business advice, as well as personal advice," Marion said. "He has also been supportive of many of the projects around Fort Worth that I have taken an interest in."

Said Dee Kelly, founding partner of Kelly Hart Hallman, Marion's attorney and a long-time family friend: "For each generation since Captain Burk Burnett died, there has been a Burnett woman to carry on the tradition. First, it was Anne's mother, Anne Tandy. Now it is Anne, with her daughter, Windi, and granddaughter, Hallie, standing in the wings. Captain Burnett would have been proud of all of the Burnett women, but he would have loved Anne Marion most of all."

Said Windi: "My mom has taught me to surround myself with competent people. I am sure that I could prepare for anything she may want me to take on in the future. I love her dearly, and am blessed to have her as my mother."

Marion said her greatest strengths are "the ability to make decisions - to listen to both sides, evaluate and then make the decision, and the ability to judge character."

The best advice she has to offer for a successful and fulfilling life is "be true to your instincts and respect your fellow man."

And as for the future, she said, "I will continue to support the things I am vitally interested in and involved with."

Back in Guthrie, the 6666 Supply House with the candy case is still on the ranch. Today, it operates as a general store and hardware store. And George Beggs, 82, is still ranching, working the three he owns. He said he is looking forward to the day when he buys candy for Little Anne Marion's grandbaby.

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