Will A. Courtney Sr., known by many in Fort Worth as “Mr. good Will,” died April 16, leaving behind a legacy of service TO Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth that spanned 55 years.
“Will was a tireless advocate for Goodwill; not only giving generously of his time, business expertise and financial resources; but caring deeply for each person that crossed the threshold of the Goodwill headquarters that bore his name, the Will A. Courtney Center for Career Development,” David Cox, president & CEO of the organization, said.
A memorial service was scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 23, 2019, at First Presbyterian Church, where he was a member for 56 years.
Mr. Courtney was born in Fort Worth on Sept. 24, 1935, to Ethel (Allen) and Quintard Peters Courtney Sr. He attended Lily B. Clayton Elementary School and Paschal High School. He was an All-District fullback on the Paschal Football Team.
In a 2017 interview with the Fort Worth Business Press, Mr. Courtney traced his passion for public service to President John F. Kennedy’s speech in Fort Worth on Nov. 22, 1963.
Courtney said a Secret Service agent took them to a roped off area where Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, would walk past to get into their limousine for their fateful trip to Dallas. The president walked over and acknowledged Courtney, then 28, who had a pipe in his mouth at the time.
“And, just think, he only lived about an hour after all this happened,” Courtney said.
Soon after the assassination, Mr. Courtney was invited to be on the board of Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth.
“That was 1964, and he remained on the board until his passing this week,” Cox said. “Will cared deeply for the people served by Goodwill – those with disabilities, disadvantages; those needing a second chance. He knew that this “freedom of man” that JFK spoke of could be found in independence; independence that Goodwill offers to those who seek not an open hand, but an open door of opportunity.”
Mr. Courtney supported many causes in Fort Worth, among them The Cliburn.
“When I came to the Cliburn six years ago, Will Courtney was a living example of the iconic Fort Worthian, with his cowboy hat and Texas drawl,” said Jacques Marquis, Cliburn president and CEO.
“And also definitively Fort Worth was his longstanding and unconditional love for the Cliburn. In addition to serving on the Board since 2006, volunteering to drive artists, and supporting the organization financially, one of his greatest contributions was allowing our artists practice in what we have long called ‘The Courtney House.’
“Hundreds of the world’s greatest artists have played the pianos housed in the River Crest home he owned and let us use perpetually. Because of that, his generosity is known well beyond Texas,” Marquis said.
Cox noted that Mr. Courtney served on the board of both Goodwill International and Goodwill Global.
As a result of volunteerism and philanthropy, he was named the 2014 Elsine Katz Volunteer Leader of the Year by Goodwill. He was also inducted into Goodwill’s Hall of Fame, just the second volunteer to receive the honor since the organization was founded in 1902.
"Will Courtney has been the personification of committed community involvement. I first met him when I moved to Fort Worth 32 years ago and was asked to join the Board of Directors of Goodwill Industries. Will was already a fixture there and became a grand mentor to me, both in learning about Goodwill and in supporting opportunities for me to serve in leadership," said Harriet B. Harral, executive director of Leadership Fort Worth.
"When I think 'Goodwill,' I also think 'good Will.' His service at both the local and national level is legendary. I am extremely proud to have been awarded the first Will Courtney Outstanding Service Award," Harral, a former chair of the Goodwill board, said.
In the late 1990s, Goodwill Industries relocated to its current headquarters on Campus Drive after a multi-million dollar capital campaign. Will Courtney was the heart and soul of that campaign. In recognition of all that he meant to Goodwill, the lead gift given by Ann and Robert Bass was in honor of Will and designated that the training facility be named in his honor, Harral said.
"My experience with Will in the context of Goodwill Industries is just one example of the myriad of ways that he participated in, inspired, and led in efforts that embody community trusteeship," Harral said.
In addition to Goodwill and The Cliburn, Mr. Courtney was also involved with a number of other nonprofits, including the USO World Board of Governors, Downtown Fort Worth Rotary Club, Fort Worth Public Library and the Ronald McDonald House of Fort Worth.
And because of his admiration for Kennedy, he was a benefactor to the Fort Worth JFK Tribute in downtown Fort Worth.
Mr. Courtney earned a degree in farming and ranching at Texas Tech University and then attended Southern Methodist University to study and earn his credentials in real estate. SMU was one of only two schools in Texas to offer this program at the time.
He initially worked with the famed Dallas real estate brokerage firm of Henry S. Miller, but in the late 1950s opened Courtney & Courtney Properties with his father, Quinn P. Courtney Sr.
The commercial real estate firm owns and manages shopping centers and other properties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Mr. Courtney was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Esther Wilson Courtney; son, Robert Wilson Courtney; his parents; and brother, Quintard Peters Courtney Jr.
Survivors include: Son, Will Allen Courtney Jr.; daughter, Catherine Courtney Schmuck, who is a current board member of Goodwill, and husband, Wallace K.; grandchildren, William Wallace Schmuck and Courtney Elizabeth Schmuck; and nephews and nieces, Quintard Peters Courtney III, Cynthia Ann Courtney Siegel, Warren St. John, Paul St. John, Mary Madeline Whittinghill, Tricia Belknap, Mary Downs, Carl Downs, Edward Downs and Margaret Loving.
This story includes material from the Fort Worth Business Press archives.