A Man Absolutely Sure of Himself
Texan George Washington Littlefield
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
472 Pages | 6 x 9 | 56 color illus., 8 maps
This is the first full biography of George Washington Littlefield, the Texas and New Mexico rancher, Austin banker and businessman, University of Texas regent, and philanthropist. In just two decades, Littlefield’s business acumen vaulted him from debt to inclusion in 1892 on the first list of American millionaires. A Man Absolutely Sure of Himself is a grand retelling of the life of a highly successful entrepreneur and Austin civic leader whose work affected spheres from ranching and banking to civic development and academia.
Littlefield’s cattle operations during the open range and early ranching periods spanned a domain in New Mexico and Texas larger than the states of Delaware and Connecticut combined. In a unique contribution to ranching art, Littlefield commissioned murals and bronze doors depicting scenes from his ranches to decorate Austin’s American National Bank, which he led for its first twenty-eight years.
Gracy provides new information about Littlefield’s term as University of Texas regent and the necessity of choosing between friendship and duty during the university’s confrontation with Gov. James E. Ferguson. Proud of his Civil War service in Terry’s Texas Rangers, Littlefield funded one of the nation’s first centers for Southern history. He also underwrote the school’s purchase of its first rare book library and its training programs preparing troops for World War I’s new combat roles.
Littlefield played a central role in advancing Austin from a cattleman’s town into the business center it wanted to become. His Littlefield Building, the tallest office building between New Orleans and San Francisco when it was built, served for a generation as the prime location of the town’s business community.
Author David B. Gracy II, a relative of Littlefield, grounds his vivid prose in a lifetime of research into archival and family sources. His comprehensive biography illuminates an exceptional figure, whose life singularly illustrates the evolution of Texas from Southern to Western to American.
“At long last, we have a complete biography of one of Texas’s most influential entrepreneurs, George Washington Littlefield. With this book, author David B. Gracy II provides an excellent source for understanding the mind and mentality of an ardent states-righter and ‘true’ Southerner who evolved to be a Westerner, and then an American.”—David J. Murrah, author of C. C. Slaughter: Rancher, Banker, Baptist
“David B. Gracy’s biography of George Washington Littlefield is a masterfully researched and written, unvarnished yet sympathetic study of a Texan American icon. Driven by honor, duty, and tireless industry, the battle-hardened veteran and entrepreneur comes to life as a demanding, yet thoughtful patriarch with a crusty heart of gold, who used his economic muscle to shape Southern and American history through philanthropy.”—Monte L. Monroe, Texas State Historian and Southwest Collection Archivist, Texas Tech University
“David Gracy’s work is a fine biography. It is chronologically arranged and a thorough accounting. True to the notable archivist he is, Gracy has delved deeply into primary documents and has methodically and scrupulously detailed Littlefield’s life. His story traces the transformation of his subject while it also describes the nuance and texture of a man who could have become a caricature in less skilled hands. A relative of Littlefield, Gracy offers valuable insights about the man in a clear and engaging writing style that will draw general as well as academic readers. This book is a beneficial contribution to Texas, western, and southern historical studies.”—Southwestern Historical Quarterly