The C.D. Lennox family of Red River County was fortunate to accumulate and maintain its wealth for over 100 years. Investments in the local First National Bank as well as significant land holdings for cattle raising, farming and oil and gas development insured their prominence. Mrs. C.D. Lennox’s family tree included Albert H. Latimer, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
Parents, Charles David Lennox, Sr. and Sarah Jane (Sallie) Bagby, had three children who survived to adulthood – Charles David, Jr. (born in 1896), Arthur Bagby (born in 1898), and Martha Washington (born in 1908). Education was emphasized as the three attended Trinity University (then in Waxahachie, Texas) with post-graduate studies including at Harvard, Columbia, and Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D. C., respectively. Martha continued her art training at the Art Students League in New York City.
In 1937, Martha returned to Clarksville to care for her mother and father. After their father’s death in 1946, the brothers took over the family businesses – David to manage the farming and cattle interests and Bagby to direct the First National Bank’s operation. As was customary for the times, they lived together in the family home and enjoyed each other’s company as well as those of others. Family members and friends remember being quizzed about their lives when they came to visit and laughing often. David led the conversations with Martha adding her supporting comments and Bagby generally remaining silent. A favorite game by Bagby, though, was asking if you knew the meaning of a word. If the word were unfamiliar, you had to look it up.
A visitor would first notice the magazines and newspapers that filled the living room and kept the siblings politically current – Time, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, Texarkana Gazette and Paris News. Their Congressman, Wright Patman, would be contacted if they had a strong opinion on a federal matter and the brothers were from time to time vocal about proposed local property tax increases. Books were often discussed. Each sibling had a favorite chair and one open chair was reserved for visitors. Over the years, the stacks of publications deepened as the paint on the ceiling peeled but the conversation never slowed.
As true southerners, David and Bagby always wore collared shirts as well as hats they tipped to the women. Although Martha shopped occasionally at the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas, all three often bought clothes and Bean’s hunting shoes from the L.L. Bean mail order catalogue – an indication of their cautious spending habits and practical ways.
The siblings traveled regularly, beginning with their parents. When they were younger, car travel was slow and roads narrow, resulting in the family loading and unloading their car on a train flat car at train stations in interesting towns along the way. After Mr. and Mrs. Lennox’s deaths, Bagby’s Lincoln Continental automatically turned West as it pulled out of the driveway for the many road trips taken after summer crops were planted. Destinations included Big Bend National Park, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and the Canadian Rockies, with the trio collecting Native American blankets, baskets and pottery as they went. A surprising interest in square and folk dancing also took them away from Texas for dancing competitions.
Dallas was a common week-end destination and the Ft.Worth Fat Stock Show a requirement. Thanksgivings were spent at the Menger Hotel in San Antonio. Fine dining was particularly important and they frequented old Texas favorites such as Guido’s in Galveston or even Bryce Cafeteria in Texarkana. Tips of good restaurants were solicited and shared.
Locally in Clarksville, each sibling had causes to be supported. Martha served as an early Girl Scout Leader, was one of the founders of the Red River County Historical Society and promoted construction of the new library in Clarksville. David served as a director of the Red River County Soil and Water Conservation District, and trustee for the Clarksville School District and Trinity University. All three attended First Presbyterian Church, the oldest Protestant congregation in Texas. They gave to the Red River County Fair. Trinity University, now in San Antonio, was generously supported by the family.
The Lennox trio loved the outdoors. David and Bagby were regular golfers at the Clarksville Country Club, Martha enjoyed riding horses “English Style” and all looked forward to those annual trips west. A favorite location for a family picnic was the Lennox Woods, a tract of land north of Clarksville owned by the Bagby family for four generations since 1863. This 353 acre tract was never completely harvested. Only dead trees were allowed by the family to be cleared. The result was a treasure – one of the most pristine, old-growth forests in the state. In 1987, 150 acres of the Lennox Woods were deeded to the Texas Nature Conservancy by the siblings. After the death of her brothers, Martha gave an additional 206 acres to the Conservancy to assure the Lennox Woods’ preservation. The 1 ½ mile Martha Lennox Memorial Nature Trail was later built with botanical interpretative signs for easy exploration of the site.
Since none of the siblings married, the idea of a charitable family foundation solved the twin problems of no direct descendants and minimizing taxes. In 1985, David contacted William Streng, tax professor at the University of Houston Law Center. David had read Professor Streng’s “Estate Planning” portfolio and wanted him to meet the family at the Holiday Inn in Conroe, Texas. He told Professor Streng they wanted a foundation “like that fellow Henry Ford.” The papers for The Martha, David, & Bagby Lennox Foundation were prepared and approved on June 19, 1985 by the three siblings as directors and filed with the Texas Secretary of State.
After the death of both brothers in 1988, William Streng and long time legal advisor to the Lennox family, Hardy Moore, joined the Board. After Martha’s death, Sam Lennox Hocker also was elected to the Board of Directors. The Foundation became fully funded and has since been making grants that primarily benefit Red River County programs. The Lennox Foundation is the only foundation in the State of Texas with such an emphasis. Projects have included assistance with the restoration of the Red River County Courthouse, support for the Lennox Woods, annual scholarships for graduates of Red River County School Districts, development of Clarksville’s downtown square, and the establishment and maintenance of the Lennox Health Resource Center in Clarksville.
The family home was given to the Red River County Historical Society which uses the elegant Victorian structure for events and receptions. Monies to restore the home have been provided by the Lennox Foundation. Martha’s paintings from her time in Washington, D. C. and New York City were also restored and hang today in the home at 601 West Broadway.
The Foundation has given over $14.5 million in grants through 2016. The Lennox Foundation has become the equivalent of the United Way of Red River County. The current directors are William P. Streng, Sam Lennox Hocker, and Mary W. Clark.
From the outside, David, Bagby and Martha Lennox each appeared to live a proper, provincial Southern life. But their interests and attitudes were shaped and expanded by education, travel, and remarkably ambitious reading habits. By embracing the complex idea of a family charitable foundation, the siblings have ensured the preservation of their wealth while supporting the county of their birth and heritage. This was another practical solution by the family. This time, the public good has reaped the benefits and continues to have the Lennox Foundation’s support.
© 2017 Martha, David & Bagby Lennox Foundation