“As I look back on my life I think of myself as very fortunate. More opportunities have appeared before me than most people could hope for in a lifetime. I’ve had a chance to sample all the things that were such great attractions to me, whether it was piloting a fast jet, playing gin with John Wayne, or even trimming a horse’s hooves.”
James Andrew “Jimmie” Whittenburg, III—rancher, banker, cattle raiser, oil & gas entrepreneur, aviator and Special Texas Ranger—passed away peacefully on December 6, 2016 at his home in Dallas, TX, with his wife, children and grandchildren at his side. He was 83 years old.
Jimmie was born on January 14, 1933 in Amarillo, TX, the second of three children, and only son, to James Andrew Whittenburg, Jr. and Catharine Coble Whittenburg. His parents were both from prominent pioneer ranching families who had established themselves in the Texas Panhandle around the time of the Civil War. He attended Bivins Elementary School, Elizabeth Nixon Junior High School and Amarillo High School, though he obtained the majority of his education by actively operating his family’s ranches in the Texas Panhandle and later New Mexico. “All of my interests were on the ranch, not in the classroom,” as he liked to say. He subsequently completed courses in geology at Amarillo College, as well as law enforcement training as a special officer at the Panhandle Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
Jimmie met Kathryn Jeanne Price of Stratford, TX in the spring of 1951, and described her as “the prettiest girl I ever saw.” They were married on December 7, 1952 in Portales, NM. They honeymooned in Acapulco, attended bullfights in Mexico City, and settled back in Amarillo, where they began to build and raise their cherished family: Jeanne Price was born on August 25, 1953; Lelah Elizabeth “Liz” was born on October 24, 1954; James Andrew “Jim or Jimbo” was born on October 21, 1955; Catharine Coble “C.C.” was born on December 15, 1956 and Leslie Sommer arrived 8 years later on April 3, 1965. Jimmie adored being a dedicated father and parenting the children with Jeanne. He continued to be a loving role model, voice of reason and unparalleled inspiration to all of those, young and old, who came in contact with him throughout his life.
He and Jeanne enjoyed 42 exuberant years of marriage until she tragically passed away in 1995, when a helicopter that Jimmie was piloting encountered severe turbulence and crashed. He was gravely injured, but miraculously survived. Despite the overwhelming physical injuries and emotional loss, his indomitable spirit, grit and surmounting perseverance spurred his recovery from the catastrophic accident. None of this could have transpired without the love, support and medical guidance of his family, whom Jimmie credits with saving his life.
In the summer of 1999, he became reacquainted with Katsy Mullendore of the Cross Bell Ranch in Osage and Washington Counties of Oklahoma. They were married on September 14, 2002 at the Sapello Ranch in New Mexico. Together they blended their large, diverse and wonderful families. Jimmie has said, “I’ve had fortune beyond odds that anybody could hope for, and it happened not once but twice in a lifetime… what were the odds of meeting a woman I could love after having the most special person in my life at my side?” Katsy continued to be a resplendent, gracious and unwavering companion.
Jimmie exhibited an early enthusiasm for aviation, and learned to fly airplanes at the age of 17, purchasing his first airplane, a Beechcraft V-Tail Bonanza, in 1950; he continued to be involved in the acquisition, leasing and flying of various aircrafts for over 40 years. He later became a licensed helicopter pilot, which expedited his travel between Amarillo and the ranches. Widespread work engagements and personal adventures to far corners of the globe instigated Jimmie’s piloting of single-engines, turboprops, piston-powered planes and business jets. “I believed that to do more, all I needed was to get up earlier and have a faster airplane.”
Aircraft ventures included Tradewind Turbines, Cessna and Beechcraft dealerships and ownership of Tradewind Airport in Amarillo.
Though engaged in coordinating and integrating the many-faceted aspects of his life and work, the one consistent title on Jimmie’s highly diversified résumé is that of rancher. His indomitable lineage of homesteaders, cattle ranchers, traders, buffalo hunters, frontiersmen and women was many generations deep. Jimmie acquired his intimate and comprehensive understanding of the ranching and cattle business from his father, mother and grandparents at the Turkey Track Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. He later purchased and operated ranches in the Panhandle, New Mexico (the Double O Bar, Sapello and the TO Ranch) and Cuatrociénegas, Mexico. From the mid-1950s on, he advanced and proliferated his diversified ranching, oil and gas, aviation and investment interests through farming, feedlots, raising cattle, real estate, banking, insurance, and a hotel venture (Hotel Cabo San Lucas).
He and Katsy loved travelling and particularly enjoyed entertaining family and friends at their home in Pebble Beach, CA.
His marked leadership ability and fair, honest dealings were evident in his many professional accolades and successes. He was director, president and CEO of the First Bank of Stratford from 1960 – 1986. He helped found Stratford of Texas, Inc., which in 1972 became the largest cattle feeding company in the United States, and was president of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raiser’s Association (TSCRA) from 1975 – 1977 (where his grandfather William T. Coble served as president in 1934).
From the 1970s through the early 2000s, he was a director of the American National Bank, Fort Worth National Bank Holding Company, Mid-Continent Life Insurance Company, National Cowboy Hall of Fame & Western Heritage Center, National Cattlemen’s Association, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, National Finance Credit Corporation / Texas Livestock Marketing Association, Panhandle Plains Historical Society, Special Texas Rangers Commission, Texas Cattle Feeder’s Association, Missouri Beef Packers (later MBPXL), Texas Organized Crime Prevention Council, appointed commissioner of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and was an organizing member of the Texas Land & Mineral Owners Association (TMLA). In the 1970s and early 80s, he served on the boards of MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas’ War on Drugs Committee, St. Anthony’s Hospital and Amarillo Globe-News.
Committed to law enforcement, Jimmie was appointed to the respected position of Special Texas Ranger and served from 1961-1974. He was then a member of the Former Texas Rangers’ Association from 1973-1978, and Executive Committee member of the Texas Rangers Commemorative Commission and Hall of Fame.
Jimmie’s spirited, independent thinking and courageous nature led him to a long and fulfilled life. An honorable and chivalrous gentleman, his generosity, effortless style, story-telling and impact will carry on for generations to come.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Jeanne Price Whittenburg, his son James Andrew “Jim or Jimbo” Whittenburg IV, and by his sister, Catharine Coble Whittenburg McAnally. He will be forever in the hearts of those who knew him, especially his surviving relatives: his wife, Katsy Whittenburg of Dallas; his four daughters and their husbands Jeanne Latimer (Bob), Liz Redwine (Ras V), C.C. Armstrong (Stewart) and Leslie el-Effendi (Wicky); his sister Francie Whittenburg; his fourteen grandchildren Catharine Whittenburg Vexler, James Andrew “J.” Whittenburg V, Price Latimer, Ras Redwine VI, Robert Weber “Roby” Latimer Jr., Coble Armstrong Jorgensen, Elizabeth Redwine Brenner, Stewart Larkin Armstrong, Mia Armstrong Brous, Sarah Latimer Hager, Alexandra Latimer Baldwin, Adham Hissam el-Effendi, Leslie Forrest el-Effendi and Elizabeth “Elli” Jeanne el-Effendi; by his step-children, numerous cousins, nieces, nephews, and soon-to-be fourteen great-grandchildren.
“Above everything I’ve accomplished in my life, nothing compares to the pride I have in our family.”
The family wishes to particularly thank lifelong friend and business associate Dennis Kern for his relationship with Jimmie for over 70 years, Troy Thomas for his unwavering caregiving and support, Sharon Oliver, Scott Brosier, Burk Whittenburg and Cindy Reid who have been instrumental in assisting him in his business and personal endeavors.
Family and friends of Jimmie are invited to attend a celebration of his life at Brook Hollow Golf Club, Dallas, TX on Saturday, December 10, 2016 from 1P.M. to 3P.M. In lieu of flowers, Jimmie’s family requests that donations be considered to the charity of your choice or to the following organizations: Parkland Hospital Burn Unit, Dallas, TX; Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, San Antonio, TX; and Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Dallas, TX.