Anne Marion, major leader in Fort Worth, arts, dies at 81

First lady Laura Bush, right, views a bronze titled,"Passing Times" by Veryl Goodnight, as Anne Marion, rear left, looks on, Thursday Feb. 20, 2003, at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Texas oil and ranching heiress Anne Marion, who was a major benefactor and leader in Fort Worth for years and a driving force behind the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as well as a founder of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has died. She was 81.

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said with Mrs. Marion’s death, Fort Worth lost a true champion for the arts and the community at large.

“Anne was quietly working behind the scenes for years helping shape Fort Worth’s arts and culture scene. A true philanthropist with an incredible passion for her community and love for western heritage, Anne’s impact will live on,” the mayor said.

Cody Hartley, director of the O’Keeffe museum, said in a statement that Mrs. Marion died Tuesday in California. He called her a “passionate arts patron, determined leader, and generous philanthropist.”

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Mrs. Marion and her husband, John Marion, established the museum in 1997. She served as the chair of the board of trustees until 2016.

Former President George W. Bush said in a statement that he and former first lady Laura Bush were mourning the death of their friend. He said she was “a true Texan, a great patron of the arts, a generous member of our community, and a person of elegance and strength.”

She drew universal praise from the leaders of Fort Worth’s museums.

“Anne Marion was one of the most generous, admirable and inspirational people I have ever known,” said Marla Price, director of the Modern Art Museum. “She chaired the building committee that chose Tadao Ando in 1997 as architect of a new building for the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.”

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Price said that Mrs. Marion together with Mr. and Mrs. Perry Bass, provided the majority of funds for the project and guaranteed that the resulting building would be one of the finest in the world.

“Her great leadership and generosity to the museum has continued until the present, and her loss is heartbreaking for everyone involved with the Modern,” Price said.

Eric M. Lee, director of the Kimbell Art Museum, called her “truly one of the greats.”

“While quiet by nature, Anne Marion was an epic force in Fort Worth and beyond. I cannot imagine the city without her. But through the enormous impact she made on the city, state, and nation, her presence will always be felt,” Lee said.

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“She touched countless lives though her kindness and generosity, which knew no bounds. Her passions included the American West and art, about which she was tremendously knowledgeable.

“She formed a breathtaking collection of her own, and gave countless works to museums, including the Kimbell Art Museum, the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and the institutions she essentially built: The Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art and Santa Fe’s Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. She was truly one of the greats,” Lee said.

Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, said that Mrs. Marion was “without question one of the great influencers in the national art world.”

“She expressed a belief in the power of creativity to be transformative. Her passing leaves a legacy that we at the Carter cherish and honor,” Walker said.

But she was also influential in the world of western culture.

“Anne Marion will be sorely missed, but her impact on Fort Worth and the art world will be remembered for generations,” said Patricia Riley, executive director of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame.

“She was unequalled in her appreciation and support of museums, as varied as The Modern Art Museum to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. She was uniquely as comfortable and well-versed talking about cowboy artists as modern artists. And her generosity was legendary,” Riley said.

The Fort Worth Business Press named her a Great Woman of Texas in 2003.

In the story accompanying the recognition, she was ask about her heroes.

She named only one – her great grandfather, Capt. Samuel Burk Burnett. The woman who influenced her the most, Mrs. 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 her when she was a child.

“These men taught me values that have stuck with me all my life,” Mrs. Marion said in 2003.

“Highly intelligent, cultured, hard-working, determined, strong-willed, tough as whitleather, and so very kind,” said Richard L. Connor, owner and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. “If you were lucky enough to become her friend, you had her loyalty as a friend forever.

“The Charles Goodnight Award was given for 20 years to a Texan who embraced and embodied the Western way of life and its traditions,” he said. “She is the only woman who ever won the award.”

Connor and Kit Moncrief conceived the honor in the name of the legendary cowman and rancher, Charles Goodnight. Mrs. Marion became one of four directors of the Goodnight Foundation after she won the award.

“Once she joined the small board,” said Connor, “we pretty much did whatever Anne wanted us to do. She was a powerhouse and Fort Worth and Texas will not see her kind again. This is a loss to all who knew her.”

In an interview when the Georgia O’Keeffe museum opened, Mrs. Marion said, “I’ve always loved her work. I grew up with it in my home — my mother had two of her paintings.”

She was the great-granddaughter of Samuel Burk Burnett, founder of the 6666 Ranch in Texas.

Under Mrs. Marion’s leadership, the museum grew to also include O’Keeffe’s two historic homes and studios in northern New Mexico, at Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch.

The American Quarter Horse Association said Mrs. Marion was a director emeritus at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum and was inducted into its Hall of Great Westerners in 2009. Her great-grandfather Samuel “Burk” Burnett, her grandfather Tom Burnett and her mother Anne Burnett Tandy are also in the Hall of Great Westerners.

The association website also noted her long list of awards, which include the Golden Deed Honoree as selected by the Fort Worth Exchange Club, 1993; The Charles Goodnight Award, 1993; inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, 1996; the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts award, 1996; the American Quarter Horse Foundation’s Merle Wood Humanitarian Award, 1999; the National Golden Spur Award, 2001; the Boss of the Plains Award from the National Ranching Heritage Center, 2003; inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, 2007; and inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, 2014.

“While her civic and cultural activities extended throughout Texas and the United States, her deepest commitment was to her birthright and the continuing success of the historic Four Sixes Ranch, which will be recognized in the April-May 2020 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal for 80 years of breeding American Quarter Horses,” the association said.

Marion was a life-long member of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Fort Worth.

Mrs. Marion is survived by her husband, John L. Marion, Chairman Emeritus of Sotheby’s and former Chairman and Chief Auctioneer of the international art auction house. He and Mrs. Marion were married in 1988.

She is also survived by her daughter, Windi Grimes and her husband David; by John Marion, Jr.; Debbie Marion Murray and her husband Mike; Therese Marion; Michelle Marion; and grandchildren, Hallie Grimes; John Marion, III, Winifred Marion; Schyler Murray, Ryan Murray, Peyton Murray; Sophie Thompson and Olivia Thompson.

Services: Visitation, Wednesday, February 19 from 4 to 6 p.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church. Memorial Service 3 p.m. Thursday, February 20 at University Christian Church in Fort Worth.

The family respectfully requests no flowers but should one desire, memorials may be made to a charity of choice.