Richard Connor: We get the boot and city’s legacy stubs its toe

The English language is tricky.

For instance, the words “slim chance” and “fat chance” mean the same thing. So maybe the Fort Worth Business Press should not have asked Justin Boots to give us the boot. They took us literally.

Our business produces numerous recognition events each year and one of the gifts we give our winners is a pair of Justin Boots. The boots are popular with all our honorees but are especially prized among the young achievers we recognize at our annual Forty Under Forty awards. In the past, all 40 have been given a pair of Justin Boots featuring our logo and the words “Forty Under Forty.”

Not this year.

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Years of partnering with Justin Boots ended when the company notified us in a letter that it was “passing on this partnership.” The letter said the company may reconsider at a later date.

Oh. I know what you’re thinking. The poor Business Press. Whining about the loss of its boot gift. Hey. The U.S. just dropped the mother of all bombs in Afghanistan. Let’s talk about real problems.

OK, but here’s the point: Fort Worth is changing. Sometimes the changes are wonderful, propelling our city toward a brighter future. But sometimes the changes are painful and destructive, betraying the spirit of community that once made this place so unique.

In this case, the problem isn’t just that the Fort Worth Business Press has been dumped by Justin Boots – a local newspaper’s longstanding partnership with a legendary local company severed with little warning or explanation. The bigger problem is what this development represents.

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The letter from Justin Brands president Greg Crouchley said Justin is reviewing all past donations, sponsorship and partnerships because “we are now a division of a much larger company.” True enough, the company once owned and operated locally by John Justin Jr. is now owned by Warren Buffett’s Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.

That’s the same Warren Buffett, by the way, who was in Austin on April 17 lobbying state officials for a special exemption to Texas law that would allow him to sell cars here. Buffett said “jump” and the Legislature asked “how high?”

Buffett’s company is big enough to ask Texas for a favor and get it – and apparently too big to do a favor for 40 Texans who’ve devoted their still young lives to making our state and city a better place to live.

When John Justin came calling to ask a favor or ask a business leader to serve a worthy cause you didn’t hesitate. You said, “Sure thing, Mr. Justin” because you knew he would return the favor without blinking.

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He worked with men who carried on his traditions, people such as J.T. Dickinson and Randy Watson, who until last fall ran Justin Brands.

Now Greg Crouchley runs the company and when we phoned him to discuss the boot partnership, we were told he has “an office here” but there was a strong intimation he has an office elsewhere.

Four days later, we were still awaiting a return phone call.

John Justin would have called that poor manners.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at