Ruth Carter Stevenson, influential Fort Worth native, died Sunday


    Ruth Carter Stevenson, a Fort Worth patron of the arts and philanthropist, died on Sunday after a lengthy illness.

    Mrs. Stevenson, 89, extended the legacy of her father, the late Amon G. Carter, through her work at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Amon G. Carter Foundation.

    She was born Oct. 19, 1923 in Fort Worth, the same year her father took over as publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, according to the Amon G. Carter Foundation website. Mrs. Stevenson attended the Madeira School in McLean, Va., and Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, N.Y.

    After graduation, she married J. Lee Johnson III of Fort Worth, although the marriage ended in divorce in 1980. Her second husband, John Stevenson, died in 1997, according to the Amon G. Carter Foundation website.

    Following her father’s wishes before his death in 1955, she organized a museum based on his collection of Western American Art, now the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, according to a timeline on the Amon G. Carter Foundation website.

    She purchased the site for the museum at the corner of Lancaster Avenue and Camp Bowie Boulevard, selected all the designs for the museum, and oversaw all of the construction until the museum was opened in 1961, according to the timeline.

    "Ruth not only built the nation's great American art collection, but gave the art of our nation a prominent stage on which to explore its significance. As I have come to know the community, I marvel at the depth of Ruth's influence," Andrew Walker, director of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, said.

    After her father’s death, Mrs. Stevenson became the president of the museum’s board, the Amon G. Carter Foundation, and was known as being fierce and persistent on quality, said Dr. Bobby Brown, the vice-president of the foundation since 1982.

    “She was an extremely bright lady and single handedly built the museum, plus the Water Gardens. Her first great love was her family, second was the museum, and third was the city of Fort Worth,” Brown said.

    She and her family made tremendous contributions to Fort Worth, Brown said.

    “She and her family made so many contributions to the city, starting with her father. She did a terrific job as president of the foundation," Brown said. "She made the decisions that were beneficial to hundreds of nonprofit organizations of all types. Hardly any foundation in the city hasn’t seen help from her.”

    Chancellor Victor Boschini said, "In the ten years I was blessed to know Ruth Carter Stevenson, I always thought she was a presence for good in our community. Naturally, she was a moving force behind the Amon Carter Museum, but she did so much more behind the scenes."

    Walker said Mrs. Stevenson was admired as a woman of talent and excellence.

    "A woman of vision and prodigious talent, she served as a model of excellence that extended far beyond the walls of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art," Walker said. "It is hard to imagine coming to work without her leadership and, importantly, friendship. She was the lifeblood of this museum."

    In addition to the Carter Museum, Mrs. Stevenson also left her mark on TCU campus. She was a Trustee Emeritus and was responsible for the design, building and expansion of Moudy South.

    The Carter family was instrumental in designing and funding the original construction of the Moudy building in the 1980s. Mrs. Stevenson was responsible for choosing the Connecticut architectural firm of Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo Associates, known for their “Glass Clad” look to design the James M. Moudy Building.

    Mrs. Stevenson also donated money for the $5.6 million expansion and renovation of the College of Communication and Schieffer School of Journalism’s facilities in Moudy Building South in 2005.

    “She was a fighter, and she was an amazing lady that had a vision and brought that vision forward,” College of Communication Dean David Whillock said. “She really put the Moudy building in her heart and she supported it not only financially, but with everything she had.”

    She, along with Dean of Admissions Ray Brown, Chancellor Boschini, Whillock, Schieffer School of Journalism director John Lumpkin and university alumnus and chief Washington correspondent for CBS News Bob Schieffer attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony five years later on Feb. 9, 2010 to celebrate the achievement.

    At the ceremony, Boschini expressed his gratefulness for Mrs. Stevenson’s work.

    “The original building is because of you, the expansion of the building is because of you,” he said. “You and your family have permitted us to have a wonderful facility that has educated generations of students and will continue to educate generations of students.”

    Lumpkin also said her dedication to her father’s interest in communications will benefit students for many years.

    “She was very focused on her father and his family’s legacy in communications and there is no question that students in the Schieffer school and College of Communication will benefit from that for many years to come,” Lumpkin said.

    Whillock said she was always passionate about the Moudy Building South design, and she is referred to as the building’s guardian angel.

    “She’s always been our guardian angel over the building because she always felt strongly about the design, so whenever the physical plant would try to make changes, she had a say,” Whillock said. “The front doors needed to be changed because they were heavy and she had to be convinced that they would be better because she really respected the architectural design.”

    Mrs. Stevenson is survived by her five children, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

    Visitation will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at Thompson's Harveson & Cole Funeral Home. After a private burial, a memorial and prayer service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday at St. Patrick's Cathedral.

    Chancellor Boschini has asked that the TCU flag be lowered to half staff on Friday, Jan. 11.