I would like to tell you about a book which details one of the most fascinating stories about Texas and about a man and his family who became a Texas legend, particularly in South East Texas and to anyone who has ever attended the University of Texas!
It is a story about, good, bad and evil! It is a story about how those with power and wealth feel they are above the law, yet also and perhaps more importantly about the growing role of some in the legal profession condoning, perpetuating and being complicit in criminal activities.
To begin, William Henry Stark and his wife Miriam, came to Texas in the early 1880s, originally from Pennsylvania, they settled in the small town of Burkeville Texas, which was the center for the Texas timber boom at that time. With his knowledge of timber, by the turn of the century, he and his partner, G. Bedell Moore, had made a massive fortune in the lumber business. Henry J. Lutcher and G. Bedell Moore built the first "big mill," with a daily capacity of 80,000 to 100,000 board feet. For the next half century, Lutcher and Moore set a high standard for quality lumber, advanced technology, and leadership in civic projects. They had amassed a huge fortune in timber, land, oil, cattle and more by the 1920's.
I had heard stories from many old timers in Newton, Hemphill and surrounding small towns, Burkeville was a boomtown with over 15,000 residence most of whom worked as lumberjacks. There was company housing, a company store and more. One man told me the story of the day he and his crew cut down two huge bull pine trees over 150 foot tall. By the time they had trimmed the two tress they were almost 9 foot in diameter and over 90 foot long. He said they had use two flat cars to ship them to the mill in Orange Texas. The two huge trees were to become huge building beams and were destine to be shipped to New York.
H.L. Stark was W.H. Stark's only son and heir to the Stark family fortune upon the death of this father. From all accounts we have read, he was a dynamic amazing man, generous and philanthropic.
The Saturday Evening Post referred to him as the “Angel of the Longhorns” in a lengthy article detailing his tenure as both student and University Regent. From early days when he bought burnt orange blankets with “Longhorns” appliquéd across the back, then draped them across the football players as they sat along the bench – a move designed to force the name change from “Varsity” and “Steers,” to his generosity in furnishing the Longhorn band with new uniforms and instruments, to chairing the successful Memorial Stadium construction drive in the midst of tough economic times,
Lutcher Stark was a mover and a shaker. And he did it his way, not only contributing funding for the projects but making certain it was done according to his standards. Even before plans were announced for a concrete stadium to replace the wooden bleachers of Clark Field, he traveled to California and filmed construction of the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to use two years later when work began in Austin on a similar horseshoe-shaped facility to be built in two stages: the first, with the east and west stands in place for the opening in 1924; the second, the addition of the north side in 1926 to complete the horseshoe.
But the story about this family actually begins around 1939. H.L. Starjkhad three wives, Nita which was his true love, Ruby which was his second wife. And Ruby's sister Nelda who was Mr. Starks third and last wife and the devil incarnate according to the book! The book is “If the Devil had a Wife” written by Frank Mills. The books details the rise of the Stark amily, their fortune, their family and fortune and the tragedies perpetuated upon it by some of the meanest and most calculating individuals ever to take a breath in Texas rivaling any of the outlaws and desperados of in Texas history!
“If the Devil had a Wife” It is the untold “true” story on the life of H J Lutcher Stark(1887-1965) and the last 22 years of his life.
The Stark Foundation Rebuttal Website to the book "If the Devil had a Wife".