Montie Ritchie

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Montgomery Harrison Wadsworth "Montie" Ritchie
Montie Ritchie.jpg
Born(1910-12-02)December 2, 1910
Ashwell, England
DiedJuly 19, 1999(1999-07-19) (aged 88)
Residence(1) JA Ranch in Texas Panhandle, Texas, USA
(2) Second ranch in Larkspur, Douglas County, Colorado
OccupationRancher; Businessman;
Art collector, Philanthropist
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)(1) Julia Elizabeth "Betty" Barrell Ritchie (deceased)
(2) Hildegard "Hildy" Neill Ritchie (died 1992)
Childrendaughter Cornelia "Ninia" Wadsworth Ritchie Bivins
grandson Andrew M. Bivins

(1) Montie Ritchie so enhanced the management prospects of his family-owned JA Ranch as to maintain the operation into its current fifth generation of original owners.

(2) Ritchie was an art collector of European masters who donated much of his work to the Dixon Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

(3) A member of the British Alpine Club, Ritchie was the photographer of a 1949 expedition to the Baffin Islands.

(4) Ritchie was a benefactor of the National Ranching Heritage Center of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

Montgomery Harrison Wadsworth Ritchie (December 2, 1910 – July 19, 1999), known as Montie Ritchie, was a dual British subject and American citizen who became a leading cattle rancher and businessman in the Texas Panhandle during the 20th century. From 1935-1993, he was the manager of his family-owned JA Ranch southeast of Amarillo. The JA has been strictly a cattle operation, with no oil or natural gas found on its acreage.

Family ties and early years[edit]

Ritchie was the older of two sons and a daughter born to Montgomery Harrison "Jack" Ritchie (1861–1924) and Ritchie's English wife. He was a grandson of Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair, widow of John George Adair, who solely owned the JA Ranch from 1887 until her death in 1921. His paternal grandfather, Montgomery Harrison Ritchie (1826–1864), Cornelia Adair's first husband, died of illness contracted in the American Civil War. He was the great-grandson of Union general James Samuel Wadsworth, Sr., of New York, who was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. Montie Ritchie's father, Jack Ritchie, was born in Geneseo a village in Livingston County in western New York State. He was educated and reared in England, became an international sportsman, and worked at the JA Ranch for a time. He once told his son "Montie" that his JA experiences were the happiest times of his life and urged Montie to consider management of the ranch. Jack purchased JA horses and sold them to the New York Police Department. He enlisted in the British Army during the Boer War, where his knowledge of living on the Texas prairies proved helpful in organizing the movements of men and horses across the South African veldt.[1] Montie Ritchie was born in the English village of Ashwell. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1931. When Ritchie first came to the JA, he was given the most difficult jobs and the toughest broncos to ride. He persevered and obtained proxies from his sister, Gabrielle M. Ritchie Keiller, and younger brother to become the new JA manager.[2] His younger brother, Richard Morgan Wadsworth Ritchie (1912–1940), known as "Dick Ritchie", was like their father an international sportsman and also an actor. "Dick" died at the age of twenty-eight from inhaling carbon monoxide which leaked from a faulty heater on his yacht, from which he was fishing off Corpus Christi.[3]

Managing the JA Ranch[edit]

As JA manager, Ritchie revived the ranch during the time of outstanding debts stemming from his grandmother's death and the onslaught of the Great Depression and the drought of the 1930s. His grandmother's estate placed a large debt load on the ranch. Timothy Dwight Hobart, the outgoing ranch manager, co-executor of Cornelia Adair's estate, and mayor of Pampa had recommended selling the JA, but Ritchie weathered through, got the JA out of debt, bought out his sister and brother, and set a model for stewardship of the land. By 1945, the JA's operations were confined to 335,000 acres (1,360 km2) in Armstrong (Claude), Briscoe, Donley (Clarendon), and Hall counties (Memphis). At its peak, the ranch had surpassed 1,300,000 acres (5,300 km2).[4] Montie Ritchie sold off parts of the original ranch and purchased another ranch near Larkspur in Douglas County, Colorado, between Colorado Springs and Denver. Shortly before Ritchie's death, the JA donated the last remaining wild herd of buffalo in the area to the State of Texas.[1]

Military aviator[edit]

When World War II began, Ritchie held dual citizenship. He declared himself an American and joined the United States Naval Reserve as an aviator and held the rank of lieutenant commander. He piloted his own aircraft well into his seventies.He owned several aircraft, including Beechcraft King-Airs.[2]

Twice married[edit]

Ritchie was twice married. His first wife, the former Julia Elizabeth "Betty" Barrell of Boston, died not long after the birth of their only child, a daughter, Cornelia Wadsworth "Ninia" Ritchie, later the wife of Republican State Senator Teel Bivins of Amarillo, whose family also had ranching interests in the Panhandle. Ninia and Teel Bivins have a son, Andrew M. Bivins, who in 2005 joined the management team of the JA as the fifth-generation owner.[3] Ritchie subsequently married the former Hildegard "Hildy" Neill (1917–1992) of Colorado.[2]

Cornelia Ritchie was inducted in 2009 into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas.

Later activities[edit]

Ritchie was a director of the Continental Bank in Fort Worth and was elected in 1947 as a director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He was named honorary vice president of the organization in 1995, a prestigious title which few receive. Like his father and brother, he too was an avid sportsman. A member of the British Alpine Club, Ritchie was the photographer on a 1949 expedition to Baffin Island[2] within the Canadian Arctic, where there is darkness for much of the year.

Ritchie began collecting French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings in the 1940s. From 1990 until his death, Ritchie was a lifetime member of the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis, Tennessee, where much of his collection of impressionist art was on loan. In 1992, he donated three fourths of his collection to the Dixon Gallery. The collection includes works by Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Cézanne, Gauguin, Seurat, Redon, Bonnard and Vuillard.[2] The American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo honored Ritchie in 1997 with one of its first Legacy Awards, which acknowledges those breeders who have provided a foundation for the quarter horse. JA Ranch has bred quarter horses since the 1930s; its current stock traces its pedigrees to those first horses. Ritchie was also known for his dedication to preserving ranching history. In 1972 and again in 1988, he made donations to the National Ranching Heritage Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.[2]

Burial in New York[edit]

Ritchie is interred alongside his brother "Dick" and other family members in the Temple Hill Cemetery in Geneseo, New York. He was Episcopalian and Republican. At the burial service, one of Ritchie's relatives from a Democratic background, W. Stuart Symington, a grandson of former U.S. Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, called him a "Tory."[5]