Heritage, 2011, Volume 4 Page: 13
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he persuaded Colonel
Moody to allow the
addition of a banking
department to the firm.
In 1890, W.L., Jr. mar-
ried Libbie Rice Shearn
of Houston (the "first
Libbie") and briefly
lived in New York
City, where he worked
on behalf of his fam-
ily's business interests.
Although Moody was
By the late 1800s, the island would be one of the
largest cities in Texas and would be known as "The
Wall Street of the Southwest," with more million-
aires per capita than all cities in the United States
at that time except Newport, Rhode Island. Colo-
nel W L. Moody would be at the forefront of this
period of immense prosperity in early Texas...
The next 30 years,
with oldest sibling
Mary Moody Northen
at the helm of the fam-
ily's interests, produced
mixed results. Under
Mary's leadership, the
giant Moody Founda-
tion became a conveyor
of generosity through-
out the state and heav-
ily funded the fledgling
commissioned a colonel in the Texas National Guard in 1895,
he did not use the title frequently, preferring not to call atten-
tion to himself. In 1900, W.L., Jr. and Libbie acquired their
stately home at 2618 Broadway in Galveston, now a museum
in their honor, where they raised four children: Mary Moody
Northen; W. L. Moody, III; Shearn Moody, Sr.; and Libbie
Moody Thompson (seepage 15 for more information about the
siblings and their children).
W. L. Moody, Jr. would further expand the family's cotton
and banking businesses; acquire ranches, hotels, and newspa-
pers; and create the Moody Foundation for the benefit of all
Texans. However, it was his founding of American National
Insurance Company in 1905 that would generate a huge for-
tune, provide thousands of jobs, and help fund many future
philanthropic endeavors. The Wall Street crash of 1929 had
little or no harmful effect on ANICO, thanks to the ultra-
conservative financial strategies of W.L. Moody, Jr. His as-
sumed risks were nearly always calculable and manageable,
and the savvy businessman generally shied away from highly
speculative oil or real estate deals. For decades, W.L., Jr. had
avoided attention, but upon his death in 1954, his fortune
amounted to a staggering $440 million, a sum that dwarfed
the holdings of many old moneyed families in the Northeast.
movement in Galveston in the 1970s. She strived to maintain
the family's various business enterprises just as she thought
her father would have wished. However, due more to political
circumstances in Texas, and certainly not because of Mary's
actions, control of the Moody Foundation, Moody National
Bank, and the golden goose-American National Insurance
Company-ended up in the hands of outsiders. Their loyalty
to Galveston and its Moody-based businesses was virtually
absent. Enter Mary's nephew, Robert Lee Moody, Sr., who,
through a series of court battles and gutsy business moves,
was able to regain family control of the empire, primarily in
the late 1970s and the 1980s.
Galveston Island stood still the week Mary Moody Northen
died in August 1986. A family that had made such an impact
on the city and state for more than a century was in transi-
tion, and no one knew what to expect. Rumors abounded that
Photos above, left to right: 1899 photo of Col. W.L. Moody, seated, W. L.
Moody, Jr., standing, and W.L. Moody, III, in front; 1910 photo of W.L.
Moody, Jr., seated, and his sons W.L. Moody, III, left, and Shearn, Sr., on
right; 1954 photo of mourners as they flocked to pay their last respects for
the deceased W.L. Moody, Jr., at his 2618 Broadway Street home. Inset:
1911 photo of Mary Moody Northen.
Volu me 4 2 01 1 ITEXAS HERITAGE 13
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2011, Volume 4, periodical, 2011; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254223/m1/13/: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.