John Birdwell, rancher and cattleman, was born on July 8, 1929, in Ralls, Texas, to John Lowry and Cordelia (Golden) Birdwell. He was named Joe Earnest, but he later changed his name to John E. Birdwell II. He attended grade school in Ralls and in Lubbock, where his family moved in 1939. He attended Lubbock High School and then the high school at Jacksonville Baptist College, where he received his diploma in 1947. He attended Texas Technological College briefly in 1947. From 1945 to 1949 he managed his father's ranch near Justiceburg before leasing the Connell Ranch of some 100,000 acres near Post. In 1949 he married Genene Lee Bateman in Clovis, New Mexico. They had four sons and a daughter. In 1945 Birdwell and his father leased the VVN Ranch, the southernmost camp of the XIT Ranch in Bailey County. A year later they drove to New York City to buy the ranch from Stone-Webster Investment Company. Birdwell moved to Lubbock in 1966 and continued ranching in Garza, Throckmorton, Haskell, and Bailey counties. He was chairman of Birdwell Cattle Feeders, a ranching and cattle-feeding operation in Bailey County, until his retirement in 1989, when Governor Bill Clements appointed him to the Texas Water Commission.
Birdwell was president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and a member of the board of directors of the National Cattlemen's Association, the Beef Industry Council, the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show, and the Texas Hereford Association. He was also a board member of the Brazos River Authority. He received the Gerald W. Thomas Outstanding Agriculturist Award from the Texas Tech College of Agricultural Sciences. He served on the Texas Tech Board of Regents from 1981 to 1987 and as its chairman in 1986. He died at his home in Lubbock on August 6, 1991, after a lengthy illness from a brain tumor. Funeral services were held at Central Baptist Church in Lubbock. He was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.
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Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, August 9, 1991. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Ranching and Cowboys
Ranchers and Cattlemen
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lawrence L. Graves,
“Birdwell, John E. II,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
November 1, 1994
Most Recent Revision Date:
July 26, 2020