Briscoe, Dolph, Sr. (1890–1954)

By: Howard Lackman

Type: Biography

Published: August 1, 1995

Updated: May 18, 2019

Dolph Briscoe, Sr., cattleman, was born on September 1, 1890, in Fulshear, Texas, one of four children of Judge Lee Adolphus and Lucy (Wade) Briscoe. His father was a planter, jurist, rancher, and descendant of Andrew Briscoe. His mother was a granddaughter of Randolph Foster. On October 1, 1913, Briscoe married his cousin Georgie Briscoe, who resided in Fulshear, and a year later the couple moved to Uvalde. Their son, Dolph Briscoe, Jr., became the fortieth governor of the state of Texas. Briscoe, Sr., started in his youth tending cattle at the periphery of his family's plantation. He worked beyond the bordered cultivated fields and quickly became a natural at roping, culling, and driving cattle. His entrepreneurial talents also emerged early. Already mounted by dawn, he began a newspaper route around Fulshear and won a Houston Post competition for increased subscriptions, as well as a scholarship to Peacock Military Academy. But Briscoe naturally gravitated toward the range life. "I had my chance at college," he wrote, "but I didn't want college. My father wanted me to attend the State University and study law, but I liked horse trading better." Briscoe ran mules and horses from Bee, Wilson, and Dimmit counties to the farmers on the coastal prairies, and business was profitable, especially soon after the harvest. He expanded operations and began selling in Arkansas and Missouri. He partnered with Leo Byrd and ranched along the Leona River. He traded cattle, formed a partnership with J. M. Patton and Albert Finley, and by 1919 was buying cattle by the thousands. He "went broke," he recalled, in 1921 and again in 1932. He next became a commission agent for Humble Oil and Refining Company for the Uvalde territory, and in the course of distributing for Humble (later Exxon), he made friends with Ross Sterling, president of Humble and Briscoe's next partner in the cattle business. After buying the Chupadera Ranch in Dimmitt and Webb counties the two men went broke.

In 1932 the cattle business, like many other businesses in the nation, went sour. Beef at two cents a pound would not even pay the freight costs. Briscoe faltered but did not quit. He leased in subsequent years the Catarina Ranch, then bought 35,000 acres of it. He ran the Margarito Ranch and put 5,000 Hereford cattle on it in northern Coahuila. He became a partner of Albert Finley in a 10,000-acre spread named the Gato and acquired the Rio Frio Ranch, 14,000 acres north of Uvalde. His O6 (Open Six) brand was an adaptation of the original Sterling-Briscoe O9 brand, which Dolph Briscoe, Jr., later used. The O6 rapidly spread across several counties as the indefatigable Briscoe began to build his cattle fortunes for a third time. In 1933 he founded the Uvalde Wool and Mohair Company, which became his official office when he was not out on his land. In 1973, in the midst of a school-tax dispute over the Briscoe holdings, the Dallas Morning News estimated that the Briscoe family owned 303,125 acres in five counties, and that with additional leased acreage they controlled a million acres worth $40 million. The Briscoes were consequently the state's largest landholders.

By this time Briscoe hobnobbed with prominent Texans who came to socialize and to hunt at his ranches, particularly at the Chupadera, while he owned it with Ross Sterling and before it went belly up. Jesse Jones, millionaire and lumber baron of Houston, R. M. Farrar, president of the Union National Bank of Houston, former governor W. P. Hobby, Frank E. Clarity, former vice president of the Fort Worth and Denver Railway, Walter W. Fondren, Houston investor, John Mobley, general counsel of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, Duval West, a federal judge, Judge C. A. Goeth of San Antonio, and Edward W. Kilman of the Houston Post Dispatch were visitors to Briscoe's ranches. He was also active in Governor Daniel J. Moody's campaign for office, and he helped extensively when his old friend Sterling ran for governor. During James Allred's term Briscoe was chairman of the Texas Racing Commission. Indeed, Briscoe himself was considered by others as a possible candidate for office. He declined to run, however.

He gained recognition among ranchers for his successful crossbreeding programs. He used Brahman bulls on registered Herefords with successful weight increases during the early ranching years. Later, under the guidance of Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., he turned to Santa Gertrudis and became a charter member of the Santa Gertrudis Breeders International. At age forty-one Briscoe was the youngest president-elect of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association. He was reelected for a second term. During his tenure he led the association's protest against the weighing of cattle in intrastate shipments, promoted cattle-theft protection, and lobbied for lower commission costs and more field inspectors. He also served on the Uvalde City Council, was a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, and was a vice president of the National Finance Credit Corporation of Texas, as well as a vice president of the Texas Livestock Marketing Association. Briscoe was a Mason, a Shriner, and a parishioner at St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Uvalde. Recollections of him by friends and neighbors, including John Nance Garner, invariably dealt with his personal warmth, his unvarnished friendliness, and his forthrightness in human relationships. Briscoe died unexpectedly on July 15, 1954, in Uvalde.

Dolph Briscoe, Jr. Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Mary Whatley Clarke, "Dolph Briscoe of Uvalde," Cattleman, January 1953.

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Howard Lackman, “Briscoe, Dolph, Sr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

August 1, 1995
May 18, 2019