Ewing Halsell, rancher and philanthropist, was born in Jacksboro, Texas, the only son of five children of Mary Alice (Crutchfield) and William Electious Halsell. When he was five years old his family moved to Vinita, Oklahoma, where his father developed extensive ranching and banking interests. Halsell attended public schools in Decatur, Texas, and Lebanon, Tennessee, and the Worcester Academy and Willie Halsell College in Vinita. At Willie Halsell College, which did not offer college-level work, he began a lifelong friendship with Will Rogers. After a brief enrollment in a business school in Poughkeepsie, New York, at twenty-one Halsell was placed in charge of his father's Bird Creek ranch north of Tulsa. There he instituted bookkeeping procedures, an inventory of equipment, and an extensive filing system. He married Lucile Fortner on June 25, 1899.
After 1901, when his father acquired the Spring Lake division of the XIT Ranch in Lamb and Castro counties, Texas, Halsell divided his time between the Texas ranch and his own personal interests, which came to include oil, in Oklahoma. In 1916 he formed, with three sisters, the Halsell Cattle Company, which directed the cattle-raising operations of the Spring Lake ranch from the company headquarters in Vinita. The four partners formed the Halsell Farms Company in 1923 to handle the land sales of Spring Lake, when the decision was made to break up that property and colonize the area through the sale of arable lands to farmers.
Halsell purchased the Farias ranch of 97,000 acres between Eagle Pass and Carrizo Springs in 1944 and the following year transferred the central office of his numerous enterprises from Vinita to San Antonio. He and his wife moved into the St. Anthony Hotel, where they spent the rest of their lives. In the mild climate of South Texas Halsell continued to manage his business interests and to participate in a variety of civic and social activities. He was a lifetime director of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and a director of the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore, Oklahoma. He was generous to his friends and to projects that he considered worthy of support. He supported the Catholic mission San Juan de los Lagos (see VIRGEN DE SAN JUAN DEL VALLE SHRINE) and the medical school at the University of Texas and deeded land to Vinita for the Ewing Halsell High School. He also gave $50,000 toward the restoration of the Travis Park Methodist Church when the building burned in 1955. In 1957 he and his wife established the Ewing Halsell Foundation. Later, when he was eighty-four years old, he joined the church to please his wife, who was an active Methodist. He died on December 17, 1965, and was buried in the Vinita cemetery.