Kleberg, Caesar (1873–1946)

By: John A. Cypher, Jr.

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: November 13, 2019

Caesar Kleberg, rancher and wildlife promoter, son of Mathilda (Eckhart) and Rudolph Kleberg, was born on September 20, 1873, at Cuero, Texas. Rudolph Kleberg served in Congress from 1897 to 1903. Upon graduation from the Cuero schools and after attending St. Edwards University in Austin, "Mr. Caesar" went to Washington, D. C., where he was employed as his father's congressional secretary. He moved to the King Ranch in 1900 to begin work for Henrietta King and was chief assistant to his uncle, Robert J. Kleberg. Caesar first lived and worked on the Santa Gertrudis Division, but he made his mark during his thirty-year tenure as foreman of Norias, forty miles south of Kingsville.

His numerous friends included presidents, governors, Will Rogers, and the people who worked under him. He was a Democrat, an inheritance from his father, and was a delegate to five national party conventions. He was also a Mason. As a mentor of his younger cousins, the original five stockholders of the King Ranch Corporation, he was a major contributor to transforming the ranch from a traditional western operation to a modern beef-producing and horse-breeding business. Kleberg was a member of the Texas Livestock Sanitary Commission, and he and his uncle pioneered measures in tick eradication throughout the state (see TEXAS FEVER). He had a part in the development of railroads in the Rio Grande valley and was one of the incorporators of the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway. He also helped found Kingsville, as an officer of the Kingsville Town Improvement Company.

Kleberg oversaw the restoration of the white-tailed deer, the turkey, and bobwhite quail to rangeland almost completely denuded of them. In 1924 he released Nilgai antelope from southern Asia on the Texas range, the first such release in the western hemisphere. The Nilgai have multiplied to such numbers that they are commercially harvested at Norias as a gourmet wild game meat. Kleberg, who never married, died at the Santa Gertrudis Division of the King Ranch on April 14, 1946. In his will he established the Caesar Kleberg Foundation for Wildlife Conservation, endowing a fund to support wildlife research and conservation around the world. In 1981 the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute was established on the campus of Texas A&I University; it was funded by the foundation to support research in wildlife diseases, commercial uses of wildlife, and the ecology of native plant and animal species.

Robert M. Denhardt, The King Ranch Quarter Horses, and Something of the Ranch and the Men That Bred Them (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1976). Caesar Kleberg Papers, King Ranch Archives, Kingsville, Texas. Kleberg Family Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Tom Lea, The King Ranch (2 vols., Boston: Little, Brown, 1957).

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

John A. Cypher, Jr., “Kleberg, Caesar,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kleberg-caesar.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
November 13, 2019