Kleberg, Helen Campbell (1902–1963)

By: Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Helen Campbell Kleberg, philanthropist, was born on April 4, 1902, in Pittsburg, Kansas, the daughter of Philip Pitt and Helen E. (Goff) Campbell. Her father was a lawyer and longtime Republican representative from Kansas to the United States Congress. Helen was educated at Villa Maria Convent in Montreal, Canada, and the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C. On a trip to San Antonio in 1926 she met Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., grandson of the founder of the King Ranch in South Texas. After a brief courtship the couple married in Corpus Christi, on March 2, 1926. They had one daughter. Helen Kleberg was an influential force in the life of her husband, who became the manager of the King Ranch after his father's death in 1932, and in the history of the ranch itself. She developed a strong interest in the workings of the ranch and shared her husband's devotion to it. She also provided the initial encouragement to her husband to broaden his ranching skills into the breeding of thoroughbred racehorses; he later developed a racing stable on the ranch and successfully bred several Kentucky Derby winners. When the movie based on Edna Ferber's Giant was made, Helen Kleberg was the model for the character played by Elizabeth Taylor. In 1950 a foundation bearing the Klebergs' name was established. It has subsequently funded numerous projects in Texas and across the nation and has a special interest in cancer research and veterinary and wildlife projects. Helen Kleberg died in New York City on June 12, 1963, after a lengthy illness. She was survived by her husband, her daughter, six grandchildren, and three siblings. After her funeral in Kingsville, she was buried at the King Ranch.

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Austin American-Statesman, June 13, 1963. Bob and Helen Kleberg Papers, King Ranch Archives. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Robert J. Kleberg, Jr.)


  • Women
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists

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

Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, “Kleberg, Helen Campbell,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 26, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/kleberg-helen-campbell.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995

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