Steel, Harry Van, Jr. (1932–2021)


By: William V. Scott

Type: Biography

Published: July 20, 2022

Updated: July 28, 2022


Harry Van Steel, Jr., U. S. Army and National Guard officer and real estate businessman, was born on September 3, 1932, at the M&S Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, to Harry Van Steel, Sr., and Dorothy Jeannette (Leonard) Steel. Steel grew up with his younger brother John Leonard Steel in San Antonio. While their father, an officer in the National Guard, prepared for United States entry into World War II, the family accompanied him to Brownwood, Texas; Louisiana; Florida; and Massachusetts. The Steel family eventually returned to San Antonio and spent weekends and summers on the family ranch east of Boerne and even resided there for a couple of years, while their father was deployed to Africa and Italy. Harry Steel, Jr., attended public schools in Boerne and San Antonio. He graduated from Alamo Heights High School in 1949.

Steel attended the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture and a major in animal husbandry in 1953. On May 29, 1953, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve (USAR), Ninetieth Infantry Division. He was transferred to active duty on November 9, 1953, and took the Infantry School Officers Basic Course in 1954. On August 30, 1954, Harry Van Steel, Jr., married Louisa Cater, and they had three sons and two daughters. Steel was promoted to first lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1955. That same year he also worked as a ranch manager in Altair, Texas, and in 1956 joined his father’s family business, H. V. Steel and Sons, Inc., building and contracting small commercial buildings in the San Antonio area.

After returning from active duty, on March 15, 1956, Steel was commissioned in the Texas Army National Guard as a first lieutenant of armor in Company C, 136th Tank Battalion, Thirty-sixth Infantry Division. He was promoted to captain on May 14, 1958, and served as operations and training officer under Col. Armin F. Puck, commanding officer of the newly-organized First Brigade, Thirty-sixth Infantry Division. Steel was promoted to major on April 11, 1963, and on November 1, 1965, took command of the First Battalion, 141st Infantry. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on April 11, 1967. In summer 1970 Lieutenant Colonel Steel and his command of the First Battalion was activated by Brig. Gen. C. A. Wilson, in support of the Second Battalion in their efforts to police and patrol the devastated areas effected by Hurricane Celia. For his actions in relief operations during the hurricane, Steel and five other guardsmen were presented the Texas Medal of Merit. Steel was promoted to colonel on March 28, 1972, and in 1973 became commander of the First Brigade, Forty-ninth Armored Division, of the Texas Army National Guard. He assumed command of the Forty-ninth Armored Division Support Command on November 1, 1975, and was “federally recognized” as a brigadier general on February 4, 1977. During his years of service, Steel received numerous military awards, including the Texas Meritorious Service Medal, Lone Star Distinguished Service Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, and Armed Forces Reserve Medal. He was honored with the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal upon his retirement as a major general in 1981.

In 1967, as a civilian, Steel entered the real estate brokerage business, and from 1972 to 1985 he served as senior vice president and general manager of Naylor Realty, a mortgage banking firm, where he managed commercial property loans and farm and ranch loans in Texas and New Mexico. Steel owned and operated a real estate brokerage firm specializing in the sale, leasing, and management of commercial properties from 1986 through 2017. He was a member of the National Association of Realtors and the Texas Association of Realtors and Board of Realtors. He belonged to Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in San Antonio where he served as vice chairman and chairman. He also became a member of Victory Masonic Lodge No. 1160 in San Antonio, where his father had been a past Worshipful Master. Maj. Gen. Harry Van Steel, Jr., died on November 7, 2021, and was buried in the Boerne City Cemetery in Boerne, Texas.

General Officers of the Army and Air National Guard (Washington, D.C.: Office of Public Affairs, National Guard Bureau, October, 1977). “Harry Van Steel Jr.,” Find A Grave Memorial (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/234261491/harry-van-steel), accessed July 19, 2022. San Antonio Express-News, November 14, 2021. United States Military Registers, 1902–1985 (Salem, Oregon: Oregon State Library).

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

William V. Scott, “Steel, Harry Van, Jr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 18, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/steel-harry-van-jr.

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July 20, 2022
July 28, 2022