TILLAR, BENJAMIN JOHNSTON
TILLAR, BENJAMIN JOHNSTON (1866–1923). Benjamin Johnston Tillar, attorney and businessman, was born to John Thomas Westbrook and Antoinette (Pruitt) Tillar on September 17, 1866, at Selma, Arkansas. His father was prominent in Arkansas political and economic affairs; Tillar, Arkansas, was named for him. Benjamin Tillar was educated in the public and private schools of his hometown and entered the University of Arkansas at age thirteen. He received a bachelor of arts degree in 1886 and studied law for a year in a law office in Little Rock before entering the University of Michigan law school, from which he graduated in 1888. He then returned to the Arkansas state capital and practiced law for two years. When ill health forced him to abandon his profession in 1890, he moved to West Texas. For three years Tillar worked as a cowboy on the Block Ranch, which was owned by his father and located twenty-five miles south of Midland. With his health restored he acquired his own ranch, although he apparently spent little time there. He moved to Fort Worth in 1894 and quickly established himself as a leading businessman in the Tarrant county seat. Soon after his arrival in Fort Worth, Tillar played a major role in the establishment of the National Live Stock Bank of Fort Worth, where he served as vice president until the bank merged with the American National Bank in 1897. He held a seat on the latter institution's board of directors. Before the merger Tillar and a partner had formed the company of Bush and Tillar, a ranch holding company, which eventually acquired some 100,000 acres in Howard, Borden, Mitchell, and Scurry counties. The ranches operated by the company made the Bush and Tillar Company one of the state's largest beef producers and apparently enabled Tillar to accumulate a considerable fortune. He sold his interest in the firm in 1906 and embarked upon the financing and construction of a million-dollar luxury hotel, the Westbrook, in Fort Worth.
When his father died in June 1908 Tillar assumed the direction of the elder Tillar's multimillion-dollar estate, which included properties in Arkansas and Texas and stock in a number of corporations. He quickly tripled the value of these holdings, partly by using a portion of them to purchase property in Fort Worth. He became one of the city's largest property owners and Tarrant County's largest single taxpayer. By the early 1920s Tillar held seats on the boards of directors of the Farmers and Mechanics National Bank of Fort Worth, the Greater Fort Worth Realty Company, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, and the Syndicate Land Company. He also served as state delegate to the National Chamber of Commerce. He funded an endowment that financed twelve annual scholarships to Texas Woman's College (now Texas Woman's University) in Denton. In addition, he was a member and, in 1922, president of that institution's board of regents. Tillar was a Methodist and a Democrat. He married Genevieve Eagon. He died in Paris, France, while on vacation, on September 7, 1923, and was buried in East Oakwood Cemetery, Fort Worth.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, September 8, 21, 1923. National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 28. Buckley B. Paddock, History of Texas: Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest Edition (4 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1922).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Brian Hart, "TILLAR, BENJAMIN JOHNSTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fti01), accessed August 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.