Perry Richardson Bass

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Perry Richardson Bass

Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: Wichita Falls, Wichita County, Texas, United States
Death: June 1, 2006 (91)
Westover Hills, Tarrant County, Texas, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Edward Perry Bass and Anne Bass
Husband of Nancy Lee Bass
Father of <private> Bass; Robert M. Bass; Sid Richardson Bass and <private> Bass

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Perry Richardson Bass

Philanthropist Perry Richardson Bass dies

11:48 PM CDT on Thursday, June 1, 2006

By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

Perry Richardson Bass, a Fort Worth businessman, conservationist and philanthropist who was the low-profile bridge between two generations of a family known for its Midas touch, died Thursday. Mr. Bass, 91, died of natural causes at his home in the Fort Worth suburb of Westover Hills. Services are pending. Perry Bass Mr. Bass rescued the family fortune amassed by his uncle, the legendary Sid W. Richardson, after the wildcatter's death in 1959. He then groomed his four sons to carry on his vision. His sons - Sid Richardson Bass, Edward Perry Bass, Robert Muse Bass and Lee Marshall Bass - became internationally known for their business and philanthropic prowess. And under Mr. Bass' leadership, his family led the transformation of downtown Fort Worth from a collection of deteriorating storefronts to a sterling example of urban rebirth. Mr. Bass was a successful businessman with a passion for fishing and the fine arts. He was chairman emeritus of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and a past member of the National Gallery of Art's Trustees' Council.

"Perry Bass was a great man who left his mark not only on the oil and gas industry but the skyline of Fort Worth as well," said Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief. "He devoted his time, energy and dollars to making our city a better place." In 1998, the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall opened as a visible monument to the family's efforts. Mr. Bass directed much of his philanthropy through the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, which has given at least $279 million to the arts, education and medicine since it was endowed in 1965. Separately, Mr. Bass and his wife, Nancy Lee Bass, have given generously from their personal holdings, embracing causes that benefited everything from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to redfish swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. In 1991, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by giving $1 million each to 50 institutions. Officials with the National Gallery of Art described the gift as "a staggering gesture in the history of philanthropy."

Despite his accomplishments, Mr. Bass said he treasured his family the most. Shortly after his 70th birthday, he was asked his proudest accomplishment. He responded "my four boys." Thursday, his sons issued a joint statement that maintained the family's understated manner: "Our father passed away this morning peacefully in his home. His life spanned 91 years, a remarkable accomplishment and joy. We know he would want us to express to all of our friends his gratitude for their friendship to his family over the years."

Mr. Bass was an outdoorsman passionate about the environment, said Andrew Sansom, former executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Mr. Bass devoted much of his time to angling and protecting fish populations. He watched over legislation that saved the red drum, also known as the redfish, Mr. Sansom said. The 1981 law prohibited sale of redfish and spotted sea trout caught in Texas waters, preserving the species for sport fishermen. "Every time I stand down in the flats down at Port O'Connor or Port Mansfield catching redfish, I always say thanks to Perry Bass," he said. The state fish hatchery in Palacios, Texas, is named in honor of Mr. Bass for his years of support. Mr. Bass also was a champion of the Atlantic salmon, working to preserve that species on both sides of the Atlantic. He had been a trustee of the Atlantic Salmon Federation since 1993. Dee Kelly, longtime Bass family attorney, said the Richardson fortune might not have survived without the efforts of Perry Bass.

When Mr. Richardson died of a heart attack on his private island off the Texas coast in September 1959, he was one of the wealthiest men in the nation, but his holdings faced complex tax problems. Mr. Bass had been his uncle's business partner since graduating from Yale University 22 years before. He had about a 25 percent interest in the business and faced a lot of estate problems, Mr. Kelly said. Two years before his death, Forbes magazine ranked Mr. Richardson in the same category with Howard Hughes, Joseph Kennedy and industrialist Alfred P. Sloan. But with tax problems, debt and the structure of some oil leases, Mr. Bass faced considerable obstacles. And he prevailed. "His management resulted in actually keeping the estate solvent," Mr. Kelly said. The Bass family was nearly cut out of the Richardson estate. In his 1993 book, In History's Shadow, former Texas Gov. John Connally said Mr. Richardson's will originally left only $200,000 to his sister, Mr. Bass' mother. The rest of the estate was to go to his foundation. At Mr. Bass' request, Mr. Connally got the oilman to change his will, giving $2 million each to his sister and Mr. Bass' four sons, who also got St. Joseph Island. "Perry Bass didn't inherit anything under his will," Mr. Kelly said. The bulk of the estate, an estimated $105 million, went to the Richardson Foundation. Mr. Bass "was very much involved and very concerned about the groups that the foundation served," said Valleau Wilkie Jr., foundation executive vice president. While the Richardson Foundation, with assets of about $250 million, isn't as large as some, it is effective, Mr. Wilkie said. The foundation gives grants for education, the arts and health and human services. The foundation's charter requires that all grants be awarded to recipients within Texas. Perry Bass, the only child of Dr. E. Perry Bass and Annie Richardson Bass, was exposed to wildcatting by two branches of his family tree. His father traded an East Texas medical practice for excitement of the oil boom that transformed Wichita Falls, where Perry Bass was born shortly before midnight Nov. 11, 1914. Perry Bass saw fortunes made and lost as a child. During the depths of the Great Depression, Dr. Bass was worth more than a quarter of a million dollars. In classic wildcat style, his brother-in-law, Mr. Richardson, won and lost fortunes in the 1920s. While many wildcatters were striking it big in East Texas in the 1930s, Mr. Richardson headed west. He borrowed $40 from his sister to follow his hunch. While Mr. Richardson was wildcatting in West Texas, Dr. Bass had a fatal heart attack in 1933 as he was eating breakfast in Austin. Mr. Richardson became a father figure to his nephew.

After receiving a bachelor's degree in geology and geophysics from Yale University in 1937, Mr. Bass became his uncle's business partner. In 1939, Mr. Richardson hit the jackpot by discovering the Keystone Oil Field, a 100 million-barrel giant that formed the foundation of the family fortune. By 1940, he had more than 120 wells in three contiguous West Texas counties. Mr. Richardson soon put his nephew to work building a home on St. Joseph Island, often called San Jose Island, the family's private reserve on the Gulf of Mexico. When Mr. Bass asked what his pay would be, his uncle said his reward would be the experience of managing the project. "He worked you hard," Mr. Bass recalled of his uncle in a 1984 interview with The Dallas Morning News. "My mother used to get mad at him because he was so mean to her little boy." Mr. Bass also worked as a ship designer in Florida during World War II. As a Yale student, he won the International Snipe sailing competition at Dallas' White Rock Lake in September 1935. Mr. Bass wanted to serve the Navy but instead designed fireboats for use during air raids. Mr. Bass is survived by his wife, four sons, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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Perry Richardson Bass's Timeline

November 11, 1914
Wichita Falls, Wichita County, Texas, United States
April 9, 1942
Age 27
Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas, United States
Age 33
June 1, 2006
Age 91
Westover Hills, Tarrant County, Texas, United States