Once Upon a Megaphone: Call Him “Citizen Can-Do”

Before there was Amon Giles Carter, there was Buckley Burton Paddock.

During the last quarter of the nineteenth century B. B. Paddock (1844-1922) was Fort Worth’s biggest cheerleader. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

When he died on this date ninety-one years ago he left behind a legacy arguably as great as that of Ephraim Merrell Daggett, John Peter Smith, or Khleber Miller Van Zandt.

The Star-Telegram obituary said the young Paddock, born in Ohio, never attended a day of school, lived among the Indians for a year, and, although a northerner by birth, enlisted at age eighteen in the Confederate army, where he served as a “secret service operative,” was captured seven times and escaped seven times. (In 1862 his father enlisted in the Union army at age fifty-four, was killed the next year at Vicksburg.)

After the war B. B. Paddock passed the bar exam. He moved to Fort Worth in 1872 and joined a law firm. But he soon made the growth of the frontier city—not the practice of law—his life’s work. “I am the wealthiest man in Texas,” Paddock once said. “I have all the money that I want, and the glory of Fort Worth and west Texas is also mine because I am a citizen of both.”

He was a founder of the Fort Worth Board of Trade, two-term state representative, and four-term mayor. He was honorary president for life of the chamber of commerce, was ramrod of the Texas Spring Palace exhibition of 1889-1890. He helped to create Fort Worth’s fire department, water department, city parks, and the school system. He worked to bring the packing plants to town. He edited a multivolume history of the region.

democrat bannerBut Paddock is best remembered as a newspaperman. For several years he published the Democrat.

Paddock later edited the Daily Gazette. In his day the lines among editorial, news, and advertising content were blurred. With unbridled boosterism Paddock used the pages of his newspapers the way a cheerleader uses a megaphone. He assured Fort Worth’s residents that they could do anything they set their minds to. Reading his newspapers, you get the feeling that he could have coaxed the prickly pears and prairie dogs into doing “the wave.”

Fort Worth offered, he wrote, the best of both worlds: “the legally constituted society of the east and the free and untrammeled life of the west.”

Paddock especially promoted Fort Worth as a railroad center with his “I think we can, I think we can” confidence.

In 1873—three years before the first railroad arrived—Paddock drew the “tarantula” map—his vision of Fort Worth as a rail hub in the near future.

On January 11, 1887, a version of the map became the centerpiece of the Daily Gazette’s nameplate. By 1900 Fort Worth would fulfill his vision.

Paddock even served as president (1885-1889) of one of those railroads—the Fort Worth and Rio Grande.

Paddock’s house at Jennings and Terrell avenues was demolished decades ago. When Paddock moved into the house in the 1870s, it was still outside the city limits. (D. H. Swartz photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

B. B. Paddock is buried in Mount Olivet cemetery under a headstone smaller than one of his own front pages.

On January 10, 1922, one of the pallbearers for Fort Worth’s first head cheerleader was Amon Giles Carter, the man who would hold the title for the next thirty-three years. The megaphone had been passed.

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