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

Before there was the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, there was the Fort Worth Democrat. And before there was Amon Giles Carter, there was Buckley Burton Paddock.

FB paddock-mugDuring the last quarter of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century B. B. Paddock was Fort Worth’s biggest cheerleader. (Photo from Paddock’s four-volume history Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest.)

When he died on January 9, 1922 he left behind a legacy—a “long life of honor”—arguably as great as that of Carter or Ephraim Merrell Daggett, John Peter Smith, or Khleber Miller Van Zandt.

The Star-Telegram obituary said Paddock, born in Ohio in 1844, never attended a day of school, lived among 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.)

paddock voteAfter the war B. B. Paddock read law and passed the bar exam in Mississippi. In 1869 he was in Jefferson County, Mississippi, where he was involved in state politics as voters debated the state’s Reconstruction-era Constitution. Clip is from the Jackson Clarion.

Paddock 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.” Ad is from the 1877 city directory.

Paddock 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 four-volume history of the region.

paddock-were-for-smokeThe “B. B.” in Paddock’s name could have stood for “Bigger (is) Better.” Paddock was a fervent champion of growth for Fort Worth. He was a member of the Board of Trade in 1911 when the board adopted the slogan “We’re for smoke” to reflect the city’s campaign to develop heavy industry and still more railroads. Note that Paddock had predicted that Fort Worth’s population in the 1920 census would be 200,000. (Fort Worth’s population in 1910 was 73,312, would be only 106,482 in 1920.)

democrat bannerBut Paddock is best remembered as a newspaperman. In 1872, soon after moving to Fort Worth, he bought the Democrat.

In 1882, when the Democrat became the Gazette, Paddock was managing editor. In his day the lines among editorial, news, and advertising content were blurred. With unabashed 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 today, you get the feeling that Paddock 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.”

Dallas newspapers teased Paddock about his Fort Worth boosterism, and through the pages of his newspapers, his voice was the loudest on this end of the Trinity River in the rivalry between Fort Worth and Dallas.

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.)

Paddock lived to see the North Main Street viaduct named for him.

Buckley Burton 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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6 Responses to Once Upon a Megaphone: Call Him “Citizen Can-Do”

  1. Tim Young says:

    Mike, I have a photo of bank employees in 1885 where B.B. Paddock has signed his name and title of “Teller”. This seems odd to me since he arrived in 1872 and established himself quickly that he would be a teller in that year. Do you know anything about that?

    • hometown says:

      Well, I’ll be. He’s listed as a teller in the 1885 city directory, too. But by then, as you know, he had been a civic leader and newspaper editor for years. He was living in that big house on Jennings at Terrell. He had been a state senator by then! In 1885 he was president of the Fort Worth & Rio Grande railroad! Usually civic leaders by his stage of life were directors of banks. The title “cashier” back then could refer to a bank officer, but as far as I know a teller was . . . just a teller. In seven years that teller would be mayor! It’s a mystery to me.

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