Our Story: The History of Leadership Fort Worth

Just as in business, planning for succession is also vital for cities. The difference is that for a city, people are not being groomed for a specific job but to be leaders for whatever task is required of a community trustee.

In 1972, in reaction to a tragic plane crash a decade earlier that killed 106 people from Atlanta on a European trip and wiped out a good portion of the city’s leadership, Fort Worth leaders were discussing how to set up a way to assure trained people in the line of succession.

So was Chancellor Dr. Jim Moudy of Texas Christian University. And so were members of the Junior League of Fort Worth, led by Tiny Batts, who had learned about the program Atlanta set up following the tragic airplane crash while at a League meeting in Atlanta.

The late Tom Law Sr. was president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce at the time and recalled in 2002 that he was visited in succession by Batts and by a representative sent by Moudy. It was, Law said at the time, “an idea whose time had come.”

Leadership Fort Worth was established in 1972, with the first class graduating in 1973. The founding sponsors were the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, The Fort Worth Junior League, Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, and the University of Texas at Arlington. Texas Electric, now Oncor, provided needed in-kind support.

Batts would lead the new organization until 1994. She was succeeded by Dr. Harriet B. Harral in 1996. Law would head the steering committee until 1989 and was followed by Fort Worth attorney and leader Rice M. Tilley Jr., who headed the organization until it became a legal non-profit in 1998, and the chairmanship began to rotate.

Graduates of the programs are approaching three thousand in number and are leaders not only in government but also in a wide variety of volunteer and appointed roles. Leadership Fort Worth is among the oldest community leadership-development organizations in the nation.