TAYLOR, JAY LITTLETON (24 JAN 1902–13 MAY 1982)
Jay Taylor, Panhandle oil-company executive and rancher, son of rancher Jay Littleton Taylor, was born on January 24, 1902, on the Suggs Ranch near Bowie, in Montague County, where his father was working as a wagon boss. Six years later the family moved to the Cherokee Strip in western Oklahoma, where Jay’s father homesteaded a 160-acre stock farm. While still in his teens Jay went to work in the oilfields to help pay for his college expenses. He soon met E. P. Halliburton, who hired him as a truck driver and paid his way to the University of Oklahoma to study petroleum engineering.
However, when the oil boom hit the Texas Panhandle in 1926, Taylor quit school and returned to work for Halliburton full-time. Over the next few years he advanced from truck driver to executive vice president and general manager of Halliburton’s oil-well service company.
He made Amarillo his home and in 1927 married Imogene Herring, daughter of cattleman Cornelius T. Herring. They had a son and three daughters. Taylor learned the various aspects of the range cattle industry from his in-laws and was made a partner in that business. He later named his New Mexico ranch near Magdalena the Double H, in honor of Halliburton and his mother-in-law, Margaret Herring. This ranch was unique in that its cattle were driven to the rail shipping point over the Magdalena Stock Driveway, the last such stock trail in the United States.
Beginning in 1929 Taylor also built up his Rafter O Ranch near Vega, in Oldham County. Formerly part of the old LS Ranch range, the Rafter O consisted of 25,000 acres stocked with registered and commercial Hereford cattle. During the 1930s Taylor was named by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a member of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and later became chairman of that board. He served as president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers’ Association in 1940.
One of his best-known investments occurred that year when he and Eddie Johnson, at about $5,000 each, bought what became the Amarillo Livestock Auction Company and Western Stockyards. A nephew, Jay R. Taylor, later became a partner in this venture, which grew into the world’s largest independent livestock sales firm. Taylor also served as a director for American Telephone and Telegraph Company, Missouri Beef Corporation, Scott Paper Company, Fort Worth and Denver Railway Company, Southland Life Insurance Company, First National Bank of Amarillo, and the National Livestock and Meat Board. When the United States entered World War II, he joined the United States Army as a petroleum specialist and headed a farm labor program for the War Food Administration. Later he served as a member of the army’s Fuel and Lubricant Board and at the close of the war won the Legion of Merit Award for his services.
Taylor was an elder of the First Presbyterian Church in Amarillo and a president of the city’s Tri-State Fair Association. He also was a member of the board of the State Fair of Texas in Dallas and the Livestock Marketing Association. He kept his petroleum interests alive with the organization of the Baker and Taylor Drilling Company of Amarillo, with offices in Spearman and other Panhandle towns, and served as chairman of its board. In 1954, while Taylor was president of the American National Cattlemens’ Association, a drought struck the Panhandle and other areas of the Southwest. He opposed the use of federal government subsidies as price supports on beef cattle, however, preferring instead to “earn it ourselves in a free market.” As a result, during a national advertising campaign in 1956, Taylor helped promote the sale of over 40,000,000 cattle. He gained the sobriquet “Mr. Beef” after claiming as part of his promotion campaign that he ate hamburgers for breakfast.
In Lubbock, Taylor was named the 1979 recipient of the Ranching Heritage Association’s annual National Golden Spur Award for his outstanding contributions to the beef industry. A month before his death he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Taylor died at his home in Amarillo on May 13, 1982 and was buried in Llano Cemetery.
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BIBLIOGRAPHY: Amarillo Daily News, May 14, 1982. Amarillo Globe, April 12, May 13, 1982. Gus L. Ford, ed., Texas Cattle Brands (Dallas: Cockrell, 1936). https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fta56