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A BIG MAN EVEN IN BIG D
Joe David Brown
January 21, 1963
Dallas has hosts of millionaires, but none of them can quite match the combination of business acumen and sporting zeal of Clint Murchison Jr., who has successfully overcome the handicap of being a rich man's son
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January 21, 1963

A Big Man Even In Big D

Dallas has hosts of millionaires, but none of them can quite match the combination of business acumen and sporting zeal of Clint Murchison Jr., who has successfully overcome the handicap of being a rich man's son

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"How much?" Hunt asked.

"About a million dollars a year," the friend said.

"Well, in that case," Hunt said, "it will take him 150 years to go broke."

Lamar Hunt does have one advantage: Clint Jr. essentially is a businessman and he is not in the habit of pouring money into any enterprise that doesn't show a profit. Clint Jr. tells anyone who asks that he has no intention of taking a loss on the Cowboys forever, but it is obvious from the way he talks that he doesn't think he will have to. A Dallas newspaperman asked him recently if he thought it was smarter to move an unprofitable team to another city or hang on for prestige reasons. "It would be smarter to leave," Clint Jr. said. "If you stayed and threw away money, you would be a fool in everyone's eyes." Then he added, "That's why I think Lamar should start looking for another city."

Aside from his natural combativeness, another reason Clint Jr. is unlikely to give up on the Cowboys anytime soon is that he is having the time of his life. Along with a noisy, fun-loving, well-heeled contingent of friends he flies with the Cowboys to all of their games. He gets a special bang out of the antics of an exclusive band of fans within this already exclusive circle who call themselves the Chicken Club.

There are conflicting versions about how the Chicken Club, headed by his old friend and City Construction Co. partner Bob Thompson—-himself now a millionaire—got its name. But it is undoubtedly the richest and most ardent fan club in the history of football. To prove his fealty to the team, Thompson once led a horse decked out in a Cowboy blanket into a fashionable Washington restaurant. For reasons best unmentioned, George Preston Marshall, the autocratic owner of the Washington Redskins, is the special target of the Chicken Club and in the 1961 season some Chicken rooters almost got away with a plan to bring utter chaos to the elaborate Christmas half-time show Marshall stages with such care. Before the Redskin-Cowboy game, Chicken Club saboteurs sneaked into the stadium and scattered 10 pounds of chicken feed on the gridiron. Other saboteurs brought 76 crated chickens into the stadium and hid them in a dugout. As the massed bands marched onto the field and Santa Claus appeared in a sled pulled by huskies, certain Dallas fans were ready to release the chickens. Fortunately for the show (and probably for Santa Claus, who had to control the slavering huskies), a police lieutenant spotted the crated chickens and confiscated them. When Marshall heard about the abortive plan he said it was "childish and immature," and fired off a protest to National League Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Thereafter, for some weeks, Marshall's phone rang at all hours of the night. When he answered there was only a soft cluck-clucking at the other end.

Until they get to know him, most people are not aware of Clint Jr.'s sometimes prankish, sometimes wry and sometimes juvenile sense of humor. When a magazine correspondent friend was slugged on the head while covering the Freedom Rides into the South last year, Clint Jr. sent him a Cowboy helmet. When Toots Shor, the New York pub-keeper and Giant fan, agreed to let Clint Jr. use his box to watch Giant games when he was in New York in return for choice seats to the Cowboy-Giant game in Dallas, Clint Jr. sent him tickets to two whole sections in the Cotton Bowl. He made certain, however, that the bulky package was not delivered to Shor in New York until a few minutes before kickoff time in Dallas. Just recently, when Clint Jr. and John unloaded $17.5 million in stock in one of their companies and a Dallas newspaper speculated that the Murchisons might have overextended themselves in the Alleghany deal, Clint Jr. drove down to the newspaper and bought $108 of display advertising space. He wrote an ad saying that it wasn't true he was delinquent in his telephone and electric bills, and he signed it "Friends of Clint Murchison Jr." The paper persuaded him not to run the ad, but presumably it also got the point that a man really in financial trouble is not apt to make light of it.

Despite his heavy losses and avid interest in the Cowboys, Clint Jr. makes it a point not to interfere in the day-to-day operations of the club. "Clint doesn't second-guess us as much as most of the fans do," said a club official. "He's there when we need him—and believe me, that's nice to know—but he leaves all the decisions up to us." Clint Jr.'s personal sport is not football but skin diving and underwater photography, and whenever he has the chance he hops one of the 17 planes in the Murchison air fleet and flies off to Spanish Cay, the three-mile-long sand and coral island he owns in the Bahamas. He personally designed and helped build the $400,000 low-slung glass and masonry lodge on the island. Somehow it manages to be fabulous without being ostentatious and has literally everything to please a Texas millionaire as well as a serious fisherman. The main part of the lodge has a huge den with a spacious fireplace, a dining room, library, kitchen and immense storeroom. Around it are six guest cabanas, each with a lavish but tastefully furnished bedroom, dressing room and bath. The entire island is ringed by a white beach, and at its docks are Murchison's three fishing boats: Jumper, 36 feet; Runner, 45 feet; and Morning After, an 84-foot converted air-sea rescue craft. The island is the favorite vacation spot for Clint Jr., his wife Jane, a pretty and poised woman who was an SMU coed when they met and married 21 years ago, and the four Murchison children, ranging in age from 8 to 15. Typically, however, Clint Jr. also uses the island retreat for business; the lodge's guest book is a Who's Who of business, finance and political bigwigs, and some of his biggest deals have been cooked up in the comfortable study before a roaring fire.

The clear blue and green waters surrounding the Bahamas are among the finest in the world for skin diving, of course, and Clint Jr. has long been an underwater photographer of near-professional skill. He is perhaps the only skin diver ever to get a shot of tarpon cavorting underwater and, though experts say it can't be done, he is trying to perfect a workable underwater cinemascopic camera lens.

The truth is, Clint Jr. is daffy about gadgets, particularly gadgets that give him a chance to exercise his dormant electrical engineering skills. That is the main reason why, eight years after he started building an enormous ranch house on 25 choice acres on the edge of Dallas, the Murchisons continued to live as cramped as any ordinary family with growing children in a charming but unpretentious three-bedroom brick home in an upper-class Dallas neighborhood. Clint Jr. has supervised every detail in his new home, right down to the hand-finished teak shelves, and whenever he heard of a new gadget, anything from an orange juice machine to an advanced intercom hookup, he installed it, even when it meant ripping out equipment already installed. "I can't tell him to hurry up," Jane Murchison once explained, sounding as if she never really expected to live there, "because the house is really Clint's hobby."

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