Long-time Prescott resident, rancher, developer and western art advocate, Bill Gary, died Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. He was born William Arthur Gary on Nov. 21,1924, in Dallas, Texas, and grew up there, even though he spent much of his time on the stock farms his family owned in Caddo Mills, Texas. His daughter, Kathy McCraine, wrote an article about her father for Arizona National Pioneer Histories and said “ranching was in his blood. His seventh great grandfather, also named William Arthur Gary, registered one of the first cattle brands in Virginia in 1693.
Gary attended Texas A&M University but left midway to serve as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. He returned to earn a degree in animal husbandry in 1948, the same year he married Marion Luken, whom he had met at Camp Pendleton, CA, where he was stationed and she was a Navy nurse.
Once in Arizona, Gary’s dream of ranching in the West was on the horizon. The family first lived on a ranch they leased with an old frame house, a windmill in the front yard to pump water for the house and a Kohler plant to provide electricity, McCraine wrote. That spring, Gary bought a small ranch at Walnut Grove on the Hassayampa River and the family “struggled for six years to make ends meet on that ranch with 100 head of registered Herefords.”
In 1967 Gary began to develop land he had taken as partial payment on the Walnut Grove ranch and started building houses. In 1972, the Garys bought the Horner Mountain Ranch in Dugas, Ariz., and ran Hereford-Charolais cross commercial cattle, and they also bought an irrigated farm in Dewey to raise purebred Charolais bulls for the ranch. In partnership with McCraine and her husband Swayze, the Gary’s bought a ranch in Wikieup, Arizona., then sold it to buy the 7 Up Ranch northwest of Prescott. Today, the McCraine’s operate the ranch as Campwood Cattle Company.
Gary’s developments include residential subdivisions, a regional shopping center and an industrial park. And when Gary and his wife retired, he looked for other endeavors. As his daughter says, he was a “master at prying donations from people” for worthy causes. With his daughter’s persuasion he became a member of the Phippen Museum, joined its Board of Trustees in 2007 and chaired its Facilities Committee. He was the lightning force in raising $2.5 million to double the museum’s size and was responsible for much of the landscaping work completed on museum grounds. In addition, he donated a Remington statue and renovated the front entrance in 2008, and he donated numerous artifacts and memorabilia to the museum, which resulted in the creation of the Bill and Marion Gary Western Heritage Gallery.
He also helped create and present the museum’s popular Ranch Day events, and created and trademarked the Arizona Rancher and Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2009. Gary’s love for the western culture and way of life and his commitment to his community have won accolades from people who knew him and worked with him. Phippen Board of Trustees Member Patsy Chamberlain noted Gary’s “unique vision, which encompassed the role of every man. Whether cowboy or community leader, Bill respected individual contributions and hard work.” Because of his background as a rancher in Yavapai County, Gary “lent an authentic viewpoint of the portrayal of western life through art,” Chamberlain said, adding “his fundraising skills led the Phippen Museum through every aspect of the museum’s expansion and continued sustaining support. “Bill was the idea man.” In his passion for fundraising, he was frugal and intended for every dollar to count, Chamberlain said. “Donors knew their money would be managed responsibly and put to good use. We were blessed to know him and inspired by the legacy he has left to us.”
Gary was preceded in death by his son, William A. Gary Jr., in the mid-1970s. He is survived by his daughter and son-in-law Kathy and Swayze McCraine.