C.R. Smith, BBA ’25, grew up in tiny Minerva, Texas, formerly known as Midway—as in midway between Rockdale and Cameron. Surrounded by rolling hills and little else, he spent his youth hunting and fishing. He earned his first paycheck at the age of nine working for a cattleman.
After graduation, Smith became an accountant, and then in 1928 joined Texas Air Transport as secretary and treasurer. In 1930, he was appointed vice president of the southern division of American Airways. He was elected president of American Airlines in 1934, dispatched to its New York City headquarters, more than 1,000 miles from his bucolic hometown. It was then—perhaps in an attempt to reclaim a bit of home—that the country boy-turned-executive began collecting Western art.