By David Wolbrueck
Bay City's Mayor Emeritus, Richard Clifton Gusman, died Monday of an apparent heart attack at the home of his sister, less than one month after the dream of a lifetime became reality.
Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a. m. Thursday at First United Methodist Church.
Gusman guided the helm of Bay City for 32 years--one of the longest tenures of any mayor in the United States--serving back-to-back terms from April 1, 1947, until May 12, 1979.
Those 32 years of leadership earned him the respect of countless Bay Citians and the honorary title Mayor Emeritus, bestowed on him by the city council in 1980.
The ailing patriarch made one of his last public appearances June 29, when he attended the official kickoff ceremonies for the Mouth of the Colorado River Jetties Project--a project's start he once called his last great ambition.
The Mayor first began lobbying for the jetties in April of 1949, shortly after being elected to his second term as mayor. in a June 26 interview, Gusman characterized those 35 years as years plagued by a "series of disappointments and setbacks," in which he fought opposition and seemingly endless red tape.
"I've been holding on for this day, its been a long time coming," Gusman said of the start of the jetties project.
Gusman, one of seven children of James Robert and Betty Harrington Gusman, was born December 28, 1904 in Weimar. When Gusman was seven, his parents moved to Bay City, where his father became manager of the Matagorda Canal Co.
He graduated from Bay City High School in 1923 and from Southwestern University in 1927. The Mayor did post-graduate work at Columbia University in New York and served in the U. S. Air Force in World War II for three years.
After his discharge in 1944, he married Florence Craddock of Austin. Mrs. Gusman, also active in community affairs, preceded him in death April 22, 1966.
He helped build the first lighted baseball diamond in Bay City and through his efforts, the USO building (Service Center), was built and operated by the USO until the war's end.
After becoming mayor in 1947 with the help of the campaign slogan "Open the Door, Richard," Gusman worked to expand Bay City's water and sewer systems, sewer plant and worked to purchase the city's present recreation areas.
During his tenure, the city worked with county officials to build the Bay City Municipal Airport which was dedicated May 20, 1970. Half of the cost of the airport was funded by the federal government.
When the Bay City Independent School District was in need of land for a new high school, he sold--at no profit--27 acres of land on which the present high school, football field, baseball diamond and gymnasium are located.
During his administration, a $550,000 Olympic-sized swimming pool was built through funds provided by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife grant, and revenue sharing money.
Also while he was mayor, the state highway department spent millions of dollars in Bay City. State highways 35 and 60 and Nichols Loop were constructed.
In 1966, he made the old city hall building available to house the Matagorda County Museum. In 1980, Gusman was given the title Mayor Emeritus by the city council. At that time he was the longest serving mayor and only Mayor Emeritus in the United States.
October 24, 1982, a monument was dedicated in his honor on Avenue G, in the park created in his honor.
Gusman was an active member of the first United Methodist Church throughout his life. He served on the board of stewards, building committee of the LeTulle Educational Building, member of the grounds and planning board, chairman of the site location committee for St. Paul's Methodist Church and an active member of the Wesley class.
His numerous civic accomplishments include being named Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen in 1958, the Eagles Home Town Builder Award, given in 1974 by the Southwest Regional Conference and honored in 1975 by the Texas Water Conservation Board for "exemplary leadership in conservation and use of water resources of Texas.
The Mayor was a lifetime member of Lions International, the American Legion Post 11, where he served in various capacities, former director of the Battleship Texas Commission, a member of the Matagorda County Historical Commission, Rice Festival Parade Chairman for 32 years and former chairman of the coordinating council.
He was a director of the Bay City USO, director of the South Texas Chamber of Commerce in 1954, chairman of the Waterways Committee of Bay City Chamber of Commerce, director of the Texas Safety Council and a member of the Governor's Safety Committee.
Gusman was a delegate to the National Rivers and Harbors Congress, Board of Directors of Great Commonwealth Life Insurance Co., Texas League of Municipalities Organization, Texas Farm Bureau, director of Mid-Coast Water Association and a life member of the Bay City Chamber of Commerce.
The Mayor was a life member of the Texas Lions' Crippled Childrens' Camp and the Bay City High School Black Cat Band, an honorary Bay City Volunteer Fireman and a special officer of the Bay City Police Department.
The Daily Tribune, July 24, 1984
Funeral services for Mayor Emeritus Richard Clifton Gusman, 79, of Bay City will be held 11 a. m. Thursday at the First United Methodist Church in Bay City with the Rev. Leslie LeGrand and the Rev. T. Walter Moore officiating. Burial will be in Cedarvale Cemetery.
Mr. Gusman was born Dec. 28, 1904, in Weimar and died July 23, 1984, in Matagorda General Hospital. He was a member of the First Methodist Church.
Survivors include: sister, Ethel Gusman of Bay City; and two brothers, Cooper Hill Gusman and Oliver Herbert Gusman, both of Bay City.
Honorary pallbearers will be all city council members who served with him, the First United Methodist Church, Wesley Class, members of American Legion Post 11, members of the Lions Club, members of Bay City Volunteer Fire Department and all city employees.
Pallbearers will be Mayor Glen White, Tom Rowland, Carey Smith Jr., O. B. Stanley, Scott Richardson, Burt O'Connell, Fred Friday and Larry Craddock, Jr.
The Daily Tribune, July 25, 1984
Photo courtesy of Faye Cunningham
Richard C. Gusman was mayor of Bay City from 1947 to 1979. Thereby serving as mayor longer than any person in the history of the United State of America the title of Mayor Emeritus was bestowed in 1981. Again a first in the history of the United States.
In 1940, prior to his term as mayor, Gusman personally obtained a grant from Washington to fund the construction of a modern utility system for the city. His tenure as mayor was highlighted by his foresight and leadership. During his administration, the City acquired all of the existing public recreational areas and his tireless efforts and cooperation with the Texas Highway Department resulted in a city of modern streets and traffic control systems. While such civic improvements as these and many more kept pace with the City's rapid growth, Gusman was able, through careful planning to keep the City tax rate the lowest of any comparable sized city in the United States.
Gusman served in the U. S. Army Air Force during W. W. II. He was since been active on a local, state and national level with the American Legion by serving as National Sergeant at Arms, state chairman of the Community Service Committee and active member and leader of the local American Legion Post No. 11
Gusman benefited his fellow man by serving as delegate to the National Rivers & Harbors Congress, director of South Texas Chamber of Commerce, Texas Safety Council, Battleship Texas Commission, and the Texas Water Conservation Association, by which organization he was honored in 1975 for "Distinguished Service to the Citizens of the State of Texas for Exemplary Leadership."
Gusman was one of the first to recognize the importance and great benefits to be derived by Bay City, Matagorda County, and surrounding areas through jettying of the mouth of the Colorado River. It was through his diligent labor that the Congress of the United States approved the mouth of the Colorado River Project. Without doubt, Mayor Gusman deserves more credit for this extraordinary accomplishment than any other person.
Mayor Richard C. Gusman was and is a pillar of the Christian community of the City of Bay City. He exhibited his devotion as an active member of the First United Methodist Church of Bay City by serving on the Board of Stewards, the Church Building Committee of the LeTulle Education Building, and as an active member and leader of the Wesley Class.
In 1944 he married Florence Craddock of Austin, Texas
who also became well known and loved as an accomplished civic leader.
Through the joint efforts of this couple, a museum for Matagorda County
was established in 1963. Their dedicated guidance and leadership has
helped insure the preservation of the area's history and the
perpetuation of the growth of the museum.
For political observers and long-time residents of Bay City, 1984 will be remembered as the year the city lost a man who for more than four decades played a key part in guiding and shaping Bay City --Mayor Emeritus Richard Clifton Gusman.
The Mayor, as he was popularly known, died July 23 of an apparent heart attack while at his sister's home. He was 79.
Gusman guided the helm of Bay City government for 32 years--one of the longest tenures of any mayor in the United States--serving consecutive terms from April 1, 1947, until May 12, 1979.
While the list of accomplishments which can be credited to The Mayor is indeed lengthy, perhaps the one which Gusman was most proud of and which he worked longest for is the Mouth of the Colorado Jetties Project.
Work on the delay-plagued jetties project officially started in late June, 35 years after Gusman began lobbying for the project's construction. The Mayor had often described the startup of the Jetties Project as his last great ambition in life and confided only a month before his death that he was "just holding on" for the day that work would start.
The jetties will enhance the river for light industry and recreational boating.
Gusman's other accomplishments began prior to his tenure as mayor. He helped build the first lighted baseball diamond in Bay City, and through his efforts, the USO building (Service Center) was built and operated by the USO until the war's end.
While mayor, Gusman worked to expand Bay City's water and sewer systems and sewer plant and worked to purchase many of the city's present recreation areas.
Also during his tenure, the city worked with the county to build the Bay City Municipal Airport which was dedicated in 1970. Gusman sold to the BCISD--at not profit--the 27-acre plot which is the present location of Bay City High School, football field, baseball diamond and gymnasium.
The Mayor was also active in numerous state, church and civic organizations, serving in various capacities on many of them.
Gusman came to Bay City from Weimar at the age of six. He graduated from Bay City High School in 1923 and Southwestern University in 1927. The Mayor did post-graduate work at Columbia University in New York and served in the U. S. Air Force for three years during World War II.
The Daily Tribune,
January 1, 1985
By Ethel Gusman
Florence Beatrice Craddock was born on August 26, 1911. She was the daughter of William Attress Craddock (June 8, 1863-February 15, 1950) and Florence Eugenia Punchard Craddock (August 18, 1872 - September 30, 1952). They were married on October 2, 1894, and were the parents of four sons and two daughters: Walter, Larry, Jim, Wallis, Mozelle, and Florence.
Florence was graduated from the University of Texas in 1930 and came to Bay City to work for the Farmers Home Administration. There she met Richard C. Gusman and they were married on August 22, 1944.
Richard became Mayor of Bay City in 1947 and served in that capacity for thirty-two years. Florence became involved in community work. This devoted couple worked together and encouraged each other in their various activities and projects. The Gusmans were active members of the First United Methodist Church of Bay City.
Florence Gusman was a member of many organizations which included the Bay City Art Guild, Garden Club, American Legion Auxiliary, Matagorda County Historical Society, Matagorda County Historical Commission, Matagorda County Federation of Women's Clubs, Comfort Wood Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Cradle of Texas Chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and Captain E. S. Rugeley Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Florence was an outstanding artist who worked in every media of painting. She won many awards and received much recognition in local competitions and in the Art League of Houston. She also won honors for her floral arrangements in garden club exhibitions. She held offices in the local American Legion Auxiliary, as well as the State American Legion Auxiliary. For two years she was State Child Welfare Committee Chairman and at the time of her death, she was a member of the Southern Division of the Rehabilitating and Hospital Committee.
Florence and Richard were chiefly responsible for the organization of the Matagorda County Historical Museum Association. This resulted in the Museum which is located on Sixth Street in Bay City.
In 1954 the Bay City Chamber of Commerce began the custom of presenting a plaque annually to the outstanding man and woman of Matagorda County. Florence was the first woman to receive this honor.
For many years and at the time of her death, Florence was director of the Bay City Service Center, a community center for Matagorda County citizens.
Florence Craddock Gusman, an individual of so many talents and accomplishments, died on April 22, 1966, at the early age of fifty-five. Her life was a busy one, and was spent in service for others.
Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, page 187
Mrs. Florence C. Gusman, 55, wife of Mayor Richard C. Gusman of Bay City died Friday, at 5:05 a. m.
Funeral services are to be held from the First Methodist Church of Bay City, Sunday at 3:00 p. m. Burial will be at Cedarvale Cemetery with Rev. Leslie Scott officiating.
She is survived by her husband, Richard C. Gusman, two brothers, Larry Craddock, Austin and Dr. Wallace Craddock, Honolulu, Hawaii and several nieces and nephews.
She was a member of the First Methodist Church; Wesleyan Guild and Director of Bay City Service Center. She was active in the State American Legion Auxiliary, being past state child welfare committee chairman for two years and a present member of Rehabilitating and Hospital Committee.
Also, Mrs. Gusman was chairman of the Matagorda County Historical Survey Committee and Matagorda County Historical Society, a member of the board of directors of Matagorda County Museum Association, and past president of County Federation of Women's Clubs.
She was an active member in Bay City Art Guilds; Garden Clubs; Eight and Forty; D. A. R.; D. R. T.; and U. D. C.
Pallbearers will be A. S. Dierlam, Glen White, Bill Carradine, Barney Mason, Carey Smith, Bill Thompson, Pat Thompson and Francis Savage.
Services are under the direction of Taylor Brothers Funeral Home.
The Daily Tribune, April 22, 1966
Copyright 2012 -
Present by the Carol Sue Gibbs
Dec. 5, 2012
Dec. 5, 2012