Jack Josey James Newman,
1919 - 2001
"Free to soar above the clouds"
Josey James Newman, Sr. was a man of ideas, a risk-taker who embraced
the larger possibilities that life — and business ventures
— might offer. He lived in Houston, a city perfectly attuned
to his ambitions. Both man and metropolis epitomized the brash,
bigger-is-better, money-talks philosophy that characterized the
Texas of that era.
Jack was born May 4, 1919 in Houston to a family well connected
to Houston society, including the oilmen of that wildcatting era.
He was named after his father's good friend, Col. Jack E. Josey,
who was the founder of Josey Oil. His father, George W. Newman,
was listed in a 1930's edition of Houston's "Who's Who."
Raised by his mother, Aida Buttonuth Newman, to be a gentleman,
he was shaped by the place and times, a time when Civil War veterans
still lived. He believed in himself and his ideas. He was colorful,
but well mannered, easy to know and universally liked. Jack liked
being on the edge, looking forward to what might come next and
wanting to be a part of it.
He joined the U.S. Navy in 1940, before the U.S. entered World
War II. A Radioman in both the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, he
landed with the Marines during invasions of Japanese-held Pacific
islands to establish ship-to-shore communications. The war led
him to Boston where he met a lovely young lady named Barbara Lorraine
O'Day at a chaperoned USO dance. She liked his Southern charm
and Texas talk, and they married in 1944. After the war they set
up house in Houston, where they had 12 children. Jack once told
a friend that he had seen so much violence and death that it moved
him to greatly appreciate new life, and Barbara loved babies and
kids more than anything else.
A living compendium of what was happening around town, and when
and who was behind it, Jack was known by most of the Houston personalities
of the time, including Glen McCarthy, the wildcatter-to-riches
model for the character "Jett Rink" in the movie Giant.
He was connected by birth and by bent to old Houston society,
which gave him access to Houston's inner circles.
Jack had a natural presence that he used in promoting a series
of ventures. His post-war involvements included a seat on Houston's
World Fair Committee, the growing city's effort to land the Fair
that eventually went to New York. This proposal included a monorail
linking the Fair site to downtown, a very forward-thinking idea
for the times. He was the principal promoter of a "Multiport"
on the Houston Ship Channel, a terminal to serve passengers as
well as facilities for air, sea, road and rail freight. While
many influential Houstonians supported the idea, the big financiers
of the Northeast did not, and the idea was never realized. With
time, as other ideas failed and expectations went unmet, Jack
suffered personal and family stresses. Eventually, he became estranged
from most of his friends and family.
Jack's other children remember the man who taught them to ride
a bike, throw a football, shoot a rifle, and tune a car, the man
who could cook great fried chicken, explain life's mysteries and
whom other people respected. He was brilliant enough to be admitted
to Rice Institute (now Rice University).
He enjoyed challenges. As a pilot in the 1930s and 40s, Jack
would fly under the very low bridge over the Houston Ship Channel,
frightening onlookers. In the service he was his ship's table-tennis
(ping-pong) champ, losing an exhibition match to the Navy-wide
champion but loving the competition. As a 70-year-old, he was
still a formidable tennis opponent, one whose serve you didn't
want to return unless you wanted to be embarrassed.
As a forward-thinking man and a lifelong fan of all forms of
flight, including NASA's space efforts, he would have loved the
idea of an Earth orbit as his final home.
Have a good flight, Dad.
Jack Newman, Jr.