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Electra Waggoner Biggs

21 Sep

Electra was a well known sculptor in addition to being one of the heirs to the Waggoner Ranch holdings.  She was born in Fort Worth on November 8, 1912 and died in Vernon on April 23, 2001 at the age of 88.  Her father was E. Paul Waggoner, a familiar name to residents of North Texas, and her mother was Helen Buck Waggoner.  She was the granddaughter of W. T. Waggoner, who with his father Dan was a founder of the ranch.  She was the great granddaughter of Solomon Waggoner who first came to the plains.

Electra had always been interested in art, even as a young girl.  Her parents sent her to finishing school but she also studied art.  She continued to develop her interest in it while living in Greenwich Village in New York City.  She also spent a year in Paris, studying at the Sorbonne.  She had been sculpting since she was in her late teens and early twenties.  Her first showing was a sellout and led to her pursuit of sculpture as a sideline career.  She had a natural gift for it and during her lifetime she did various well known works such as busts of United States presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, Knute Rockne from the world of athletics, and entertainer Bob Hope.

Pictured below is her statue of humorist Will Rogers, possibly her most famous creation.  It was commissioned by Fort Worth’s colorful Amon Carter, who was a friend of Rogers, shortly after Rogers’ death in the 1935 crash of an airplane flown by pilot Wiley Post, who also died in the accident in Point Barrow, Alaska.

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(Image credit: Texas Tech University)

The work is called “Into the Sunset” and depicts Rogers riding his horse Soapsuds.  Carter was closely acquainted with the humorist but Rogers had also met Electra Biggs during his visits to the Waggoner Ranch.  The original sculpture was completed in 1939 and is installed at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Coliseum.  Two replicas also exist and are installed at the Will Rogers Memorial at Rogers’ home town of Claremore, Oklahoma and on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  The placement of the Texas Tech statue originally had Soapsuds facing the campus, which meant that the rear end was pointed towards downtown Lubbock.  This would not do, so the statue was later rotated 22 to 23 degrees to eliminate any perceived insult.  The legend is that Soapsuds’ posterior now points toward long-time athletic rival Texas A&M University.

The Buick Electra automobile was named for Electra Biggs, as was the turbo-prop powered Lockheed Electra airliner.  Harlow H. “Red” Curtice, president of GM’s Buick Motor Division and the brother in law of Electra’s husband John Biggs, had selected the name when the model was introduced in 1959.  It was a popular model during the life of the Buick line and was produced from 1959 to 1990.

The identity of the person who gave her name to the Lockheed Electra has eluded us so far, but on May 17, 1959, the Vernon Daily Record reported that Electra Waggoner Biggs and her daughter, also named Electra, took part in an unusual “branding” ceremony at Dallas Love Field.  After an old fashioned chuck wagon breakfast, six “branders” using specially made branding irons each placed a rubber-backed letter spelling out “Dallas” on the nose of the plane.  This particular Lockheed Electra was to make the first jet flight of the new aircraft out of Love Field. The Electra was expected to cut one hour off the flying time to the East Coast, bringing it down to three hours and fifty-five minutes.

The name Electra was previously used by Lockheed as the name of a smaller dual engine aircraft, as was flown by Amelia Earhart, but this airplane was suppsedly named for for a star in the Pleiades Constellation.  Miss Earhart was flying an Electra when she disappeared in the Pacific while attempting a record setting flight around the world.

Electra, Texas is named for her aunt, Electra Waggoner (1882-1925), who was the sister of E. Paul and Guy Waggoner.

Electra Waggoner Biggs was not raised on the ranch but moved there when she was in her 30s.  Her second marriage was to John Biggs who also helped to manage the ranch.  Biggs predeceased Electra in 1975 while she continued to live on the ranch for several decades until her death in a local hospital.  Mrs. Biggs is interred at West Hill Cemetery in Sherman, Texas.

Many of Electra’s artworks are displayed at the Red River Valley Museum in Vernon, Texas.  The exhibit includes copies of the Bob Hope and Harry Truman busts and is located near the front of the museum, housed in an area designed to resemble a replica of her studio.

© 2017, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

Posted by on September 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

2 responses to “Electra Waggoner Biggs

  1. The Dastardly Past

    September 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    This is a superb profile of a really interesting lady. Thank you for your marvelous work. My mother was from Wichita Falls and I’ve always been fascinated by the Waggoners and the town of Electra. I had no idea she was an artist.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Texoso

      September 21, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Thanks for the comments. One of the Waggoner pastures comes right up the Electra city limits. It’s an interesting family, all right.

      Liked by 1 person

       

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