Alfred Glassell's 1,560 pound black marlin is the all-tackle and 130-pound line class record for the species, and it remains the ultimate measure of the sport for every serious marlin fisherman. But his contributions to sport fishing go well beyond that world record. Although Glassell appeared on the cover of a 1956 Sports Illustrated, few of today's billfishermen know much about him, and even fewer are familiar with his other accomplishments. He was the first to boat a black marlin over 1,000 pounds according to IGFA rules and, when he lost the record within a few days, regained it for the second time in a month with a 1,090 pound catch. Although Glassell traveled the world hunting marlin, bluefin tuna and swordfish, his research convinced him he would find his giant quarry in the bait-rich waters off Cabo Blanco, Peru, and on August 4, 1953 he landed the 1,560 pound record fish that would withstand the test of nearly a half-century of tackle and boat improvements. Film footage of Glassell's jumping, tail-walking and greyhounding granders was used in the movie version of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, and his all-tackle record fish hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. Alfred Glassell has spent his lifetime pursuing his passions and excelling in many fields, including the petroleum industry, marine biology research, the collecting of fine art and, unbeknownst to many, freshwater fly fishing. He was a member of the U.S. Team in the International Tuna Cup Matches for seven years, serving as captain of the 1952 second-place team, is a Life Trustee of Texas Childrens Hospital, and Chairman of the Board of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Well-known for his philanthropy in many areas, Glassell has been a particularly generous supporter of marine science, leading successful scientific expeditions around the world for both Yale University and the University of Miami, where a unique research laboratory bears his name. Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., industrialist, sportsman, adventurer, amateur oceanographer, marine biologist, philanthropist, civic leader and patron of the arts, is truly a legend in his own time.
Alfred C Glassell
ALFRED C. GLASSELL JR.
Alfred C. Glassell Jr., who died last week in Houston at the age of 95, lived a long, productive and colorful life, a life of superlatives. But it was also a life of surprising nuances and potential contradictions.
He assembled the greatest collection of African gold on Earth, but it wasn't the monetary value of gold that fascinated him. He collected the precious metal "because gold had an intrinsic value, a spiritual meaning in early cultures," said his good friend and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston curator Frances Marzio. "It was used to teach moral lessons." And he gave most of it away, to the MFAH.
He was an avid sports fisherman, achieving fame when in 1953 he reeled in the biggest marlin ever caught (at 1,560 pounds still a world record). But his interest in all things oceanic went much further: He was an ardent advocate of marine biology research and used his vessel the Argosy for scientific expeditions around the globe.
"He was very dedicated to science," remembered Norman Kinsey, who grew up near Glassell in Shreveport and served on the board of Transcontinental Gas Pipeline (later to become Transco) with him. "He used his expertise and his treasure to further these things. One time, Yale wanted some special sea snakes, so he sent his vessel to the Indian Ocean to look for them."
Glassell's philanthropy was legendary. But there also, he gave much more than funding to the causes he believed in. He became very active with the Smithsonian Institution, and was an honorary member of the national board. He contributed to its Museum of African Art, and its Museum of Natural Science houses a model of his monster marlin.
But the cornerstone of his philanthropy and involvement was Houston's MFA, where he was chairman emeritus and life trustee. He was a driving force in the founding of the Glassell School of Art, the museum's teaching wing, and in 1997 he donated his collection of African gold to the museum.
Glassell's old friend and colleague Jack Bowen, a former CEO and board chairman of Transco Energy Company, told the Chronicle, "He was a man of many interests, but to him the welfare of the museum was paramount, especially the financial leadership he gave. I think he had more to do with the success of the museum than anybody else but [MFAH Director] Peter Marzio.
"He was a fine man," said Bowen. "He ended up in Houston, and Houston was much the better for it."
GLASSELL--Alfred C., Jr., was born on the 31st of March, 1913 at Cuba Plantation in north Louisiana. He was the son of Alfred Curry Glassell and Frances Elvira Lane. He graduated from Bird High School in Shreveport, Louisiana and later Louisiana State University where he distinguished himself as President of the Student Body and Kappa Alpha fraternity, ROTC commander, and member in 13 honor societies. Upon graduation he became a pioneer in the energy business, discovering and extending oil and gas fields on the gulf coasts of Louisiana and Texas. He was a founder of the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Corporation, the first gas transmission system from Texas to New York. He served on the boards of corporations including Transco, El Paso Natural Gas, and First City Bank. During the Second World War, he answered the call to duty and joined the armed forces where he achieved the rank of major. His distinguished war record included active service in the African and European theaters. Upon return to civilian life, he again put his business talents to work, joining efforts to return the United States to prosperity with plentiful, affordable energy. He had a life-long interest in marine biology and the preservation of sea life. He participated in seafaring expeditions throughout the world, leading the Yale Seychelles Expedition from the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans and the east coast of Africa. In 1971 he was awarded the International Oceanographic Foundation Marine Science Award for outstanding contributions. An enthusiastic supporter of Texas wildlife and conservation, with the help of friends the Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. Professorship in Quail Research was established at the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute. Quail season at Buena Suerte near Falfurrias was legendary, famous for plentiful coveys and gentlemanly sportsmanship. An avid sportsman, Alfred C. Glassell, Jr. achieved fame as one of the foremost anglers in the world. In 1953, he set the world record for the largest marlin ever caught on a hand-held rod and reel. At 1,560 pounds, this record remains today, and the worlds largest game fish resides on view at the Smithsonian Institution. A tribute to his skills, he was pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1954 and inducted into the International Game Fish Associations Hall of Fame in 2001. In addition to business, military, scientific, and sports achievements, he distinguished himself as a civic leader and philanthropist. Over a lifetime, he dedicated his time and resources to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston Symphony Society, Society for Performing Arts, Houston Ballet Foundation, Houston Chamber of Commerce, Texas Children's Hospital, American Museum of Natural History in New York City, Smithsonian Institution, and Archaeological Institute of America. He fulfilled a great role as a leader at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This world famous collector of art was first elected to the museums Board of Trustees in 1970. Realizing peoples fundamental need for hands on experience in the arts and recognizing the lack of studio opportunities, he established the Glassell School of Art. Since its dedication in 1979, the Glassell School has provided diverse training in the fine arts to children, adults, emerging artists, hospital patients, and older Americans. He was elected Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 1990, a time when the need for physical expansion was evident. With characteristic optimism and belief in the generosity of Houston, he led a ten-year effort that resulted in the Audrey Jones Beck Building as home for the museums collection of Western Antiquities, European, and American art. As a life-long collector of Asian, Pre-Columbian, and African art, he donated his excellent and extensive collections to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. These works, primarily of precious gold, are without parallel. Frances Marzio, his curator, described him as a great connoisseur who recognized the creative genius of diverse cultures before they were appreciated by many others. After a life spent in the pursuit of excellence Alfred C. Glassell, Jr., 95, died on Wednesday afternoon, the 29th of October 2008. He was predeceased by his sisters, the late Joanna Glassell Wood, Lillian Glassell Crichton, and Emily Glassell Comegys. He is survived by his wife, Clare Attwell Glassell; children, Curry Glassell, Alfred C. Glassell III and Marli Andrade, Lisa Ford, Alison Ford Duncan, Emily Ford Embrey and her husband Mark C. Embrey; and grandsons, Nathan J. Roberts, Alfred Samuel Jared Roberts, Robert S. Duncan, W. Hudson Duncan, Nicholas E. Embrey, and Joseph M. Embrey. He is also survived by his niece, Janie C. Lee Warren, as well as numerous other nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews. The family wishes to express their gratitude to his longtime office manager Pam Lindberg, assistant Bonnie Gonzales, and Samantha Duff. A memorial service will be conducted at one o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, the 3rd of November, at The Episcopal Church or St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Boulevard in Houston. For those desiring, valet parking attendants will be available at the River Oaks Boulevard Entranceway of the church. Immediately following the service, all are in invited to join the family for a reception in the adjacent Summers Hall. Honored to serve as pallbearers are Merrill Athon, Stuart Campbell, Dr. Byron Hall, Dan Japhet, Dr. Mavis Kelsey, Rich Kinder, Robert McNair, Meredith Long, Peter Marzlo, Dr. Walter McReynolds, Dr. David Ott, Fayez Sarofim, Bill Wheless, Dr. Jim Willerson, Wallace Wilson, and Gene M. Woodfin. Services in Houston are entrusted to Geo. H. Lewis & Sons, The Funeral Directors Since 1938, 713 - 789 - 3005, www.geohlewis.com. In lieu of usual remembrances, contributions in memory of Mr. Glassell may be directed to The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, P.O. Box 6826, Houston, TX 77265-6826; Texas Children's Hospital, P.O. Box 300630, MC-4-4483, Houston, TX, 77230-0630; or to the charity of one's choice.