Anne Marion
Anne Marion leaves behind a legacy in Western culture all her own. (Photo Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo)

Anne Marion, Four Sixes Heir and Quarter Horse Industry Giant, Dies at 81

Anne Marion, an oil and ranching heiress, and quiet yet faithful philanthropist who became a leader in the Quarter Horse industry, died on Tuesday in California.

Marion was 81. Her family said her death was the result of a battle with lung cancer.

Visitation will be Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 4-6 p.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church. Memorial service will 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 at University Christian Church in Fort Worth. 

Since 1980, Marion has overseen as president the operations of Burnett Ranches, four properties encompassing 275,000 acres in West Texas, including the renowned 6666 Ranch, established by her great-grandfather, Burk Burnett.

Marion is remembered for her dedication to continuing her family’s tradition and commitment to agriculture and as a champion of the Western culture and way of life, beginning with her legendary great-grandfather.

In her 40 years at the helm, The Four Sixes stayed at the forefront of scientific and technological advances in breeding, as well as land stewardship.

“It means history, the history of my family and who I am,” she said about the Four Sixes in an interview with Western Horseman in August.

Marion was inducted into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in 2005 and American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Hall of Fame in 2007, as well as the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2014.

She has also been recognized with the American Quarter Horse Foundation’s Merle Wood Humanitarian Award, the National Golden Spur Award, the Boss of the Plains Award from the National Ranching Heritage Center and the Charles Goodnight Award.

Marion was an internationally respected art collector and patron of the arts.

“Laura and I mourn the passing of Anne Marion,” President George W. Bush said on Wednesday. “She was a true Texan, a great patron of the arts, a generous member of our community, and a person of elegance and strength. Texans have lost a patriot, and Laura and I have lost a friend. We send our sympathies to her husband John, her daughter, Windi, and to her grandchildren who love and miss her.”

Anne Burnett Windfohr Marion was born on Nov. 10, 1938, to Anne Burnett Tandy and Jim Hall, an oilman who was Tandy’s second husband. 

Marion was “Little Anne” to her mother’s “Big Anne.” She was later adopted by Bob Windfohr, Tandy’s third husband.

Marion was Tandy’s only child. Her grandparents were Thomas Loyd and Ollie Lake Burnett, son and daughter-in-law to Burk Burnett.

“She couldn’t have turned out better,” Perry Bass said of Marion in an interview with the Star-Telegram more than 30 years ago. “Her mother was hard on her — she was never spoiled. Her mother was stern — maybe sterner than necessary.”

Tough might be one way to describe Anne Burnett Tandy, who was, after all, the person who hired and then fired Frank Lloyd Wright, reportedly because, among other reasons, he didn’t want air-conditioning in a house he was designing for her in the Ridglea Country Club area in Fort Worth.

Tandy and Hall were instrumental in founding the AQHA after holding a meeting with a group of horsemen at their home in the 1940s.

“There was nobody stronger than her mother, and her grandmother was a pretty strong old gal, too,” Bass continued. “Anne Marion was a lovely, charming little girl. She never was much of a tomboy, but she loved horses. And of course, the fellows on the ranch all were fond of her because she did.”

Marion attended The Hockaday School in Dallas, graduated from Miss Porter’s School in Farmington, Connecticut, as well as Briarcliff Junior College in Briarcliff, New York. She also attended the University of Texas and University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Her summers were spent at The Four Sixes.

She called time spent there, according to The Four Sixes, “the most important thing that ever happened to me was growing up on that ranch. It kept my feet on the ground, more than anything else.”

She told Western Horseman in August: “When I was young I learned all phases of ranch life. I gathered eggs, milked cows, churned butter and ice cream. When I wasn’t riding and working cattle with the cowboys, I was in the kitchen. I have been involved with all aspects of the ranch’s operation from a very early age, which is the best experience one can have.”

At his death in 1922, Burk Burnett had established The Four Sixes and amassed 450,000 acres and an oilfield, which developed the town in Wichita County that, at the suggestion of President Theodore Roosevelt, took his name, Burkburnett.

Instead of his firstborn son, Burk Burnett willed the bulk of his estate to his granddaughter, Big Anne, in a trusteeship for her unborn child, who wouldn’t arrive for another 16 years.

Her grandmother, Ollie Lake, Marion said, reinforced her love of ranching and its traditions.

“She’s the one that told me the old stories,” Marion said in a historical account shared on The Four Sixes website. “She had the background of the Depression, and she kept telling me that I was lucky to have all that I do and not to waste it.”

When Anne Tandy, who later married Tandy Corp. founder Charles Tandy, died in 1980, the title to the properties went to Marion, as her great-grandfather’s will set out.

Friends recalled her as a savvy and upbeat businesswoman.

“In managing the ranch, I try to hire the best and most qualified people I can,” Marion said in the Western Horseman interview. “I give them a general idea of what I want to accomplish, and then give them the freedom to do what they do best. I am not a micromanager.

“I learned that hardships and disasters will happen. Disasters should not be a surprise. Instead, the goal is to prepare for them.” 

She is survived by her husband, John L. Marion; daughter, Windi Grimes and her husband David; by John Marion, Jr.; Debbie Marion Murray and her husband Mike; Therese Marion; Michelle Marion; and grandchildren, Hallie Grimes; John Marion, III, Winifred Marion; Schyler Murray, Ryan Murray, Peyton Murray; Sophie Thompson and Olivia Thompson.

As the testimonials that poured in indicate, the impact of her philanthropy was far-reaching. She sat as chairman of the board of the Burnett Foundation, set up by her mother in the late 1970s.

Marion served as a director of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth and was the namesake of the Marion Emergency Care Center at the hospital. She was also a major contributor to Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage, California.

“Anne taught us about things that really matter … like character and courage,” said G. Aubrey Serfling, president and CEO of Eisenhower Health. “I’m not sure I have ever met someone quite like her, who made such a large impact on all of us, including our doctors, but did so in her own independent way. Anne helped us with our largest projects in history but would never let us put her name on anything. She was simply amazing.”

She was a primary influence and benefactor of the Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art, and the driving force behind the creation of the museum’s internationally renowned building, designed by acclaimed architect Tadao Ando, which opened in December 2002.

With her husband, Marion founded the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. The museum opened in 1997 with 50 paintings, but today features 2,500 paintings and objects and has become one of the state’s most beloved attractions. Marion was chairman of the museum for 20 years and was appointed chairman emeritus in 2017.

“The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum exists today because of Anne Marion’s vision to create a single-artist museum devoted to Georgia O’Keeffe’s work and legacy,” said Cody Hartley, director of the O’Keeffe Museum. “With Mrs. Marion’s passing, we have lost an incredible woman whose spirit inspired and animated all we do at the O’Keeffe. Our collective sorrow is matched only by our admiration and gratitude for her leadership. We are thankful for Mrs. Marion’s generosity, and are proud to carry on her commitment to Georgia O’Keeffe’s art and life story. Mrs. Marion will be deeply missed and long remembered for the legacy of her generosity to New Mexico.”

In 2015, the National Cowgirl Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, named a gallery in her honor in recognition of her support.

“She will be dearly missed by all,” museum officials said in a statement to Quarter Horse News. “Anne Marion was a longtime supporter of the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame and embodied and promoted its mission.”

Her mark at Texas Tech’s National Ranching Heritage Center (NRHC) is “indelible.”

“You cannot walk through the NRHC without noticing the incredible impact that she has had on this facility,” said Jim Bret Campbell, executive director. “Her legacy will continue to be written as we tell the story of ranching for generations to come.”