Vail Daily obituary: Jack R. Crosby, 1926-2016
Jack R. Crosby passed away peacefully on Dec. 30, 2016, at the Arbor at Westminster in Austin, Texas. He was surrounded by his family, and was visited in his final days by loyal friends from decades of entrepreneurship and civic involvement. He inspired legions through his kindness, generosity, honesty, humor, spirit of fun and sense of adventure. He was happiest in the company of family and friends and the worldwide pursuit of new ideas, ventures and acquaintances.
Jack was very active in his second home, the Vail Valley in Colorado. He was a founding member of the Friends of Vail and the Vail Valley Foundation, and a supporter of the Vilar Performing Arts Center. A fearless skier, he was a two-time gold medal winner in the Gerald Ford Ski Races, and was the first recipient, together with President Ford, of the Vail Valley Foundation’s Citizen of the Year award. His investments in Vail included the Crossroads Shopping Center and other real estate.
Born in Del Rio, Texas, on August 4, 1926, Jack was the son of Raymond Murray Crosby and Elizabeth Rust Crosby. He attended Del Rio schools and loved playing all sports. Jack graduated at age 16 from high school as salutatorian of the class of 1943 in the middle of World War II. At the University of Texas, Austin, he earned his varsity letter as the manager of the university baseball team, and he joined the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. His business undergraduate studies were interrupted by a two-year stint in the U.S. Naval Air Corps as a gunnery instructor. He graduated with a BBA in January 1949, and married Joanne Sharp in Dallas on March 26 of that year.
Jack and Joanne settled in his hometown of Del Rio, and he joined his father and uncle in the family appliance business, Crosby and Rust. He found it difficult to sell television sets in a town that lacked a television broadcaster. In 1955, to stimulate television sales, he contracted for the installation of a 450-foot tower to receive television signals from San Antonio, Texas; and he connected homes on an experimental basis to the antenna using coaxial cable. This was among the first cable television systems constructed in the world. He often acknowledged that the initial signal quality of his system was poor; but the demand for the service, even with snowy reception, was strong; and he was “too Scotch” to have the antenna disassembled.
After two years of operations, Jack constructed the second private microwave network in the United States to transmit television signal between Del Rio and San Antonio which dramatically improved the quality of reception. In subsequent years, Jack was instrumental in the development of seven major cable television systems. Together with his long-time partner, Fred Lieberman, he constructed among the first European cable television systems in Switzerland; they facilitated the construction of systems in Mexico and Argentina, and the development of the Spanish International Network (Univision), the first Spanish-language broadcaster in the United States. Companies that he founded or co-founded grew into the cable television behemoths Cox Communications and Times Mirror (Time Warner). Jack was elected as director and chairman of the National Cable Television Association; and he provided consultation services to the governments of West Germany, Austria and Holland to facilitate the development of cable television in those countries.
The Crosbys moved to Austin in 1966, and he launched one of the first venture capital firms in Austin: Rust Capital and Rust Ventures. He served as chairman of Galveston-Houston Co., Livingston Oil, Monarch Pipe Co., and West Texas Communications. He founded Rust Properties; and with the help of architect O’Neil Ford, restored the Norwood Tower, the first totally air-conditioned building in the United States, as well as Austin’s Colorado Building. Rust Properties also developed One American Center, Austin’s tallest office building at completion, and Texas Commerce Plaza in Corpus Christi.
Jack thrived on the excitement of meeting people, instilling in them the confidence to realize their visions, and transforming ideas to working enterprises. Ever the entrepreneur, Jack’s business endeavors included sports equipment repair, film production, movie theaters, publishing, oil and gas services and equipment manufacturing, banking, commercial real estate, golf courses, solar power and satellite technology. He served on the boards of the City National Bank (Austin), Texas American Bankshares (Fort Worth), National Dentex (Boston), the George Wimpey Company (UK) and Magic Lantern (Los Angeles). By the mid-1980s he had investments in an estimated 112 companies.
In 1981, he became a founding board member of the Sundance Institute and later served as its chairman. Rust Properties constructed the first cottages at the Sundance Resort in Utah to support the nascent Sundance Film Institute and Film Festival. Through Rust Capital, he was instrumental in starting the Sundance Catalogue to support the Sundance Institute. With Robert Redford, he took the first American Film Festival to Tokyo, Japan. He served as a director and interim chief executive officer of Imagine Entertainment, director of Orion Pictures, and chairman of Propaganda Films. He was an early proponent and financial backer of independent film in Texas.
Jack was also heavily involved in civic activities. In Del Rio, he was an organizer of Little League Baseball in Del Rio, and he coached for the Lions Club and the All-Star teams for 13 years. He traveled with the team and announced their games on the radio when they made it to the Little League World Series
In Austin, both he and Joanne were for many years trustees of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, which his three children and four of his six grandchildren attended. With his family, he has supported St. Stephen’s School, St. Andrews School, Good Shepherd Church, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Austin, the Paramount Theatre, St. David’s Hospital Foundation, the Austin Children’s Museum and other Austin philanthropies. He also served on the boards of Heartgift, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest.
Honored by the University of Texas as a distinguished alumnus in 2009, Jack was on the University Development Board, the Longhorn Foundation and Leadership Council, as well as on the Advisory Councils of the School of Architecture and the College of Communication. Additional honors include the U.T. McCombs Business School Hall of Fame, the Dewitt Carter Reddick Award from the U.T. College of Communications in recognition of “significant contribution to the field of communication,” and induction into the both the Pioneers of Cable Television and the Cable Television Hall of Fame.
Through all his vocational and civic activity, Jack remained devoted to his family and friends, with whom he loved to travel, ski and play golf. Ever the athlete himself, he was a faithful attendee and fan of the sports competitions of his children and grandchildren, to say nothing of Longhorn football. He was a grand storyteller, a generous friend, advisor, sounding board and inspiration to generations of innovators, and a source of encouragement to us all. His greatest pleasure was in advising and supporting young entrepreneurs, many of whom have gone on to great success.
He is survived by his wife of 67 years, Joanne; children Chris, Jim and Clay; daughters-in-law Tara Sayers Crosby and Ellen Harrington; grandchildren Justin Rust Crosby and his wife Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Andrew Sayers Crosby, Clare O’Neil Crosby, William Hatch Crosby, Alexander Collins Crosby, Adelaide Rust Crosby; newborn great grandson Jideora Akunyili Crosby, and his brother-in-law and college roommate Carle Sharp Jr. Preceding Jack in death were his parents, Raymond and Elizabeth, his beloved sister Margy Crosby Liefeste and her husband Dr. Homer Leifeste, and his sister-in-law Martha Sharp.
Memorial gifts may be made to the Round Up River Ranch Camp, the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration or to a charity of your choice.
Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at http://www.wcfish.com. Arrangements by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, Austin, Texas — 512-452-8811.