Masterson Family

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Harris "Harry" Masterson III, philanthropist and native Houstonian, was born July 9, 1914 to Libbie Mary Johnston and Neill Turner Masterson. He attended San Jacinto High School, the New Mexico Military Institute and Rice Institute during the 1930's. He later returned to Rice after World War II and the Korean conflict to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1955. Mr. Masterson served as an intelligence officer in World War II and as an instructor during the Korean conflict. In 1951, he married the former Carroll Sterling Cowan. Mr. Masterson died on April 7, 1997 in Houston. Isla Carroll Sterling, wife of Mr. Masterson, was born in 1914 to Isla Carroll Sterling (Mrs. P.E. Turner) and Frank Sterling, founder of the Humble Oil and Refining Company. She married her first husband, Bert Farmer Winston, in 1931 and had two children, Bert Farmer Winston, Jr. and Isla Carroll Winston (Mrs. Thomas Radcliffe Reckling, III). John A. Cowan became her second husband in 1943, but later died in an airplane crash in 1949. In 1951, Carroll Cowan married Harris Masterson III. She died on February 18, 1994 in Houston. Both Mr. and Mrs. Masterson were devoted to improving the Houston cultural scene. Together, they served as board chairman or president of most major Houston arts organizations. Some of their philanthropic interests included the Wortham Center, Houston Grand Opera, Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Houston Ballet and the Houston Symphony, Alley Theatre, Houston area hospitals and the Young Women's Christian Association. They were also supporters of the Republican National Party. The Mastersons received numerous honors, awards and recognition for their work, including the National Medal of Arts in 1990 and Cultural Leader of the Year in 1974. The Masterson's relationship with the MFAH began in the 1953 and spanned several decades. In addition to gifts and donations made to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston over the years, the Masterson's gifted Rienzi, their River Oaks home designed by architect John Staub, to the museum in 1991. Their collection of European decorative arts, including extensive holdings of Worcester porcelain, had been previously gifted to the MFAH. The MFAH assumed control of Rienzi following Mr. Masterson's death. It opened as the MFAH's center for European decorative arts in 1999.

From the description of Masterson Family Papers, 1864-2000, 1950's and 1975-1996 (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 145506946

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Masterson Family. Masterson Family Papers, 1864-2000, 1950's and 1975-1996 Hirsch Library Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Cowan, John A. d. 1949 person
associatedWith Hagman, Larry person
associatedWith Houston Grand Opera corporateBody
associatedWith Humble Oil and Refining Company (Incorporated in Tex.). corporateBody
associatedWith Johnston, Rienzi d.1917 person
associatedWith Masterson, Carroll 1913-1994 person
associatedWith Masterson, Harris 1914-1997 person
associatedWith Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico 1832-1867 person
associatedWith Reckling, Isla 1933- person
associatedWith Sterling, Lewis Bryan person
associatedWith Turner, Isla 1885-1979 person
associatedWith Winston, Bert Farmer, Jr. person
associatedWith Wortham Theatre Center corporateBody
associatedWith Young Women's Christian Association corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York
United States
Theatrical producers and directors United States
Museum trustees


Active 1864

Active 2000

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Ark ID: w6b65h77

SNAC ID: 11881869