By Connie Lewis Leonard
Photos by Art & Soul Photography
“The more people you know, the better your luck,” John B. Collier, Jr. (Papo) said. With only a fifth grade education, he started working in the poultry business and became a self-made, successful entrepreneur. Believing it was important to be diversified, he branched out from poultry to eggs, dairy cattle, butter, and cheese. He secured the contract to produce powdered eggs for all the allied forces during WWII. At his Diamond C Margarine Plant, he developed the idea for pats of margarine. Later he formed and operated Diamond C Oils.
In 1939, while out contracting turkeys, Papo stopped in Stephenville where a local banker asked him if he would like to buy some land for $13 an acre. He owned the ranch for several years before telling his wife, Ruth Rominger Collier (Mamo). Growing up on her family’s ranch in Bridgeport, she could ride and work cattle with the best of the cowboys. She is credited with helping grow the ranch to over 14,000 acres and creating the excellence that permeates the 75-year history of the Diamond C Ranch operations.
John B. Collier, III, worked in all aspects of his father’s business endeavors until he died in an automobile accident at an early age. John B. Collier, IV, always enjoyed a close relationship with his grandparents. After suffering from rheumatic fever at age six, young John said, “If ever I get out of this house, I’m going to stay outside always.”
His grandmother directed activities for him that weren’t too physically strenuous. He took golf lessons and learned to hunt and fish at the Diamond C Ranch. Donning his favorite attire of cowboy hat, western shirt, belt, jeans, and boots earned John, IV the nickname “Cowboy.” Growing up, he enjoyed the benefits of city life in Fort Worth and country life on the ranch. Mamo and Papo made the drive from Fort Worth to Stephenville every weekend for nearly fifty years, often with Cowboy in tow.
Cowboy says he was blessed to have friendships with a diverse group of people from the wealthiest to the poorest, the educated and uneducated, along with businessmen and cowboys. He grew up playing golf with many of the wealthiest men in Ft. Worth but spent most weekends working and associating with ranch hands who had little or no formal education.
Cowboy didn’t think anything about having his own car and parking in the teachers’ parking lot when he was in junior high. At 6’3”, he loved playing basketball. His father, who was busy running the family business, found out when he made All-District team and put a stop to it because of his heart murmur.
Since he was not allowed to play sports, Cowboy embraced the Collier work ethic. His father gave him his own route, selling and setting up cheese in supermarkets, earning his own paycheck. With tears threatening, he said, “I recently heard from a friend who said, ‘If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have had lunch, but you gave me a quarter every day.’ I don’t even remember that.”
When Armour & Co. chose the Diamond C Ranch as one of their three progeny testing herds, Cowboy got the opportunity of a lifetime. He spent three summers traveling across the U.S. with Harold White (head of Armour BCI Research), learning how to evaluate top purebred bulls. By the time he was 17, he had visited most of the best purebred herds in 43 states. He looks back on this experience as the best education possible in preparation for his future in the seed stock cattle industry. While still in college, John B., IV made most of the management decisions concerning genetics and performance testing on the herd. He saw a bright future using AI for these new breeds, especially Simmental and used the auction as a platform from Billings, Montana, to David Rockefeller’s estate on the Hudson River. He still follows his grandfather’s practice: “When someone comes to the ranch, treat them like a king.”
Metta Burney attended Lamesa High School and attended summer school at TCU immediately after graduation. One of John’s friends told him he was sitting next to the “hottest chick ever.” John’s friend introduced them, but after a couple of dates, she wasn’t impressed. John graduated, and they didn’t see each other for several years until a mutual friend’s wedding.
They dated through the summer and married in December 1971. Metta went on to graduate with degrees in interior design, art and business. John enrolled in a ranch management program at TCU, and Metta took some classes with him.
For three years they stayed in Fort Worth several days a week, spending the rest of the time at the ranch. John said, “We wanted our children to grow up in a family friendly small town atmosphere, so we made the decision to make Stephenville our home. We were living at the Ranch Headquarters before moving to town so the children could attend school. It was a crazy, busy time in the cattle industry and at home, as well. I was involved as an officer and eventually President of the American Simmental Association and was gone all the time.” Metta stayed home and raised the children during those busy years.
When the Simmental bubble burst, prices dropped. The oil and gas, real estate and cattle industries crashed at the same time. Interest rates soared. Tax laws changed, eliminating passive losses. Collier Diamond C had lots of assets but not a lot of cash flow. They sold most of the cattle and many other assets. This gave John the opportunity to begin playing golf again, setting course records and winning seven Senior Amateur Tournaments. The kids were older and involved in athletics, so he enjoyed having more time to spend with his family.
Metta says, “Family is our first priority. Our three children are our greatest accomplishments and we’re proud and thankful for the extraordinary adults and parents they’ve become. They’ve each married spouses we’ve embraced and are proud of, as well. Our five grandchildren and grand dog are pure joy. . . . God is so good!”
Their three children are physically and spiritually beautiful. Christi graduated from SMU with a communications degree. She worked as a television producer in NY for ABC, NBC, HBO and ESPN. Married to a pilot, they live in Dallas where she continues to work in broadcasting.
Courtney also graduated from SMU. She went to work for Ross Perot as a senior recruiter in his health care and technology divisions before moving with her husband to Graham where she is a stay-at-home mom raising their three sons.
John B. Collier, V graduated from Texas Tech with a business degree and currently lives in Weatherford, where he’s employed as manager of EOG Lease Properties. He and his wife have a daughter and a son, John B. Collier, VI.
Metta is an actively involved community volunteer serving on several boards and associated with several different organizations. She says, “Our family has been incredibly blessed and it’s a privilege to be able to give back to a community we love that’s been so good to our family. It’s all about the giving. The reason we work in the cattle business is to feed God’s people. John reads, studies and gives 100% to his passion of improving the genetics of our herd. His path and mine may differ, but ultimately we are on the path together, supporting one another in all we do, hoping to leave our little corner of the world a better place.”