In Texas, business and innovation move in two directions: People come here to turn their big dreams into reality, and people from here export their brilliant ideas to the rest of the world.No, it’s not just about oil (of course, there’s a lot of it yes on oil). Technology, architecture, cosmetics, jewelry, medical advancements—Texas dabbles in just about anything you can think of. And traffic in both directions shows no signs of slowing down.
aspiring world leader
H Ross Perot
The Dallas billionaire tech entrepreneur’s Texarkana accent is the butt of late-night jokes, but his populist setbacks between presidential campaigns are no joke.
Another Dallas billionaire born out of the dot-com boom of the late nineties, Mavericks owner and shark tank Despite political ambitions, Star launched a company aimed at lowering prescription drug prices.
T. Boone Pickens
The Oklahoman-turned-Texan has shaken up Big Oil by launching unsolicited bids to take over major companies and advocating for shareholder rights. His gracious demeanor won him fans — just not in the executive suite.
South African-turned-Californian-turned-Texan-disrupted industries seem to be breakfast: automotive, energy, aerospace. Now he’s taken over Twitter and pissing off millions of people every day.
Generations of the family have donated much of their oil fortunes to state institutions like Yale University. Without further ado, they helped fund the revitalization of downtown Fort Worth.
John and Laura Arnold
The Houston power couple upped the ante on Texas philanthropy, deploying billions of dollars to fight price gouging by Big Pharma, backing birth control measures and pushing to end predatory lending in higher education.
He built the Dallas firm into arguably the first national real estate development firm, reshaping the nation’s downtown skylines and laying the groundwork for the gleaming cityscape Texans now live in.
The CEO of Austin-based printed housing company Icon has described his giant construction robot as a tool to help people escape the global housing crisis by making homes built faster and more resilient.
Mary Kay Ash
The Dallas cosmetics and multilevel marketing pioneer turned the notion of a Tupperware house party into an indulgent neighborhood beauty bash and amassed an army of salesmen in pink Cadillacs.
Chip and Joanna Gaines
The eccentric pair of home improvers built Waco into a retail destination and then transformed into full-fledged moguls with a line of home goods, best-selling books and their own cable channel.
The boom-and-bust Texan gambled everything in Houston’s seventies, expanding his family’s namesake department store chain and racking up debt — only to crash with the oil market in the eighties.
Austin Transplant has grown her jewelry business into a bustling e-commerce site and more than a hundred stores by catering to a middle-class clientele typically dismissed by the coastal fashion elite.
show off lawyer
Richard “Jockey” Haynes
Beginning with his defense of an Oak River surgeon accused of poisoning his wife with lightning puffs, the Houston native pioneered the role of the flamboyant Texas criminal defense attorney.
Today’s most prominent Texas attorneys tout their ability to win multi-million dollar lawsuits. San Antonio-based Henry used the formula to build what it says is the largest personal injury firm in the state.
Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley
Their decades-long feud overshadowed the fact that a joint effort by two Houston surgeons led to the successful implantation of the world’s first completely artificial heart.
James P. Allison
The MD Anderson iconoclast has pioneered a new way to fight cancer by unleashing the body’s immune system. He won a Nobel Prize and started playing harmonica with Willie Nelson.
This article was originally published in the February 2023 issue texas monthlyTitled “Icons, Past and Present”.subscribe today.
Photo credits: Perot: Ron Heflin/AP; Cuba: Andrew Eccles/ABC/Getty; Pickens: Mary Altaffer/AP; Musk: Britta Pedersen-Pool/Getty; Bass: Fort Worth Star-Telegram/AP; Arnold Crows: Dallas Morning News/AP; Ballard: Diego Donamaria/Getty; Ash: Graham Besant/Toronto Star/Getty; Gaines: Brian Ach/Invision/AP; Sarkovitz: John Olsen/Getty; Scott: Tim Mosenfeld/FilmMagic/Getty; Haynes: WBAP-TV/NBC5/KXAS-TV/North Texas University Libraries/Texas History Portal; Henry: Johnny Nunez/Getty; DeBakey: Associated Press; Cooley: Donald Uhrbrock/Getty; Alison: Christopher Schmidt /Associated Press