Victor Clayton Gates
1930 – 2004

A brief biography submitted by Celita Gates Hastings, Victor’s sister.

Victor Clayton Gates was born in Mason, Texas, October 7, 1930, to Joseph Ollie and Annie Kinsey Gates. Victor’s great-grandfather was Peter Austin Gates, who married Paulina Hamilton Nix on March 29, 1865. Peter Austin homesteaded 165 acres near Snowball, Arkansas. He built a primitive log cabin on the place and there he raised his large family. This log cabin has been restored and is now an historical site.

Peter Austin and Paulina are buried in the McMahan Cemetery in Snowball, Arkansas. Peter Austin’s son, William Silas Gates, Victor’s grandfather, married Margaret Helen Jaco, March 24, 1884. They had eight children. They moved to Texas in 1901.

Joseph Clayton Gates was one of those eight children. He married Annie Kinsey. Of their six children, Victor was the youngest, born in Mason, Texas, October 7, 1930. Victor graduated from high school in Sheridan, Texas, then earned his bachelor’s degree at Texas A & I in Kingsville. He joined the navy and was stationed in Alaska. When he returned home, he got his master’s degree at Texas A & M in College Station. He became an engineer for the city of Houston and helped design Interstate 45 before moving to New York, New York. Some of Victor’s more interesting engineering projects were a skating rink for the service men stationed in Alaska, engineering designs at New York’s Shea Stadium and Central Park. Victor was employed and retired from the city of New York Park Service.

Victor loved birds and animals. He could sit on his screen porch and watch a bald eagle build her nest in a tree nearby, watch a roadrunner walk along the porch railing and peek in at him. The roadrunner is also known as a paisano by people in the far south. They say that the paisano left the sign of a cross with every step. Deer, turkeys, raccoons and other wild animals claimed the property. Victor and Verne thought it would be nice if other people could enjoy the birds and animals as they did.

Verne R. Rogers
1924 – 1999

There are those who dream of better times and are willing to sacrifice and work for them. And when they achieve their dreams through dedication and perseverance they share its fruits with others.

Verne Rogers was one of these. He grew up in Texas, mainly San Antonio, during the Great Depression. Although of very modest means, his parents, Elmer & Floy Rogers, instilled in him and his three brothers character traits– integrity, self-discipline, devotion to family–that served them well throughout their lives.

As the adage goes, Verne Rogers pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. He held part-time jobs throughout most of his academic years. After graduating from high school at age 15, he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin.

His studies were interrupted by World War II, during which he served as a naval officer from 1942 to 1946. He then re-enrolled at the university, graduating with highest honors in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He then passed the examination for certification as a public accountant. He later obtained a master’s degree in business administration, again at UT, and attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration.

In 1948 he accepted a position as an assistant controller with Humble Oil Co. in Houston. After Humble was acquired by Exxon he was transferred to its home office in New York City where he eventually became controller for Exxon’s Middle East operations.

In 1961, when the dam for Greer’s Ferry Lake was under construction, he and his long-time friend, Victor C. Gates, bought 75 acres of what would become mostly water frontage. Their purpose was to build a retirement home for themselves, surrounded by the peace and quiet of nature’s wonders where they could indulge their hobbies of fishing and gardening.

The location of their future home required them to build, at their expense, a mile-long road with buried utility lines. They jokingly called it the Rogers-Gates expressway. All was finally completed in 1989 and they moved into it as their final retirement home.

The Foundation

After Verne’s death in 1999, Victor established the Gates-Rogers Foundation to create a nature preserve as they had often talked of doing, funding it with monies from their estates and bequeathing 65 of the 75 acres to the Foundation upon Victor’s death in 2004.

There are those who dream of better times. Verne and Victor did and after fulfilling their dreams through hard work they left a legacy that will be enjoyed for ages by those who appreciate the natural beauty of this land.