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Who Was John Ben Shepperd?

John Ben Shepperd devoted countless hours and energy to the people of Texas during his 50 year career as a public servant and private citizen. He served as Texas Secretary of State and as Texas Attorney General. As a private citizen, he served as an advisor and confidant to seven Texas Governors and innumerable legislators at both the state and federal level. He was a friend to President Lyndon Johnson and assisted in several events and activities during the Johnson Administration.

Over the course of his lifetime, General Shepperd received numerous honors and awards. He was named one of the “Five Outstanding Young Texans,” one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men of America,” the “Texan of the Year,” the “Outstanding West Texan” and the recipient of the “Texas Lyceum’s Stewardship of Texas Values Award.” Despite the many accolades, General Shepperd emphasized that the awards were not the ultimate goal, but serving one’s community and country was what mattered. His life clearly demonstrated this philosophy. He chaired or served on over 300 boards, commissions and committees including his service as President of the National Jaycees. He worked tirelessly to help create the Texas Commission on the Arts as well as the Texas Historical Commission’s highway marker system denoting sites of historical importance.

John Ben took every opportunity to awaken Texans to their responsibilities and duties as citizens, and was famous for his pithy admonitions to citizens to participate in public life. He said:

— “It is time we quit this starry-eyed pipe-dreaming of a panacea that will restore national security, economy, and moral equilibrium. There is one primary force which leads a nation to lasting greatness or to destruction, and that force is the character of its people.”

— “The Federal Government has become a gigantic stock broker who invests the people’s money and too often loses their shirt.”

— “Big government is due to small citizenship.”

— “We are spending money so wildly that we force the government to tax at a tremendous rate. What’s the difference, whether the government owns everything and pays individual a salary to run it, or whether individuals run their own businesses and to all practical purposes turn their income over to the government? That is just what we are drifting into. We wouldn’t call it socialism, any more than we would call a whale a fish, but a whale looks like a fish, swims like a fish, and certainly smells like a fish.”

Throughout his career, John Ben Shepperd stood as the ultimate embodiment of a concerned citizen who believed that public leadership was the highest calling a person could receive and answer. He led by example and eventually fostered improved opportunities for men and women in areas of public service, education, politics, humanities, culture, beautification, historical preservation and free enterprise. He was a talented orator who coined the phrase, “Freedom is Not Free.” That phrase is now emblazoned on the Korean War Memorial in our Nation’s capitol and is also the name of a collection of his speeches to young people. He authored a book on the management of volunteer organizations and also found time to write children’s stories. His legacy of public service continues through the Shepperd Leadership Institute’s programs and the lives of individuals who have been influenced by his ethics, morals, values and his truly effective style of leadership.

Click here for a short video about John Ben Shepperd’s life, entitled The Life and Legacy of John Ben Shepperd.

Dr. Robert Brescia’s 2015 book, The Americanism of John Ben Shepperd, describes Shepperd’s love for Texas, freedom, and the American way of life. To purchase a copy, visit the publisher’s website; for reviews of the book, visit the Odessa American and Lone Star Literary Life.