Dateline: June 13, 2002


Grace Mae Leathers passed away Friday at the age of 100 following a brief hospitalization in Clarendon, Texas.

She was born on September 6, 1901, in Clarksville, Tennessee to Zachariah  and Mary Batson, and rode to Donley County in a covered wagon as an infant with her family, arriving in mid-1902. She lived within ten miles of where her family settled for the rest of her life.

Grace married DeVerdie Eugene Leathers on August 4, 1918, and established a family farm near Lelia Lake. The couple had two children, Johnny Eugene and Margaret Jean. The family held onto their farm through the “dustbowl” years and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

In 1966, Grace and DeVerdie moved into a new home in Clarendon but continued to operate the farm.

They took their first trip to Colorado in 1919 and continued to tour the western states every year for the next eight decades.

In 1940 Grace and her family were chosen in a nationwide contest conducted by major metropolitan daily newspapers, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, as the “Typical American Family.”

The Leathers were flown aboard a chartered American Airlines plane to Detroit, Michigan, where Henry Ford gave them a 1940 Super Deluxe sedan and entertained them at his private estate.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt invited them to the White House. Mr. Ford sent them to Washington, D.C., aboard a special train consisting of a locomotive, Mr. Ford’s private car, and a caboose.

U.S. News & World Report featured the Presidential visit, including a photograph of Grace and her family in the Oval Office with the President, who introduced them to reporters as “my family.”

When asked by a reporter many years later about the selection process for the contest, Grace said “I just wrote out a few pages about how we lived. How we raised our own food, slaughtered our own hogs, made our own soap and survived the dirty ‘30s. I suppose they just liked the way we were plain folk.”

Grace was living at home, by herself, until just a few weeks before her passing. She was keenly interested in visits to the farm at least once a week to “check up on things” and was still able to cook her own meals, do her own laundry, and take care of her own housekeeping at the age of 100.

Grace was a long-time member of the First Baptist Church of Clarendon.

On the occasion of her 100th birthday in 2001, she gave to each of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren a leather-bound Biblical reference book with the inscription “May you ‘Seek Ye First’ the Lord and find Him ‘Your Shepherd’ as I have throughout my life.  May God bless you.”

Grace was preceded in death by DeVerdie in 1990 and by grandson Jay Williams in 1977.

She is survived by her son, Johnny Eugene Leathers of Clarendon; her daughter, Margaret Jean Williams of Dolores, Colorado; granddaughter Sharon McAnear of Durango, Colorado; grandsons David Leathers of Amarillo; Richard Leathers of Dodd City, Texas; Jan Williams of Denver, Colorado; and eight great-grandchildren.

Funeral services were held Monday, June 17, 2002, at 3:00 p.m. at the First Baptist Church in Clarendon with Rev. Truman Ledbetter, Pastor, and Rev. Richard Leathers, grandson, officiating. Interment was in Citizens Cemetery with arrangements under the direction of Robertson Funeral Directors, Inc., of Clarendon.

Casket bearers were Daniel Tate, David Leathers, Timothy Leathers, Jan Williams, Wayne Leathers, Clarence Murray, Jr., Ernest W. Barbee, Dave Croslin, Cecil McAfee, and Mac Devin.

Copyright © 2002, The Clarendon Enterprise. All Rights Reserved.