One Special Gift

An Independent Woman

While many community foundations across the country were created by gifts from several donors, Austin Community Foundation was created through the generosity of one woman

Born in 1890, Fannie Gray Files Leo grew up in Itasca, Texas, the daughter of a cotton farming family so prominent that Files Valley was named after them. Her family played a key role in developing Austin College through generous financial contributions.

After Fannie Gray graduated from Texas Presbyterian College for Girls, she taught piano and helped run a boarding house where she met Jack Leo, a traveling salesman. She moved to Connecticut to marry him.

By the 1950s Jack had the opportunity to run the Lone Star Paper Company, so Fannie Gray returned to Texas.

Making Austin Home

Although not originally from Austin, after the couple moved here they became involved in several charities

that reflected their interests. Jack served as president of the West Austin Rotary Club in 1956. Fannie Gray enjoyed her husband’s success in style, driving a pink Cadillac El Dorado and having their West Austin home also painted pink.

A Quiet Decision

In the early 1970s Fannie Gray Leo met with bank trustee George K. Meriwether, seeking his advice following her husband Jack's death. She wanted to provide for her family and favorite charities, including the cancer center where Jack received care, as well as help orphans and the elderly. At the time, Meriwether was working with local leaders to try to create a community trust.

He must have mentioned the idea to Fannie Gray because upon her death in 1975 Meriwether discovered that she had earmarked 5% of her estate, or $30,000 (valued in today’s dollars at about $120,000), to create the Austin Community Foundation. It took two years for this new entity to be established.

--Robin Bradford