JAMES M. RADFORD. It is a conceded fact that in all western Texas there is no man who controls and dispatches a greater volume of business than does James M. Radford, and he stands today as a representative of the best type of the American citizen and business man. Like so many others of the leading men of Texas today, he owes more to the capital embraced in a fine physical organization, a well poised brain and strong determination than to the inherited wealth of a line of ancient ancestors. His record is a splendid illustration of what it is possible for a young man to accomplish when he has the disposition to dare and to do.
Mr. Radford is a native Texan, his birth having occurred in Fayette county, September 23, 1862. His father, John P. Redford [sic], was born in Morgan county, Georgia, and was married to Harriet C. Nunnally, also a native of that county. They removed to Texas in 1857, settling in Fayette county. In their family were seven children, five sons and two daughters, of whom James was the sixth in order of birth. Two of the children died in infancy. The father was a farmer and stock-raiser, following that occupation through the greater part of his life and for a number of years he was indirectly connected with merchandising. In 1865 he established a stock ranch in Falls county, about seven miles from where Marlin now stands. About 1867 the Houston & Texas Central Railroad was completed into Bryan, and he removed his family from the ranch to that place in order to give his children the advantage of better schools. He was largely instrumental in building up the town, making heavy investments there and contributing in substantial measure to the material progress and improvement of that city. He died in Abilene, Texas, in 1902, and his wife still resides there.
James M. Radford was educated in the schools of Bryan and his first business enterprise was in the line of merchandising. He became a clerk in the employ of his brother-in-law, W. B. Morse, of Bryan, with whom he remained for several years. In October, 1883, when twenty-one years of age, he came to Abilene and established a retail grocery business in his own. He has continuously done business in Abilene from that day to the present time and his now extensive wholesale enterprise is the outgrowth of the small business which he instituted in 1883. The J. M. Radford Grocery Company is now doing the largest volume of business of any house west of Fort Worth and ranks as one of the most extensive wholesale interests of Texas, while the main house is located at Abilene. They have branch houses in Colorado, Sweetwater, Cisco and Stamford. Mr. Radford, together with his brother, E. E. Radford, and his brother-in-law, J. F. Handy, have developed and own the Colorado salt mines, at Colorado, Texas. They manufacture all grades of salt and ship to all parts of Texas, and also to different places in Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico and Mexico. The two interests, however, do not represent all of the business relations of Mr. Radford, who is a man of resourceful ability and has extended his efforts into various fields of activity. He is a director of the Western National Bank of Texas, at Fort Worth, which in its last statement showed deposits of over a million dollars. He is likewise a stockholder in the Commonwealth Fire Insurance Company, of Dallas, Texas, one of the strongest and most reliable fire insurance companies of the state. He is also interested in and is vice-president of the Abilene Cotton Oil Company, one of the leading industries of the city, also vice-president of the Commercial National Bank and is one of the largest owners of real estate in Taylor county.
In October, 1887, Mr. Radford was married to Miss Bessie May Handy, a native of Missouri, and a graduate of Stephens College, of Columbia, Missouri. They now have two sons, Omar and Handy. Their home is one of the finest residences in the city of Abilene, modern in all its appointments and most tastefully furnished. It was completed in 1904 and one of its chief charms is its gracious hospitality.
Fraternally Mr. Radford is connected with the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Knights of Pythias, holding membership with the lodges in Abilene. He is pre-eminently a business man of marked enterprise, keen discernment and of intense and well directed activity. In the management of all of his affairs he has introduced original ideas and methods, working along such lines as his judgment prompts, and his efforts have resulted in the annual increase of the business, which has now reached mammoth proportions. Even in times of general financial depression this business has proven profitable and he is to-day one of the most substantial citizens of western Texas. Moreover he has assisted many of his friends in a financial way to make a start in life and is proud of it and feels that he has never lost a dollar in this way. Himself worthy of trust, he has trusted others and his own business career has ever been characterized by integrity that is unassailable. He is glad he is a native of Texas, and that he began his business career for himself in western Texas, as he has had the knowledge and experience, which is very valuable to any young man, of seeing his adopted home, in twenty-three years, grow from a barren, unpopulated and undeveloped country to modern civilization. He is a firm believer in Horace Greeley’s advice to young men: “Go west and grow up with the country.”
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 638-640.