Wyatt C. Hedrick: Distinguished Architect, "Man of Distinction"

By Frances Hallam Hurt, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 27, 1950; used with permission.

Wyatt. C. Hedrick

If you might as well hang for a sheep as a lamb, then it's just possible that you might as well be called a Man of Distinction as a distinguished man.

Anyway, whatever his “druthers,” as they say in Wyatt C. Hedrick's adopted Texas, that's what happened to him. An architectural and engineering giant with almost $700,000,000 worth of projects behind him, Hedrick nonetheless remained a fairly nebulous figure until his photograph appeared, polished and poised, in magazines all over the nation as officially a Man of Distinction, Order of Lord Calvert, in that company's series of ads. The folks back home finally pushed their hats back on their heads and whistled. There seemed to be something to the rumors about that Hedrick boy, after all. So, at 62, Hedrick is in the curious position of owing his sudden national prominence to a whisky advertisement instead of to the great structures which have given the real lustre to his name.

Hedrick's involuted road to popular recognition brought into the spotlight not only a remarkable architect, but an architect with a remarkable story.

Wyatt C. Hedrick, born fourth in a family of nine to the Wash C. Hedricks of the practically invisible community of Museville in Pittsylvania County in 1888, walked to his two-room country school, worked his way through college and learned engineering the hard way, by carrying a chain and running an instrument. Some 30 years later this same man designed an $80,000,000 naval base in Trinidad among his many multimillion dollar jobs for the government. On the glamour side, he designed the fabled $20,000,000 Shamrock Hotel in Houston for Glenn McCarthy, a Texas reputedly of such Texanishness that you'd no sooner expect him to let a Virginian design his baby than Grandma Moses.

Although Hedrick's main preoccupation seems to be with the mighty — such as the $50,000,000 plants for the Aluminum Company of America, hospitals, civic buildings, universities and schools — rather than with the mundane, he also designs residences. He finds the ranch-style house, so beloved in Texas, to his personal liking in a country where the kind of house you live in can make a big difference in how comfortable you are. He, no doubt, has few complaints himself, on the score of comfort, even in Texas, as his principal ranch home, “Anacacho,” looks like that of a Spanish grandee before the Republic. This is a far cry from the white farmhouse where he grew up, looking out over hills greener than the Shamrock lobby.

From the beginning, Hedrick seems to have been different from his brothers, but not too different. He played football and baseball, hunted and fished and worked on the farm, but his oldest sister, Mrs. W. E. Bolling of Lynchburg, remembers him most clearly as bent over his books by the big open fire in their mother's bedroom. Another sister, Mrs. Clark Hodges, of Museville, remembers what her father always said of him when they returned from road- repairing trips. The elder Hedrick, in addition to being a tobacco farmer, was foreman in charge of highway repairs. In those days, when he and the crew took off, they camped on the road until the work was done. Wyatt generally got in on these expeditions, often as cook. His father's standing comment was that Wyatt held the frying pan in one hand and a book in the other.

One of Hedrick's Museville schoolmates, Harry Wood Smith, of Danville, who is also singularly connected by way of being a double brother-in-law (one of his sisters married Irving Hedrick, of Museville and the other Dick Hedrick, of Lanette, Ala.), remembers that Wyatt always said he was going to be President. Smith takes a sharp interest in this matter, as Wyatt promised to make him Vice-President.

After graduating from Chatham High School, Hedrick entered Roanoke College. He worked his way through three years there then took a BA degree at Washington and Lee University in 1910, all without having drawn up his personal prints for a career as architect and engineer.

It seems to have been a combination of the Texas girls he met at Randolph-Macon in Lynchburg, plus his first post-graduate job (Lane Brothers Construction Company, at Marcus Hook, Pa.), which finally shaped his career.

As nearly as Mrs. Bolling recalls, the young man went West in 1913 to see some of the girls he knew and has been back only on visits since.

He got a job with Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation in Fort Worth as an engineer, which represented a lot of self-education for a boy with a BA degree. He had had no architectural experience until 1922, when he went with the firm of Sanguinet & Staats, forming a partnership of Sanguinet, Staats & Hedrick, of Fort Worth. The big break for him seems to have come after the first world war, when he laid out Love Field at Dallas. When an architect from Fort Worth gets a big job in Dallas, that's news.

From that original surveyor's chain he carried, Hedrick has developed offices in Fort Worth, Houston and Dallas, manned by 150 employees. His official home is the aforesaid "Anacacho" at Spofford, some 300 miles from any of the offices. He has several other ranch homes, all equally remote. He commutes to his offices by plane.

Two of his brothers, Luther Hedrick, of Wichita Falls, who made his in oil, and Russell Hedrick, resident architect and engineer at Texas Tech in Lubbock, are also pretty well Texanized. Another brother and sister, Claude Hedrick, of Alexandria, and Mrs. John Bennett, of Danville, complete the family roll call.


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