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Mary Couts Burnett
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Birth: Jul., 1856
Lawrence County
Arkansas, USA
Death: Dec. 16, 1924
Fort Worth
Tarrant County
Texas, USA

Mary Couts Barradel Burnett was born in Spring River, Arkansas in July of 1859, one of five children of James Robertson Couts, a banker who had moved to Texas from Robertson County, Tennessee. Her first marriage was to Claude Barradel, who soon left her a young widow. Around 1892 she married wealthy Texas rancher Samuel Burk Burnett and the couple settled in Fort Worth. They had one son, Samuel Burk Burnett, Jr., who died in their Fort Worth home in 1916 at the age of 21. Mary and Burk's marriage was unhappy and tumultuous. At some point, Mary became convinced that her husband was trying to kill her. Burk attributed these fears to hallucinations, had his wife declared legally insane, and confined her in a private home in Weatherford.

She stayed there until the day of her husband's death in 1922, when she escaped from her confinement, returned to Fort Worth, and quickly succeeded in having her insanity status revoked with the assistance of her physician, Dr. Charles H. Harris. She next challenged her husband's will, in which he had left the bulk of his estate to his granddaughter Anne, and in 1923 was awarded half of his $6 million fortune.

Mary immediately began organizing her plans for the distribution of her inheritance upon her death. One has to wonder if Mary was plotting revenge on her deceased husband. The story has it that Burk Burnett, a notoriously rough character, had plainly expressed that no church or school would ever get any of his money. Mary, in what may have been the ultimate case of "having the last laugh" decided that Texas Christian University in Fort Worth would receive most of the $3 million (about $30 million today). Though she had no immediate ties to the school, her father had been an admirer of Addison Clark, co-founder and first president of the school, and had, in fact, contributed money to the school. Mary was interested in seeing her money remain in Fort Worth and both Dr. Harris and her lawyer, William J. Slay, supported her decision. Her gift to TCU, at that time one of the largest fortunes ever left to an educational institution in Texas, was announced in December 1923, and a board of trustees, which she chaired, was established to administer it.

At her death, Mary's sisters challenged her will by trying to use the insanity charge again. An out-of-court settlement was reached, with TCU retaining the majority of the initial gift with the stipulation that part of the bequest be set aside for the construction of a building bearing her name. Work on a new library began soon after the gift was announced and she was able to see the Mary Couts Burnett Library partially constructed by the time of her death. The library was dedicated in March 1925 and bears her name to this day.

She was described by one historian as "a woman of refinement and culture with a strong interest in education." In addition to her gift to TCU, the trust also provided $12,000 for the Dixon Colored Orphanage in Gilmer, for the teaching of domestic science. Mary also stipulated that her body be made available for medical researchers at her death. She died in Fort Worth on December 16, 1924, shortly after suffering a stroke. Her funeral was held on December 18 in her Fort Worth home and she was ultimately buried with her son and husband at Oakwood Cemetery, Fort Worth.
Family links: 
  James Robertson Couts (1833 - 1904)
  Martha Hardin Couts (1829 - 1894)
  Samuel Burk Burnett (1849 - 1922)
  Claude Wills Barradall (1845 - 1884)*
  Samuel Burk Burnett (1895 - 1916)*
  Mary Couts Burnett (1856 - 1924)
  Susie Couts Grant (1859 - 1926)*
  Martha D. Couts Putman (1861 - 1926)*
  J. R. Couts (1864 - 1915)*
  Margaret Couts Moseley (1866 - 1925)*
  Leah Couts Anderson (1868 - 1934)*
*Calculated relationship
Oakwood Cemetery
Fort Worth
Tarrant County
Texas, USA
Created by: Billie
Record added: Aug 15, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 40707548
Mary <i>Couts</i> Burnett
Added by: Billie
Mary <i>Couts</i> Burnett
Added by: Billie
Mary <i>Couts</i> Burnett
Added by: Billie
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