Ruth Carter Stevenson Timeline

"Great museums owe their success to creative and magnanimous people, all working together to collect, preserve, and interpret art."

Ruth Carter Stevenson

The daughter of the Museum’s namesake, Amon G. Carter Sr. (1879–1955), Stevenson was solely responsible for seeing that her father’s wish to establish a museum for the city of Fort Worth was realized. Under her leadership, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art opened to the public in January 1961. Her involvement with the arts reached far beyond the state of Texas: the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Trust for Historic Places, the American Federation of Arts, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The Carter exists today because of Stevenson, and it is just one of her legacies.

A black-and-white photo of a young White woman leaning against a pillar on the Museum's façade.



Ruth Carter is born on October 19 at the Baptist hospital on Pennsylvania Avenue, Fort Worth.


Attends the new North Hi-Mount Elementary School, Stripling Middle School, and Arlington Heights High School, counting among her earliest friends future Fort Worth Circle artist Cynthia Brants and future first librarian of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Nancy Graves.


Attends the Madeira School in McLean, Virginia, taking her first art history course, which includes trips to the Freer Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Attends Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s third inaugural celebration. Amon G. Carter is friends with the Roosevelts (whose son Elliot married Fort Worth native Ruth Googins and settled there) and former Vice President John Nance Garner, a fellow Texan.

Her parents divorce in early 1941.


Attends Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, New York, with her childhood friend Cynthia Brants. She and Brants often visit galleries in New York City, and she tries to buy her first artwork, by Lyonel Feininger, but cannot because her father, Amon G. Carter Sr., does not care for modernist works and will not grant her the money.


Marries J. Lee Johnson III of Fort Worth while he is in law school at Notre Dame. Their first child, Sheila Johnson, is born on August 21 in South Bend the following year.


Successfully acquires her first artwork from Knoedler Gallery, New York. Her selection of a French impressionist piece by Mary Cassatt is also influenced by her visit to the Art Institute of Chicago to see their Impressionist exhibition the previous year. Lacking a place to hang it, she approaches Sam Cantey III of the Fort Worth Art Association, who is delighted to hang it in the Association’s galleries on the second floor of the public library.


Ruth Carter Johnson becomes a member of the board of the Fort Worth Art Association, which also includes Sam Cantey III, patron of the Fort Worth Circle, along with other collectors of the Ashcan school, American landscapes, and George Inness. The association includes in its permanent collection Thomas Eakins’ Swimming Hole (1885), purchased by the Association’s founder, Sally Gillespie, from Eakins’ widow. Late in the year, the Association and Amon G. Carter Sr. arrange for Knoedler Gallery to stage an exhibition at the public library, including works by Winslow Homer. This is the first major American art exhibition in Fort Worth.

J. Lee Johnson III earns his law degree from Notre Dame in June, and J. Lee Johnson IV is born on September 27.



Ruth Carter Johnson begins collecting regionalist works acquired from Electra Carlin, whose gallery represents artists such as John Guerin and the Fort Worth Circle’s Kelly Fearing.

Begins her Junior League membership and is elected president in 1954. She works with the Fort Worth Circle’s Bror Utter on an art education program for all fifth graders in Fort Worth to participate in an annual art lecture at the Fort Worth Art Association gallery.

Actively lobbies for reforestation and beautification projects along the Trinity River following the massive 1949 flood.


Karen Johnson is born on March 19.


Works with Sam Cantey III, president of the Fort Worth Art Association, and architect Herbert Bayer on the design of the Association’s new building; the association eventually becomes the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.


Kate Johnson is born on December 6.


The Herbert Bayer-designed Fort Worth Art Association building opens with studio space for art instruction, such as Blanche McVeigh’s classes on etching and printmaking and Flora and Dickson Reeder’s school for theater.


Travels with Bishop Fulton Sheen and Father Edward O’Meara to New York, Rome, Paris, Lourdes, and London. During these trips, she makes excursions to the major sites and ruins in Rome, has an audience with Pope John XXIII, and on several occasions is given personal tours by the Vatican archivist.


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