Fashion / Shopping

Fort Worth’s Old Landmark Department Store Just Got Paid Back For Some Books More Than a Half Century Later

A Remarkable Tale of Making Amends at Leonard's

BY // 05.14.23

Leonard’s Department Store was a fixture in Fort Worth from 1918 through 1967. The merchandising marvel was opened by Marvin Leonard and his brother Obadiah “O.B.” Leonard, who transformed the shopping experience organizing the wares into separate departments. Though it’s been closed for more than half a century now, the landmark retailer recently received one final purchase of sorts. Marvin Leonard’s daughter Marty is sharing the tale with PaperCity Fort Worth.

It seems that a gentleman recently dropped off a heartfelt note along with a long overdue repayment at Leonard’s Museum. The museum is located at 200 Carroll Street and filled with memorabilia, keeping the story of the historic department store alive in Fort Worth.

The keepers of the museum relayed the note to Marty Leonard. The long-forgotten Leonard’s Department visitor wrote:

“As a boy I used to ride the bus into town. Poor as can be I stole books from Leonard’s. I am leaving this $100 bill to make amends. Granny and Grandpa or Sylvia and Herman Douglas would be proud. Jimmy.”

“My father closed the store for good in 1967,” Marty Leonard notes.

But after all those years, a man thought enough of the books he had stolen as a child, that he wanted to make amends. What a fabulous story. The fact that he sought to make things right all these years later and acted upon that feeling is fascinating. It’s heartwarming, commendable and inspiring all at the same time.

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The only problem is that Marty Leonard does not know how to contact the man. She’d love to respond to him directly to thank him for the gesture, but doesn’t know how.

So Jimmy if you happen to read this, here’s what Marty would like you to know:

“I cannot imagine a more heartfelt response after all these years and wish I could find the man so I could thank him personally,” Marty Leonard tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “This is just more evidence of how customers felt about Leonard’s and what it meant to the community. Leonard’s always had loyal customers, but his note and $100 bill goes above and beyond.

“Thank you Jimmy. And and I am sure Sylvia and Herman Douglas would be very proud of you.”

Inside Leonard's Department Store, with tinsel beginning the Christmas decorations.
Inside Leonard’s Department Store, with tinsel beginning the Christmas decorations.

Leonard’s Department Store Legacy in Fort Worth

This landmark Fort Worth department store began as Leonard Brothers Dry Goods Company along Houston Street in downtown in 1918. What started as a tiny storefront grew to encompass several buildings, both new and old, in the area that is now home to The Worthington Renaissance Hotel.

The Herman and Sylvia Douglas mentioned by both Jimmy and Marty Leonard were a blind couple who became singing street missionaries. They were constant figures on the sidewalk outside of Leonard’s Department Store. The Douglases sang hymns throughout the day and handed gospel tracts and pencils to passers-by.

The singing couple were fixtures there for decades, along with Frankie Brierton, who was physically hindered due to spinal meningitis. Lacking a wheelchair, Brierton got around on his hands and knees. He sold pencils and at Christmastime he sold “pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue.” Yes, Brierton is the same man who inspired Willie Nelson to write his famous Christmas song “Pretty Paper.”

Older Fort Worthians especially recall Christmastime at Leonard’s, when the store and its holiday displays were a sight to behold. But for one boy who used to ride the bus into town, it was apparently the book section that drew his attention most of all.

Thank you Jimmy for the life lesson, and the reminder to us all to offer that long overdue apology and to repay the debt that’s owed. It’s never too late to make amends.

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