Anne Murchison Found Clint, Oil Money and the Cowboys Weren't Enough—Without God

UPDATED 10/29/1979 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 10/29/1979 at 01:00 AM EST

Anne Murchison felt "like Cinderella marrying my Prince Charming" in 1975 when she wed Clint Murchison Jr., who owns the Dallas Cowboys and other holdings worth some $400 million. "I had money, power, status—the whole thing," she says. "I thought, 'Wow, you're really okay.' " But soon the marriage—her fourth—started "heading in the same disastrous direction as my other ones," she realized. "I was very jealous of the time Clint spent with people. I'd tirade for as long as three days. I wouldn't even let Clint sleep. I would scream, kick, bite."

In public Anne "wore my mask of being a neat, all-together person. But I was losing control even then. I prayed to a God I wasn't even sure was there to let me die." Then, after a friend took her to a meeting of the Dallas Christian Women's Club in 1976, the impulse to be born again grew. "I thought, 'I don't want it to happen now—I want a few more good times first,' " she recalls. "But then I simply said to the Lord, 'I give up.' "

There followed nine months of formal counseling, and a conviction "that keeps growing," Anne finds now at 39. "I still sin, but I confess and ask forgiveness. I let Jesus handle even the little things. Like I pray for parking spaces." She also conducts a weekly Bible group in the six-couch living room of the Murchisons' home in posh North Dallas. And her greatest joy was recruiting its newest member: Clint Murchison, 56, a 5'7", reclusive millionaire who, local journalists once said, "could get lost in a crowd of two."

That reputation wasn't just acquired by being a wallflower at country club dances. Murchison plays his investment portfolio so close to the vest that about the only time his name surfaced in public was during the Watergate investigation in 1974. It was disclosed that he and his brother John had contributed $50,000 to Richard Nixon's 1972 campaign.

His ownership of the Cowboys, though, has brought publicity, most of it positive, until this summer. Then the film version of North Dallas Forty, a novel written by ex-Cowboy receiver Pete Gent, appeared, portraying the management of the "North Dallas Bulls" as piously hypocritical and sinister. The book had been widely interpreted as a roman à cleat, but Gent insists that the Bulls' owner, played by Steve Forrest, was "not based on Clint at all." Neither Clint nor Anne has seen the movie.

Nobody contends, in any case, that Murchison preoccupies himself with the team. "You hire the best and let them run the business," he says. It's said that, like his fans, he reads about trades in the newspaper. Still, when the Cowboys lost to Miami last season, Murchison sought out coach Tom Landry, a born-again Christian himself, and surprised him with a biblical passage, from Romans 5:3-5, that begins, "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they are good for us. They help us learn to be patient."

Clint now reads Scripture nightly with Anne, who has just published a book, Milk for Babes, so titled because "it's for newborn Christians who have to be fed a little at a time." Puffs a proud Clint: "What Anne has written is for novices like me." (The book's profits will be donated to the Campus Crusade for Christ.)

The book details Anne's troubles that date right from her childhood in Norman, Okla. Her father, a traveling salesman, had witnessed the murder of his own father. Her mother was a depressed alcoholic, now dry for nine years. At 16 Anne married a Marine and bore two children—Frank Heavner, now 22, and Wendy, 19. After three years they divorced, and six months later she married an engineer who took her to Texas. They stayed together three months. At 21 she worked as a grocery checker and waitress, then became a legal secretary. For seven and a half years she was devoted to overwork and overplay. "I lived on the wild side of life," she admits. "I was looking for somebody who would stop the pain."

Anne, who had met Murchison casually years before, became part of his crowd in 1969 when she married Cowboy-player personnel director Gil Brandt. In 1973, they divorced, and 15 months later she wed Clint. Murchison had been divorced for four years from Jane Coleman, his wife of a quarter century and mother of his four children. Sons Clint III, 31, Burk, 30, and Robert, 24, work for their father, and daughter Coke Saunders, 26, is studying architecture. Though they split bitterly, Anne often runs into Brandt, still in his Cowboys' job. "I've gotten to the point where we can be civil to each other," she reports.

The son of aggressive East Texas oilman Clint Murchison Sr., Clint Jr. graduated from Duke's engineering school at the top of his class and took a master's from MIT. He grew up sharing with brother John family holdings so varied that John once quipped: "If we're not careful, we'll find out we're suing ourselves." Since John died in June, Clint now runs Murchison Brothers alone.

Sometimes venturous, Clint founded a Dallas Cowboy restaurant in Manhattan when he couldn't find a decent bowl of chili in town. He also developed the Cowboys' franchise from scratch, starting in 1960. In 1969 Murchison built the 65,000-seat Texas Stadium for $25 million; bondholders could buy lifetime private boxes for $50,000 each. They're now worth $250,000. "That's better than Dow Jones," beams Murchison. The Cowboys, twice Super Bowl champs (in a record five tries) are worth—at Murchison's conservative estimate—$20 million.

Anne says the Cowboys' crowd and Dallas society in general are now accepting her quiet proselytizing. "Particularly in the social circle we move in, people were wondering how long Clint was going to put up with this, or when I'd get over it," she says. "Now they understand I'm not going to corner them with a sermon."

Anne's parents and her children, whom she calls "badly scarred by a multi-divorced mother," have "become Christians," and Wendy teaches her Bible class when Anne is busy. Anne attends the Episcopal church, in which she was raised, while Clint, a member of Highland Park Presbyterian Church, says, "I believe there's a savior, but I'm not an evangelist like Anne."

Conversion has changed their relationship, Anne says. "It has always been very physical, and it still is, but it's much more than that. God has given us the ability to say, 'Forgive me.' " Clint, she says, is "less shy." A man he's ridden the elevator with for 25 years "told me he almost passed out when Clint said good morning for the first time."

Anne also likes to cite the little boy who came to a Bible class with his parents, looked over the Murchison's magnificent home built Mexican-style around an atrium and said, "I didn't know rich people needed God." Adds Anne: "A lot of people think that—if they're not rich."

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