Jackie Autry, wife of actor Gene Autry, in 1985. Glossy photograph, 2x4 inches, from the archive of the (Allentown, Penn.) Morning Call.
Photograph accompanies Associated Press report about Jackie withdrawing the offer of a museum in Burbank (see below).
Before it burned to the ground in 1962, Gene Autry (1907-1998) and his first wife, Ina (1911-1980), intended to build a Western history museum on their Melody Ranch property in Placerita Canyon.
"I had always planned to erect a Western museum there," Gene Autry later wrote,
"but priceless Indian relics and a collection of rare guns, including a set used by Billy the Kid, went up in smoke."
After Ina's death, Gene married his banker, Jackie Ellam, in 1981. Jackie (b. 1941) took the reins of the Autry Foundation, which had been started by Gene and Ina, and pressed on with the museum-building effort.
"As for my plans for a Western museum," Gene wrote, "this came to fruition with the opening in 1988 — after much hard work spearheaded by my wife Jackie and Joanne Hale — of the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, located in Griffith Park opposite the Los Angeles Zoo."
But it wasn't that simple. Jackie first sought to erect the museum in Burbank, as discussed below.
Autry's Wife Withdraws Offer of Museum in Burbank
The Associated Press | May 2, 1985
Burbank, Calif. (AP) — The wife of former singing cowboy and baseball magnate Gene Autry said she withdrew her offer to build a $2 million museum featuring Western memorabilia in Burbank because of opposition from residents she says were misinformed.
In a letter to Burbank Mayor Daniel Remy, Jackie Autry said her decision came after a group of residents complained the Gene Autry Heritage Museum would ruin Buena Vista Park, the proposed site. She said Tuesday that she intended to build the museum elsewhere.
The Autry Foundation, a charitable trust created by Autry's first wife, who died in 1980, had proposed last November that a $2 million museum be built to house Western art, boots, guns, saddles and memorabilia of Autry and other cowboy stars.
Her 77-year-old husband, a former cowboy star, owns the California Angels baseball team, five radio stations, a music publishing company and the Gene Autry Hotel in Palm Springs.
History of the Autry National Center in Griffith Park
From The Autry, 2015
The Autry in Griffith Park, originally the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage, was co-founded by Gene and Jackie Autry and Monte and Joanne Hale. With the opening of the Museum in 1988, Gene Autry realized his dream "to build a museum which would exhibit and interpret the heritage of the West and show how it influenced America and the world." Mr. Autry was a legendary recording and movie star whose illustrious career spanned some 60 years in the entertainment industry. He was also a broadcast executive and major league baseball owner.
In January 2004 the museum merged with the Southwest Museum to create the Autry National Center of the American West. Today thousands of visitors, children and adults alike, learn the fascinating history of America's West through the Autry's world-class collections of art and artifacts.
About Jackie Autry
From The Autry, 2015
Jacqueline Ellam Autry came to California in 1959. At age seventeen she began working at Security First National Bank (later Security Pacific National Bank) as a switchboard operator. She became an assistant manager for the bank at the age of twenty-four and went on to become the thirteenth female vice president at the time of her appointment. She retired from the bank on July 17, 1981, and on July 19, 1981, she married Gene Autry. She is the only woman ever to serve on the Major League Baseball Executive Council and is honorary president of the American League. She was senior vice president of Golden West Baseball (California Angels) and Golden West Broadcasters.
Jackie Autry is the founding chair of the Autry Board of Trustees and a life trustee of the Autry National Center. She is also director and president of the Autry Foundation and president of Gene Autry Music Group and Flying A Pictures. In addition, she is vice chair for Aerospace Technologies Group, a trustee of the Eisenhower Medical Center, and a director of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center. Mrs. Autry has been honored with United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society’s Spirit of Los Angeles Award for fourteen consecutive years. In addition to her many other honors she is also the recipient of the Congressional Horizon Award, the National Arthritis Foundation Award, the June Ebensteiner Humanitarian Award, and the Jack Webb Award from the Los Angeles Police Department.