BROWNSVILLE, Texas – John H. Hunter was born at the turn of the century in Central Texas. Hunter and his family came to the Rio Grande Valley around 1922 and around 1929 they set up a refrigeration company. It was hard for them at the time due to the Great Depression but by their personality, specifically his, they built a thriving business.
Almost immediately Hunter got into civic affairs and volunteerism. His first real assignment was as the president of the Rotary. Around 1939 he became president of the chamber of commerce. In 1943 and 1944 he was president of the Charro Days organization.
There are about five or six landmark legacies that John Hunter gave to the area. Hunter just did not talk about things, he did them. The first issue he contributed to in legacy was Charro Days. The Jacob Brown Auditorium Complex was completed around 1954. The Zachary Taylor Library is where John Hunter really gave a physical legacy beyond his volunteerism. The Taylor library was the second real home for Brownsville’s library collection. It was in a creative sense because it evolved into a city college library.
In 1954 John Hunter had just joined the board of Texas Southmost College. He started a collection because he saw the inventory of what Brownsville had in the way of books and maps. Actual documents from the Mexican war period, U.S. Civil War period, Mexican Revolution period and they were all housed there. Hunter started collecting these volumes, maps and photographs and it eventually it was called the John Hunter Collection.
After his death it was renamed the John Hunter Memorial Library. The collection still resides in Brownsville but has been in transition since 2015. All of academia that would have access to it would have a gold mine at their disposal. Upon that point of it being named the John Hunter Memorial Library this particular building was superseded by another library that was at Texas Southmost College.
Besides Charro Days and the library there was a very interesting contribution that he gave. In the early 1960’s it was centered on the Rancho del Cielo down in Tamaulipas not too far from Victoria. Hunter was enamored with this particular project. The ranch itself was about 400 acres and it was started by a Canadian. It was inherited later on by Frank Harrison. Frank Harrison passed away but he was a very good friend of John Hunter’s and prior to that John Hunter put a lot of time into arranging this and these were the wishes of Frank Harrison to have the ranch down there donated to Texas Southmost College as a research laboratory for nature.
That particular research laboratory was a gift to the students of biology, botany. It was a little microcosm of beautiful nature tucked away in the mountains of Mexico. He worked on that project for many years. Hunter finally got it evolved on over into the possession and the trust for Texas Southmost College.
The legacies given by John H. Hunter to our community show a man that was constantly focusing on what was good for his area. He got involved with these projects in a manner that was so dedicated, and the rest is history.