GREAT CITIZENS - JAMES MARION WEST, JR.
Throughout the twentieth century, however, there were those who contributed to Houston's reputation as the "city of wealth." Few so colorfully projected the image as "Silver Dollar Jim," an attorney, oil man, cattle rancher and eccentric.
"Silver Dollar Jim" West was born on September 26, 1903 in San Antonio, Texas to Jesses Dudlin and James Marion West, Sr. When West was two years old, his father moved the family to Houston and later made a fortune in cattle ranching and in the lumber industry. Young Jim West attended the old Houston Central High School and Southwestern University in Georgetown, later studying law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin.
"Silver Dollar Jim" typified the spirit of the so called "eccentric Texas Millionaire," if anyone did. He tipped only with silver dollars--often 20 or 25 at a time. For his own amusement he would toss a handful of them on the floor of a restaurant and watch while waitresses scrambled for them. To entertain guests at swimming parties, "Silver Dollar Jim would drop a number of coins into the pool to observe other guest diving for them.
His standard tip for doormen at the Shamrock Hotel, whenever they delivered one of his 40 Cadillac's to the front door, was three silver dollars. When the color blue took his fancy, he had all his personal and business cars so painted.
His eccentricity was not limited to silver dollars nor to the color blue. West loved radio. He owned a radio station and had as many as eight antennae on innumerable personal cars. He was very interested in law enforcement and was especially supportive of the Houston Police Department. West assisted the force in various ways: he placed his powerful radio receiver at the disposal of the Houston Police; he attended police conferences and was known to cruise with their patrols and held a Texas Ranger's Commission. West died on December 18, 1957 at the age of 54.