The Moody Foundation
traces its roots in Galveston history to 1866, when, at the age
of one, William Lewis
Moody, Jr. moved to the island with his mother and father, an entrepreneur
and Civil War veteran. Although W.L. Moody, Jr. would not charter
the foundation bearing his family name until 1942, he spent his entire
life building the businesses, including banks, newspapers, ranches,
hotels and the American National Insurance Company, that would form
the basis of the foundation’s assets.
W.L. Moody, Jr. and his wife, Libbie Rice
Shearn Moody, were prominent Galvestonians at a time when the city
was one of the nation’s
largest seaports and the most sophisticated place in Texas. Their
four children, Mary Elizabeth Moody Northen, W.L. III, Shearn, and
Libbie Moody Thompson, were born in the decade before the 1900 Storm
as both the Moody ventures and Galveston flourished.
Mr. and Mrs. W.L. Moody, Jr. established
the Moody Foundation “to
benefit in perpetuity present and future generations of Texans.” This
has been and continues to be the mission and clear directive upheld
by subsequent generations of the Moody family. Their daughter, Mary
Moody Northen, served as chairman of the foundation for many years,
and was a trustee of the Foundation from its creation until her death
in 1986. Today, the Foundation is represented by trustees from the
third and fourth generation of the founders’ family.
During the Foundation’s early years, its contributions were
largely directed toward local charities. One of its first major grants
was in 1947 for relief efforts in the wake of the Texas City Disaster,
a chemical explosion that still ranks as the nation’s worst
In 1960, when W.L. Moody’s estate was transferred to the
Moody Foundation, the Foundation began operations on a broader scale,
awarding grants throughout Texas. During this era, private colleges
and universities were the recipients of large capital grants, followed
by support of children’s health projects, libraries, and historic
The Moody Foundation was instrumental in
of its historic past, making grants that enabled the Galveston
Historical Foundation to purchase and save many buildings in the island’s
older neighborhoods and The Historic Strand District and to acquire
and refurbish the sailing barque Elissa.
The 1970s and 1980s were a period of rapid growth for the Foundation.
Major foundation-initiated projects were approached proactively to
meet existing needs and to build creatively for the future. During
this time, the Foundation completed Shearn
Moody Plaza, restoring
the former Santa Fe train depot and headquarters building into a
Center for Transportation and Commerce (Railroad Museum) and offices
for many local nonprofit organizations.
The regional theater now known as the Galveston
Island Musicals was also established, followed by the Transitional
Learning Center and the first of many phases of development at Moody Gardens.
In 1996, the Foundation opened its first
office outside of Galveston to assist in the grantmaking process
for most of North Texas. While
Austin and Dallas funding currently constitutes a small fraction
of the Foundation’s overall annual awards, the grantmaking
directed to these cities continues to grow. In the Austin area, there
is a particular emphasis on children’s issues and environmental
projects, and in Dallas, social services and arts education are high
The Moody Foundation’s assets are
now approximately $1 billion.