W.L. Moody, Jr.


Libbie Rice
Shearn Moody


Foundation History

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 industrial accident.

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 preservation.

The Moody Foundation was instrumental in Galveston’s revival 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 priorities.

The Moody Foundation’s assets are now approximately $1 billion.