This was one incredible woman. She was born in Missouri but wound up with her husband and two young children in Sherman, Texas. At the very worst part of the great depression, her husband just left her and the children. She figured that if they were not going to starve, she had better get a job.
She went downtown and walked around the square. She picked out the store that she liked best and went in and asked to see the manager. She made it into his office and presented her case. The manager said: “Let me see if I have got this right, lady. There are a host of people outside desperately wanting a job. So, you walked around the square and picked out my store to come and work for.” Mary said: “That is correct.”
The manger explained that he didn’t need any more employees and that besides, he had a list of job applicants a “mile long”. However, Mary was quite insistent, and finally proposed to work for no salary, only on commission. The manger was so taken-aback by this that he just agreed. So, she went down to work.
On that very first day, Mary observed that most everything in the store had a price that ended in 95 or 98 or 99 cents. She knew that women in those days most all mended their own clothing and were always needing another spool of thread. So, she put the tree with spools of thread up by the cash register, and had the women take their change in spools of thread which were priced in those days at one cent per spool.
The manager was so impressed that he hired her to a regular job before the day was over.
She then moved her children down to Dallas and studied to be a CPA. She became the bookkeeper/accountant for a prominent furniture store. At that store she observed that women would come in and buy a whole complement of furniture, but that they had no idea about what colors in their home would look best with the furniture, and especially what accessories would dress-up the room to go best with the furniture. Those thoughts never left her.
She eventually got a job with a fellow who was selling such accessories on the “party plan”. In “nothing flat” she had 500 women in her pyramid group. When the owner refused to pay the money and bonuses she had earned under the plan since it was so large, she left and formed her own company.
She named it Home Interiors and Gifts. She then needed a loan to furnish the capital to grow her company. She went around to most all the banks in downtown Dallas with no success. Finally, one banker was so intrigued with her, that he made her the loan. Later, when she was putting millions of dollars into that bank’s coffers, was he ever glad that he had decided to have faith in Mary Crowley. She stayed very loyal to that bank.
She not only recruited a multitude of ladies to work for her direct selling company, she was so influential with her powerful personality, that she influenced those ladies to totally remake their lives for the better and become close to God. Those ladies’ husbands loved her too since she insisted that her ladies take special care of their husbands in all ways.
Mary was especially noted for her “sayings” that she would give her ladies to inspire them. The company even had a little book of her sayings printed. It has a powder blue cover with gold writing on the cover.
Mary would tell those ladies, all across America, as she pointed at them: “Ladies, you be somebody; God didn’t have time to make a nobody!!!”
She trained her friend Mary Kay Ash how to do direct selling. Mary Kay concentrated on selling cosmetics and skin care products. They made an unwritten deal with each other that Mary Crowley would never sell cosmetics, and Mary Kay would never sell home interior products.
As a reward, Mary Kay would have her best producers get one of her pink Cadillacs for a year. However, Mary Crowley more concentrated on “mink”. To her mink represented success and “having arrived”. Over and over she would tell her ladies……..”Think Mink!” She became famous for it.
Mary had special philanthropies that she gave too, such as her Cancer Research Center, but on top of all that, she gave away approximately 8 million dollars every year to various other special causes, like putting certain young people through Dallas Baptist University with a full scholarship.
Mary just didn’t fool with the trivial. One of her famous sayings had to do with problems that would keep most folks up at night worrying about them. Mary would say: “I am not going to worry about that tonight. I am going to turn that over to Jesus to handle and just go on to sleep. He is going to be up all night anyway!”
She was particularly interested in Dallas Baptist University and its high academics set into a Christian context. That is where we first met, as Trustees of the University. I can’t really describe it, but we became so closely bonded together. It was out of the ordinary and most unusual. When she went off that board, having served her allotted terms, I am sure that is why I was asked to be Chairman of the Board of Trustees, when I was way too young for that job. Whatever Mary wanted, she usually got.
On quite a few occasions, Mary Crowley and Mary Kay Ash would have me to lunch at some big prominent luncheon spot in Dallas. They would have some specific project that they would want me to handle. But on those occasions, there would be 50 or 60 other women in there having lunch. They would all be watching these two famous and well known ladies sitting on both sides of this young man and earnestly talking to him. It was quite obvious that they would really like to know what those two well known ladies were telling him.
Mary was so important to that company. When a big group of her ladies would be having a meeting somewhere in America it was imperative that she be there. No substitute would do. As a result, they had two Fan Jet Falcon’s and a compliment of pilots to be sure that she got there. The 2nd Falcon was just in case the first one may have some problem to keep it from flying that day. Mary was quite low-key as respects showing off, but her people insisted on those jet Falcon planes.
Late in her career she built herself a new house in one of Dallas’ “Silk Stocking” areas along Inwood road. I went there many times, but the first time, her house-warming occasion, was most impressive. “Everyone” was there. I distinctly remember visiting with Tom Landry (coach of the Dallas Cowboy’s) and his wife. Mary took me on a tour of it. I have seen some big closets. I have a big closet, but I have never seen one like the one in her bedroom. It was so long, that when you looked down it, past all that plethora of fur coats, it was like the two sides came together in the far distance.
Out back of the house on a little island in the creek she had built a private chapel. What I remember most about it was the high-backed chairs that Billy Graham had given her for it. They had come from a nunnery in Europe where the nuns would kneel in the seat of the chairs for their morning and evening prayers.
So, folks, I have gone through all this about Mary to just relate one little story concerning the theme of my new book.
At the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas in the late 1970’s there was this monster, prestigious dinner to honor a famous dignitary. All manner of people were there, including the President of the United States. As part of the program, toward the end, Mary was to speak for a short time, W. Clement Stone, who founded and was President of the Combined Insurance Companies of America and the founder of the Positive Mental Attitude Movement, was to speak for a short time, then the President was to speak, and finally Mary was to give a prayer to finish off the evening.
In order to accommodate all the dignitaries at the head table, they had constructed five levels behind it. Each level had continuous tables for eating with chairs behind them. By the time you got to the fifth level it was really high. I estimated at least over a full story in height.
I was placed in the next to the top level.
Mary now had cancer again. Most people there knew that this was probably the last time they would ever be seeing her in a public setting. The night before the dinner Mary called me. She knew that this was probably the last time she would ever be able to greet all the people there who would want to come up to see her. She also knew how tough and protective that her son could be…….that as soon as she was finished, he would just grab her and whisk her out.
She told me that the moment she finished her prayer, she wanted me to be standing right there beside her to shield her and make sure that she would be able to greet all those dear well-wishers. Mary said: “Ronald, you be right there beside me when I finish!!! Do you understand???”
So, the evening progressed. However, there was one near tragedy. Most of us had heard W. Clement Stone’s standard life story speech several times. But now he was really “up in years”. When he got up there in front of that mike he was speaking again as he had done so many, many times. He just started into his standard speech. We all knew that it lasted nearly an hour. No one wanted to wait an hour to hear the President. I was just cringing. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening didn’t know what to do. There was only one person there who could gracefully salvage the evening,…… Mary Crowley. Bless her heart, she slipped up there, put her arm around old Clement and led him back to his chair. I thought I could hear a sigh of relief across that whole vast audience.
But I had my problem. How was I going to be able to get down from my perch to be standing beside Mary just as she finished her prayer? Particularly how was I ever going to be able to get past all those Secret Service guys who were guarding the President. To come down those stairs while she was praying was going to look so out of place, which is exactly what those guys would be looking for.
The plan that I devised was to step up to the top level and walk behind all those people eating on the top level and go all the way down to the end and get down those end stairs someway. Ringing in my head were Mary’s words: “Ronald, you be there!!!”
So just as she started her prayer, I stepped up to the top level and started along behind the people there. I looked down and saw how very far it was to the concrete way down below. I remember thinking, there should be some kind of railing here. This is dangerous.
I hadn’t gotten but a very short distance when for some strange reason this big fellow just lurched back in his chair. I wasn’t expecting or anticipating such. He just toppled me off. I was headed down, head first, toward that distant concrete.
I don’t expect you to believe what happened next. I can’t even believe it. But so help me God, it is absolutely true. I just floated all the way down. I landed prone on my back as lightly as a feather. I have never ever felt such an absolutely peaceful feeling in my whole life as while I was floating down……..no broken neck, no broken leg!.
Now I was on the same level as the speaker’s rostrum. I walked around that built up structure, past two Secret Service guys, trying to look like I belonged there as best as I could. I was not stopped, and just as Mary finished her prayer, I was standing by her side.
Folks, please believe me. That floating descent was no accident!!!
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