Frank Wilkins McBee

Portrait of Frank Wilkins McBee Headstone Photograph Headstone Photograph

Full Name: Frank Wilkins McBee
Location: Section:Monument Hill, Section 1 (H1)
Row:K  Number:2
Reason for Eligibility: Approved, Texas State Cemetery Committee 
Birth Date: January 22, 1920 
Died: April 7, 2000 
Burial Date: April 11, 2000 

MCBEE JR., FRANK W. (1920 ~ 2000). Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 22, 1920, Frank W. McBee Jr. was the son of a French-Canadian mother from upper New York State and a father, Frank Wilkins McBee, Sr., who was a descendant of a pioneer Texas family which included Crocketts and such persons as Lon C. Hill of Harlingen, his paternal grandmother's brother. He grew up in Manor, walking the legendary "many miles" to a one-room schoolhouse, and in South Austin, where he sometimes rode his pet burro to Fulmore Junior High School.

His father, a long-time Justice of the Peace on South Congress Avenue, was often referred to as the "Law South of the Colorado," and was particularly stern with any grandchildren who might be sent to his court for speeding. Graduate of Stephen F. Austin High School, McBee was later named to its Hall of Honor. He received both bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, later becoming one of UT's Distinguished Alumni.

He taught in the Mechanical Engineering Department of UT and worked for the Defense Research Laboratory on campus before joining three friends in establishing a small company which became Tracor in the mid-1950s. The company, which was born in a briefcase, was the brainchild of physicist Richard N. Lane, its first President. He recruited McBee, Dr. Chester McKinney, and Jess Stanbrough as its founders, and these four added an attorney friend, the late Harry Pollard.

As the company developed, it moved to a small, existing former-grocery store building at Guadalupe and 17th Streets, built a two-story building next door, and then expanded into every available building in the Lavaca-Guadalupe area nearby. Eventually, Tracor, Inc. bought a large tract which became the Tracor campus on Ed Bluestein Blvd. Houston's Gerald Hines built its labs and offices.

As the company grew, McBee progressed from Treasurer to Chairman/CEO. The company grew from five employees to over 11,000 worldwide, became a Fortune 500 Company, and was the first corporation headquartered in Austin to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Working largely in defense electronics, Tracor had several other divisions, one involving medical instruments. A star subsidiary was Littlefuse of Chicago, which eventually manufactured its Autofuses for cars all over the world.

In "retirement," McBee devoted himself to his private investments and to community work. He was a trustee and fund-raiser for St. Edward's University, a trustee of the Seton Hospital Fund, Board Chairman of the Headliners Club for 10 years, a director of Radian International, two-year chairman of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, etc. Active throughout many years with the Nature Conservancy, he also supported several Arts enterprises such as the Paramount Theatre and Laguna Gloria Art Museum.

He and his family bought three Victorian mansions in the Bremond Block Historic District, beginning in the 1960s, lived there for some 25 years and continue to office there. He was a contributor to the restoration of the Austin History Center and the AGE Building in north-central Austin.

McBee was a member of the National Academy of Engineering and was selected to the Texas Business Hall of Fame. He served as Chairman of American National Bank and MBank Austin, was a Commodore of the Austin Yacht Club, and was King Brio of the Austin Symphony in 1984.

In 1981, he received the Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

Obituary taken from Austin American Statesman, Metro and State Section, page B4, April 10, 2000.

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