Nancy Lee Bass, a Texas philanthropist affectionately remembered as “the First Lady of Fort Worth”, was born in Fort Worth on March 7, 1917. Her maiden name was Nancy Lee Muse, and you might say that music and the arts were her “muse” from the time she studied piano as a girl until she graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in English. She met her husband, Perry Richardson Bass, at a dance in Fort Worth and married him in 1941. Together they donated millions to support the arts and crowned their efforts by donating $1 million to fifty different organizations to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 1991.
Nancy Lee Bass donated millions to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and donated priceless paintings and sculptures by Van Gogh, Picasso, Money, Pissarro, Renoir, Matisse, Rodin, Segal, and others to the Kimbell Art Museum.
She also served on the boards of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Austin, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Sid W. Richardson Foundation in addition to volunteering with the Fort Worth Junior League, the Jewel Charity Ball, the Fort Worth Garden Club, and First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth to which she donated new church bells for the east tower. At the suggestion of her friend, concert pianist Van Cliburn, the Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth was named in honor of the generous couple who gave so much to the city.
Perry and Nancy Bass made their wealth in ranching and oil, but they did not keep it to themselves. They shared generously with the people of the state they loved.