Cuero mourns pillar of community, Frank Sheppard

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

June 10, 2014 at 1:10 a.m.
Updated June 11, 2014 at 1:11 a.m.

Frank Sheppard, 91, of Cuero, is described by many who knew him as the historical treasure of Cuero. Sheppard died Saturday.

Frank Sheppard, 91, of Cuero, is described by many who knew him as the historical treasure of Cuero. Sheppard died Saturday.

A man who many describe as the historical treasure of Cuero died Saturday.

Frank Sheppard, whose more than 35-year tenure as the city attorney for Cuero was interrupted only when he became the DeWitt County attorney, was 91 years old.

"He was one of the giants of our community who in the '40s and '50s provided the leadership to make Cuero what it is today, and he did it quietly without seeking lots of accolades," Wayne Adickes said Tuesday.

Sheppard joined the Cuero Heritage Museum board, for which Adickes served as chairman, about eight years ago.

With him came sound advice, as Sheppard wrote the organization's bylaws as well as looked over and notarized legal documents.

"He did not slow down," Adickes said. "On a personal level, at the age of 90, he wrote my will. ... And he did a darn good job of it, too."

Sheppard was always ready to give speeches about those buried in Cuero's Hillside Cemetery, including his descendant, a ship captain who traveled to South Texas from Indianola after a hurricane.

"He had a very dry sense of humor, and he could tell stories that would leave an audience rocking," Adickes said.

Michael Sheppard, who serves at the district attorney for Goliad, DeWitt and Refugio counties, remembered his father as progressive.

"He supported integration and would write letters to the editor supporting the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which was not an easy position for a lawyer to take in a small Southern town back in those days," Sheppard said.

A Democrat, the elder Sheppard took his three children to Washington, D.C. And when he would visit the LBJ Ranch for various political functions, he'd bring them home film he'd shot of Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon B. Johnson and Sam Rayburn.

He saw President John F. Kennedy the day before he was assassinated when in San Antonio to celebrate his birthday.

"His (Kennedy's) death took a lot of the wind out of his sails," said Michael Sheppard. "He remained involved and active in politics, but he was never really passionate about it as when John F. Kennedy was president."

Frank Sheppard was also a creature of habit.

"A lot of us like to sit around and read emails, have a cup of coffee and just take our time before getting into it, but he was interesting in that respect," his son said. "He'd hit the door at 8:30 a.m. and pick right back up where he left off the day before."

Michael Sheppard, inspired by his father, became a lawyer in 1985 and joined his practice, Crain & Sheppard, which was established in the early 1900s.

The practice specializes in oil and gas, wills and probate, banking and real estate.

"He always enjoyed the practice of law, and that's not true of every lawyer," his son said.

James Crain III, who became Cuero's city attorney in 1997, also counted Frank Sheppard among his mentors.

"His knowledge about city affairs - it's just been invaluable to me and helped me through a lot of the city issues that we have these days," Crain said.

Sheppard wrote many of the original ordinances, after all, Crain said.

"There wasn't a kinder or more humble person. ... He was a gentleman in the truest form," he added.

Ben E. Prause served as mayor of Cuero for 10 years alongside Frank Sheppard and then when he was county judge for 24 years.

"He was the first person to ask me why I didn't consider running for county judge. His brother, Robert Sheppard, was county judge, and he was going to retire," Prause said. "You could count on him to have the correct information and do any background study that was required."

Sheppard is survived by his three children - Michael Sheppard; Constance Steele Kirk, of San Antonio; and Jennifer Fassett Badger, of San Antonio - as well as 10 grandchildren.

He met his wife, Rosemary Steele Sheppard, after befriending her brother, Robert Steele.

Robert Steele was a commander who trained cadets locally on the airfield during World War II.

"Shortly after my mother's death (about a year and a half ago), he was diagnosed with a hematoma on his brain. We suspect he must've fallen and hit his head and didn't realize it. We don't know that for a fact," Michael Sheppard said.

Frank Sheppard had surgery in April 2013 and had been recovering at home with staff from Caring Senior Services.

Sheppard was a veteran. He was also involved in the Cuero Chamber of Commerce, the Trust Texas Bank and the Lions Club.

As a member of the St. Michael's Catholic Church, he helped establish the endowment fund, and technically, he is the reigning sultan for the last Turkey Trot pageant held in 1972, his son said.

"I hope that people will carry on his legacy ... and give a little bit back to the community like he did," Sheppard's longtime friend Joe Reuss said.



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