Back in the 1960s, Jack Knox was that tall drink of water that any mom would have wanted for her daughter’s beau. With both a degree in English (1960) and a law degree from SMU (1963), plus chiseled good looks, diamond blue eyes and a dazzling smile, the Breckinridge native who was raised in Weatherford just shone when he walked into a room. And there was something about his manner that was a combination of western ingenuity and southern gentility.
While Jack was preparing for his law career and creating Knox Land and Cattle Company, another entrepreneur by the name of Angus Wynne Jr. had built an amusement park in Arlington called Six Flags Over Texas in 1961. The price of admission was $2.75 for an adult and $2.25 for a child. Hamburgers cost 50 cents and sodas went for a dime. He had envisioned the project as a “short-term operation” but “recouped his personal investment of $3.5 million within 18 months and changed his mind about the park’s temporary status.”
In 1969, the 32-year-old Jack and his partners bought the park, forming Six Flags Over Texas Fund Ltd., known today as Texas Flags Ltd., which today owns the Six Flags Over Texas real estate and facilities.
Over the next couple of decades, a variety of business ventures like Summit Energy Inc. (1970-89), Western Oil Fields (1969-71), Sunshine Mining, BancTEXAS Group Inc., El Chico Inc. and Bryson Oil and Gas Ltd. kept him busy, and his collection of friends only expanded from college days including Ray Hunt and Carl Sewell Jr. to former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Craig Morton and his pal restaurateur Mel Harris. It was Mel who convinced him to partner in a restaurant.
It seems that there was an empty space in Highland Park Village just across the street from the S&S Tearoom. It had been Everts Jewelers, but Mel and Jack thought it would work as a restaurant. It was called Café Pacific. Alas, the partnership soured after 18 months, when Mel “handed over” the front-door keys to Jack saying that Knox knew “nothing about running a restaurant.”
In an interview in 2013, Jack admitted that Mel was right. Okay, so Jack may not have known how to run a restaurant, but he knew how to execute Texas hospitality with a class and polish. Over the past 43 years Café Pacific has become a staple for leading Dallas philanthropists, decisionmakers and influencers to dine and drink. There is no staff, just hosts and hostesses; there are no customers, just guests. What fills the main dining room, the terrace room and the bar is a unique ambiance that reflects an elegance that others have tried so hard to replicate.
Jack even managed to incorporate his sense of philanthropy when the restaurant turned 33. When a friend suggested that Jack donate 50 cents for each of the anniversary day’s orders to a non-profit group, Jack “upped the ante,” like a fraternity chum on a winning streak in a poker game. He would donate all of that day’s sales to Scottish Rite for Children.
That came as no surprise, because Jack had a special place for supporting children in need and abused animals.
One of his favorite “non-profits” is SMU, which just announced that 85-year-young Jack has given $11M to SMU in support of the University’s campaign, “SMU Ignited: Boldly Shaping Tomorrow” with the hope that it encourages others to come on board.
According to SMU Trustee and SMU Ignited Campaign Co-Chair Carl Sewell Jr., “Having known Jack for many years and having seen his tremendous business achievements and his love for our community and our university, I’m delighted he has chosen to take a significant leadership position in this campaign.”
But, there is a backstory to his $11M gift: It consists of his 88-year-old estate, which is located on one of Highland Park’s most prestigious boulevards.
When asked if the gift means he would be looking for a U-Haul to move, he replied that the good people at SMU had agreed to allow him to continue living at his home, much to his relief, because his rescue dog that’s been on a “trial basis” for the past 13 years wouldn’t know what to do anywhere else.
This latest gift is in addition to the $1.5M Jack provided SMU in 2014 to establish a law school chair to support teaching and research on legal issues aimed at protecting the welfare of children. To thank Jack, the chair was named the Jack Knox Chair in the Rights and Protection of Children. Just three years earlier, Jack had earned the law school’s highest honor — the Robert G. Storey Award for Distinguished Achievement.
As for the latest gift, it doesn’t affect the ever-young Jack’s routine. He’ll continue doing business as usual and enjoy his Wednesday afternoon martini at his favorite restaurant followed by being greeted by his roommate upon his return home.