Travis Roberts

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James Travis Roberts, Jr.

(Texas engineer, surveyor, rancher, and historical preservationist)

Revised Travis Roberts of TX.jpg

Born May 11, 1937
Alpine, Brewster County, Texas, USA
Died June 3, 2021 (aged 84)
Brewster County
Political Party Republican
Spouse Not mentioned in obituary

James Travis Roberts, III
Teresa "Terri" Ann Harkey
Five grandsons
Alma mater:
Texas A&M University

Military Service
Service/branch United States Army Corps of Engineers

Army Reserves

Rank Lieutenant

James Travis Roberts, Jr., known as Travis Roberts (May 11, 1937 – June 3, 2021),[1] was a rancher, engineer, surveyor, and historical preservationist from rural Marathon in Brewster County in southwestern Texas.[2] Marathon bills itself as "where the Big Bend and Dark Skies Meet."[3]It has an average of only fifteen inches of annual precipitation. Earnings from ranches in the area have declined in recent years.[4]


Roberts' ancestors arrived in 1885, prior to the creation of Brewster County. He lived in his later years on his grandfather’s old ranch south of Marathon (pronounced MAR A THUN).[4] Roberts was born in Alpine, the Brewster County seat of government, to James Travis Roberts, Sr. (1905-1990), and the former Annie Pauline Bierschwale (1913-1997). He and his brothers, John Walter Roberts (1942-2017) and Billy Gene "Ike" Roberts (1940-2023), worked the family ranch and the large Catto-Gage Ranch in Kendalia in Kendall County in the Texas Hill Country.[2]

Beginning in 1955, Roberts attended Texas A&M University in College Station, at which he was a member of the Fightin’ Aggie Band. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering. After college, he served as a lieutenant in the United States Army Corps of Engineers and in the Army Reserves.[2]


After a short stint with the Texas Highways Department, Roberts he joined Hunter Associates in Dallas as a professional engineer and registered surveyor. In this capacity, he designed and helped develop various cities in North Texas. Following retirement, he returned full time to the Maravillas Creek Ranch and continued his engineering and surveying work.[2]

Passion for history

Roberts had a lifelong passion for Texas history, specifically the southwest region and Brewster County. He served as chairman on the Brewster County Historical Commission and the Center for Big Bend Studies Advisory Board at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. He was a past president of the West Texas Historical Association, based at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He was on the board of Preservation Texas and a member of the Marathon Museum Board and the cemetery association.[2]

The Texas Historical commission awarded him the George Christian Award for Outstanding Volunteer, of the Year, named for Lyndon B. Johnson's press secretary. He also received the Sammy Baugh Award for Outstanding Service from Sul Ross University, and a letter of commendation from the governor for his fifty years as a professional engineer.[2]

Family and death

Roberts had a son, James Travis Roberts, III, and his wife, Katie, who operate the large Z Bar Trading Company in Sanderson, Texas,[5]and a daughter, Teresa "Terri" Ann Harkey and husband, Alan, of McKinney, Texas. He was also survived by his brother Ike Roberts of Marathon and a sister, Betty Hargus (1939-2022) of Fort Stockton in Pecos County, Texas. He died of a brief illness at the age of eighty-four. He is interred at Marathon Cemetery.[2]


  1. James Travis Roberts, Jr. (1937-2021) - Find A Grave Memorial, June 12, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 James Travis Roberts, Jr. | Obituaries |, June 9, 2021.
  3. Marathon, Texas - Where the Big Bend and Dark Skies Meet. Retrieved on June 12, 2021.
  4. 4.0 4.1 John MacCormack. 'Big Empty' for sale. San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved on June 13, 2021.
  5. "Z Bar Trading Company," Bob Phillips' Texas Country Reporter, July 23, 2022.