Elizabeth Lyndall Finley Wortham

Elizabeth Lyndall Finley Wortham

WORTHAM, ELIZABETH LYNDALL FINLEY (1892–1980). Lyndall Finley Wortham, civic leader and benefactor, was born in Sherman on July 22, 1892, to Alfred Phillip and Eudora (Traynham) Finley. She attended public schools in Sherman and graduated from Kidd Key College in 1909.

After receiving a bachelor of arts degree and teaching certificate from the University of Texas in 1912, Finley taught in Galveston and New York City. In 1924 she financed in part a 4½-month cruise trip around the world by working as a hostess on the ship. Her letters to her mother, which were posted from Panama, Hawaii, Japan, China, the Philippines, India, Egypt, Greece, Palestine, and various points in Europe, were published serially in the Dallas Morning News from March 1924 to July 1925. They were published again in 1968 as a travelogue titled Around the World on a Frayed Shoestring. Finley lived in New York City for a short period after her trip and then returned to Texas in 1926.

She married Gus S. Wortham, whom she had known during their days at the University of Texas, on October 4, 1926, about six months after he organized American General Insurance Company. The couple made their home in Houston and had two daughters. Gus Wortham parlayed his insurance company into a multimillion dollar business, and Lyndall Wortham devoted her time and energy to serving the Houston community. She worked as a volunteer in local hospitals, served as secretary of the Harris County Cancer Society, and was a vice president of the Houston Speech and Hearing Center. She expressed her concern for disadvantaged girls by taking a special interest in Girlstown U.S.A., serving on the board of directors from 1959 to 1973 and as president of the board from 1970 to 1973.

Wortham also supported the Theater under the Stars program, was vice chairman of the board of the Houston Grand Opera, and served as a member of the advising committee of the Ballet Foundation of Houston, the board of directors of the Miller Memorial Theater, and the Society for Performing Arts. With her husband she established the Wortham Foundation, through which they funded a number of gifts, including a fountain on Allen Parkway, landscaping plans for a park in the Buffalo Bayou area, and the Wortham IMAX theater at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The foundation also made a substantial contribution to the Gus S. Wortham Theater Center, a $72 million opera and ballet facility. The Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the United Fund also received support from the Wortham Foundation.

From 1963 to 1979 Wortham served on the University of Houston's board of regents. She was also active in the YWCA, Houston Garden Club, Galveston Historical Foundation, Colonial Dames of America, Harris County Heritage Society, Ex-Students' Association of the University of Texas, and Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. A supporter of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Wortham was a charter member of his American Foundation of Religion and Psychiatry in New York City. She was awarded the Theta Sigma Phi Matrix award as outstanding woman civic leader of Houston in 1964. Wortham filled her home with fine antique furniture and a collection of paintings by artists such as Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, George Inness, George Elmer Browne, and Porfirio Salinas.

Lyndall Finley Wortham died on July 12, 1980, in Houston and was buried in Magnolia Cemetery. Her contributions to the arts community are commemorated by the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre on the University of Houston campus, established in her honor by her husband.