Bert Reyes

Humberto “Bert” Reyes

Texas cattleman, auctioneer, and father, died on February 13, 2018 at age 89. Bert was the middle of 14 children born to Carlos Reyes B. of Durango, Mexico and Maria Villarreal of Goliad, TX. He was raised on a farm outside Berclair, TX. He attended a two-room, segregated Mexican-only school until he went to Goliad High School, where he graduated in 1946. Bert raised Hereford calves since he was 9 and was chosen as one of 14 outstanding 4H members in Mexico and Texas. With his brother Carlos, who returned from serving in WWII, he enrolled at Texas A&M, where his grades, 4H work, and support from his community earned him one of the first Jesse Jones opportunity scholarships. At A&M, Bert followed in the footsteps of his older brothers and found a home in the animal science department. He was a member of the A&M livestock and meat-judging teams and was awarded the showman-of-the-year prize as a senior.

Bert joined the Army upon graduation, and served as a first lieutenant in the infantry during the Korean war, distinguishing himself during the horrific fighting at Heartbreak Ridge. He was awarded a combat infantry badge, 3 bronze service stars, and a UN service medal. After Korea, Bert returned to A&M, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Animal Science. Upon graduation, A&M asked him to join a team of professors and technicians to work on a two-year project in a sister school in Saltillo, Mexico. As the only Spanish speaker of the group, Bert learned a lot outside of his discipline and developed relationships with ranchers throughout Northern Mexico. When he returned to Texas, Bert was hired by the Hereford Association as a special representative to move cattle from drought-stricken areas of Texas into Mexico. That work allowed him to travel throughout Texas and Mexico, meeting more ranchers and learning about their herds and needs. By 1958, Bert had opened his own business, Carlos B. and Sons, with the help of his father, then a bookkeeper in Beeville. At first, Bert specialized in exporting cattle, private treaty, and sales management. But after a week of auctioneering school and hundreds of hours of practice while driving the Texas highways, Bert became one of America’s most prominent cattle auctioneers and changed the business in Texas. Bert became the first sales manager-auctioneer, a job that had customarily been done by two people. He also refused to specialize in any particular breed of cattle, as most did at the time. Bert innovated cattle auctions by moving sales from weekdays to weekends, in order to allow urban cattle investors to attend and drive up sale prices. As the only Spanish bilingual auctioneer in North America, he pulled new clients into Texas sales.

Bert moved his business to San Antonio and lived at the St. Anthony Hotel for a decade before he married Jane Maverick Welsh. In the mid-sixties, his younger brother Ruben began working for him and they eventually partnered in creating Reyes and Reyes. During his career, Bert build the country’s largest cattle-auctioneering firm selling more than $30 million in pure blooded cattle annually. He called many historic auctions, breaking national sales records for many breeds including Beefmaster, Simmental, and Brangus. He broke million-dollar-sales records at the National Simmental Sale in 1974 and two million-dollar national sales record for all breeds in 1979 at the Herring Ranch Beefmaster dispersal sale. Bert also negotiated the importation of the first pure blooded Simmental bull, Amor, into the United States. He and six other investors worked for two years to purchase Amor in 1970. Bert sold cattle in 28 states and in many parts of Latin America. He was honored to have been consulted by President Johnson while he alive and was asked by Lady Bird to manage dispersal sale of LBJ’s cattle upon the former president’s death.

Bert never needed a hobby. He loved his work and the cattle business -- it pleases us to know he attended the SA stock show on the day he died. Bert was the oldest tenant and last remaining cattleman at the San Antonio Stock Yards building. He was a teller of tales, able to remember first hand Longhorn cattle drives through the streets of Berclair during the 1930s and the heyday of San Antonio’s cattle business. For the past year, Bert has been working with the Texas A&M San Antonio Library archiving his cattle-business records, logging thousands of photographs, and providing an oral history for researchers.

While proud of his own accomplishments, Bert realized they were built upon his parents’ love and their investment in his education and the education of his siblings. He was incredibly proud of the accomplishments of his six sisters, all teachers in the public school system, and his seven brothers who entered the business community. He honored the sacrifice of his mother and the work his father did to integrate schools in their community. Bert is survived by his daughter Carmelita Reyes; son-in-law Jeffrey Johns; grandsons Carlos and Mateo Johns; sister Estella Naranjo; brother Mike Reyes (Elida), brother-in-law Dr. Victor Rodriguez; and loving companion for many years Sharon Buchta. He was preceded indeath by his parents Carlos and Maria Reyes; sisters Rachel, Tillie, Christina, Florinda, and Martha; brothers Lucas, Alvino, Tony, Carlos Jr., Pete, and Ruben; ex-wife Jane Maverick Welsh; and dear friend Mary Annah Hoey-Alemán. In lieu of flowers, please donate to a college scholarship fund.

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