Dallas philanthropist Nancy Hamon, who was often quoted as saying she hoped the last check she wrote would bounce, died at her home on June 30, age 92. Hamon, a San Antonio native, studied painting and ballet, and worked as a professional dancer and actress in California in the ’40s. In 1949 she married gas and oil tycoon Jake L. Hamon, who died in 1984.
Hamon joined the board of the Dallas Museum of Art in 1955, and over the subsequent half-century donated more than $34 million, most notably $20 million in 1988 for the construction of a new wing, which opened in 1993. The Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building houses the museum’s ancient South American artifacts, decorative arts and special exhibitions galleries, as well as a public library and gift shop. Hamon also donated valuable artwork from her own collection, including Bonneville, Savoy (1803) by J.M.W. Turner and Our Daily Bread (1942) by René Magritte. She funded the museum’s acquisition of more than 150 contemporary prints.
Hamon also supported Dallas’s Winspear Opera House, the Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts and Southern Methodist University’s art library, and, in San Francisco, where she lived part-time, the city’s Fine Arts Museum, public library, Grace Cathedral and California Pacific Medical Center. Hamon and her husband were significant contributors to the Dallas Zoo; in 1957, they donated the zoo’s first pair of gorillas, and later founded the Jake Hamon Gorilla Conservation Research Center.
Olivier Meslay, interim director of the Dallas Museum of Art, stated that Hamon’s support “touched all aspects of the Museum and helped the DMA grow into the institution of international prominence that it is today.”
Nancy Hamon and Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss in 1991 for the Museum’s new Nancy and Jake L. Hamon Building. Courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.