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James Armstrong

Obituary for James Armstrong

May 10, 1932 - August 21, 2017
Austin, Texas | Age 85


James Clifton Armstrong was born May 10, 1932 in Fort Worth, Texas, the only child of Elizabeth Means Armstrong and O.C. (Army) Armstrong. His mother hailed from Andrews County, Texas, his father from Johnson County, Texas.

He graduated from Texas Christian University, where he met Jane Bradford—they were married in Midland, Texas on September 21, 1954. James served stateside in the Army after their marriage. He and Jane reared their three children—Brad, Elizabeth and Tony, all of whom survive him—in Midland where James was involved in oil and gas development and several other ventures. He and Jane divorced in 1975.

James moved first to Aspen after his divorce, and shortly thereafter to Houston. From 1978 until 1988 he was involved in banking and real estate development, principally in Austin, where he moved in 1986. It was in Houston that he met Larry Connelly, with whom he lived for over 30 years; they married as soon as they could, having to wait until 2015.

James was gifted musically and could play the piano (or any keyboard) by ear. His particular popular loves: Peggy Lee, Johnny Mathis, Cole Porter, Elvis Costello, Lady Gaga, Stan Getz. He turned his love of music, art, dance, opera, and theater into the bedrock of his philanthropy.

His involvement in the art scene in Houston led to his close friendship with legendary opera singer Beverly Sills and he went on to serve on the Board of the New York City Opera. The Armstrong Community Music School in Austin, through which thousands of children get a wonderful exposure to music and music education, is named after him. He was honored in 2008 at the Austin Lyric Opera Ball for his unwavering support of opera. Among his other passionate artistic commitments: ZACH Theatre, Ballet Austin, Austin Symphony, the Long Center for the Performing Arts and Umlauf Sculpture Gardens & Museum. He was widely known for his generosity and magnanimity, his grace. Not political, he was quietly devoted to opportunities for everyone, a decent life with decent prospects, for everyone.

He had a lifelong passion for cars. He was always a snappy dresser. He traveled the entire globe many times over.

His generosity and community involvement extended far beyond the arts and stage. He supported Hospice Austin, Project Transitions, SAFE Alliance, AIDS Services of Austin, The Center for Child Protection, Habitat for Humanity, the Anti-Defamation League of Austin, and the Thinkery Children's Museum, and UT College of Fine Arts.

James took on a decade of living with Parkinson's disease with the same calm resolve and equanimity with which he approached so many things. He lived 83 of his 85 years in Texas. Texas—its people, its land, its minerals—was a blessing to him. And he was a blessing to Texas.

James is preceded in death by his mother, Elizabeth Means Armstrong, and his father, O.C. (Army) Armstrong, and is survived by his spouse, Owen Lawrence (Larry) Connelly, his children, Bradford Armstrong and Julie Dolin, Elizabeth Armstrong and Anthony Armstrong, as well as grandchildren Brandaise Armstrong, Tobiah Dolin Armstrong and Adrien Dolin Armstrong.

Memorial services will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, September 15, 2017 at The Joe R. and Teresa Long Center for the Performing Arts. In lieu of flowers, contributions to Armstrong Community Music School would be most appreciated.

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Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home North

3125 N Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX 78705
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