OBITUARY: James Ratliff “Buzz” Hurt

ODESSA James Ratliff “Buzz” Hurt was the grandson of Ector County ranching pioneers Sarah Jane “Miss Sallie” Whittenburg Ratliff and Harvey Stewart “Bud” Ratliff.

Miss Sallie and Bud homesteaded four sections in 1903 which was the beginning of Ratliff Ranch. Buzz was born April 29, 1930 in Austin to Mary Ratliff Hurt and Sam Fuqua Hurt, Sr. Buzz peacefully passed away on All Souls Day, November 2, 2023, surrounded by his loving children and wife.

Buzz and his brother Sam Fuqua Hurt, Jr. moved to Ratliff Ranch in 1933 when their father Sam became the ranch manager of the 32-section ranch located in northeast Ector County. Buzz lived on his beloved ranch for most of his 93-years. He was a third-generation rancher, who took to heart the stewardship of the land he inherited and worked diligently to raise quality cattle and horses.

Buzz graduated from Odessa High School, class of 1947. He briefly attended University of Texas-Austin but returned to manage the ranch upon the death of his father in 1950.

Buzz married Freddie Jean Wheeler in 1950. Four wonderful children came from that union: Mary Helen, Jay, Joe, and Sally, the fourth generation of Ratliff Ranch heirs. In 1983, Buzz married Betsy Triplett. They were great friends and partners to each other. They loved their home, travel, their many dogs and cats, and their wide community.

As a rancher, Buzz endured severe droughts, agriculture depressions, and economic hardships, as did his ancestors. Under his stewardship of the ranch, Buzz expanded the petroleum reserves found beneath the mesquites, tobosa, hooded windmill, Plains bristle and buffalo grasses. His businesses were

Z-Bar Ranch and Cattle Company; Ratliff Ranch Development Company; PBP Fabrication, Inc; Eureka Prospecting Company; and Eureka Operating Company.

Following the footsteps of his grandmother, mother and father, giving back to the community of Odessa was for Buzz the right thing to do. He gave his volunteer hours to Ector County Airport Board, charter member 1965; Ector County Independent School District Trustee, 1966-1972; Sandhills Hereford and Quarter Horse Show and Rodeo, 1955-1968; Ector County Livestock Show, 1955-1970; and Globe of the Great Southwest. Buzz also led the family in donating land for Ratliff Football Stadium, Ratliff Ranch Golf Links, The Bridge United Methodist Church, City of Odessa Fire Station #9; rights of way for East Loop 338, Yukon Road, and Grandview/FM 554.

Buzz was honored for his endeavors with 1985 Heritage of Odessa Community Statesman for Ranching; as a couple Buzz and Betsy were named 1996 Citizens of the Year from Odessa Chamber of Commerce; and Friend of Odessa Arts, 2020.

In addition to being devoted to his family and his ranch, his avocations were flying, memorizing poems, and baking bread. In his lifetime, Buzz was more than a pilot, he was an aviator. He flew more than 70 airplanes and owned more than 15. He competed in aerobatic competitions. Performing an aileron roll on take-off was always a crowd favorite when he flew in local airshows. In 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration presented him with the Master Pilots Award for having a pilot’s license for more than 50 years.

Buzz was a student of the art of baking artisanal bread. He designed his own special kitchen, incorporating 3 different kinds of ovens for baking. He loved teaching others to bake bread and conducted several Master Bread Baker classes in his kitchen. He delighted in sharing his loaves with family, friends, and for Communion services. The day before he died, he provided communion bread for his Wesley United Methodist Community Group.

Upon his passing, Buzz joined his beloved grandparents, parents, brother and son James Ratliff “Jay” Hurt, Jr., and grandson Ben Heap in heaven.

Buzz is survived by his wife of 39 years, Betsy. The fourth, fifth, and sixth generations of Ratliff heirs who shall continue his stewardship are Mary Helen Johnson, Joseph Stewart Hurt and wife Sherry, Sally Beth Bolton and husband Toya, and Vickie Hurt, widow of Jay. Grandchildren Dean Thiebeaud, Cody Heap, Amy Hurt, Angie King and husband Cliff, Jaymie Hurt, Natalie Watzl and husband Andy, Stephanie Wright, Baylie Castillo and husband Juan, Brody Bolton and wife Jessica, Bonner Bolton, Brylee Bolton, Bridger Bolton, Bliss Boyce and husband Hawkins. Greatgrandchildren Sophie Robertson and husband Braden, Helen Pasternak, Chloe Heap, Mason Wright, Ellyson Wright, Madyson Wright, Presley Watzl, Reece Watzl, Weston Watzl, Trigger Bolton, Daniel Bolton, Augustus Bolton, Zenna Bolton, Kennedy Jo Castillo, Collyns Castillo, Adilynn Thiebaud, Layton Richardson Bolton, and Birdie Boyce. Nephews are Sam Hurt III and wife Jun, John Hurt, and Tom Hurt, Ian Logan and wife Adela, Thomas Triplett and wife, Kayleigh, Joseph Hatcher and wife, Diana. Nieces Rachel Mahserjian and husband Sam, Amy Tolles and husband Jess. Sisters-in-law Jan Hurt, widow of brother Sam, Carol Logan, Patricia Hatcher and husband James. Brother-in-law Billy Max Triplett. And thirteen great nieces and nephews.

Ever the student and lifelong learner, Buzz donated his body to the Institute of Anatomical Sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-Lubbock. This will provide medical students the opportunity to study the inner workings of a determined, hardworking, never-give-up, always young at heart cowman.

The family will gather on Ratliff Ranch for a private celebration of this good man.

In lieu of flowers, kindly honor Buzz by helping others with a donation to the West Texas Food Bank,, or to your favorite charity. Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at for the Hurt family.