The Shark of Cass County

photos by Matt Cornelius
photos by Matt Cornelius

The Shark of Cass County

In the heart of East Texas, one often hears stories of individuals whose humble beginnings propel them into extraordinary journeys. Tony Buzbee is the embodiment of the American dream—an exceptional individual, achieving remarkable success while holding steadfast to his small-town roots.

Buzbee got his start at Queen City High School and has been making his mark and leaving a trail behind him with every step he has taken. While serving as Battalion Commander in the Corp of Cadets at Texas A&M, Buzbee was recognized as the Outstanding Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Senior and earned the title of Distinguished Naval Graduate. He has since had the Buzbee Leadership Learning Center named after him on the A&M campus in College Station, permanently securing his place among a long line of proud Aggies.

After college, Buzbee enlisted as a United States Marine, distinguishing himself as an Honor Graduate of his Marine Corps training. He earned the top score in leadership out of over 200 other Marine lieutenants. As an infantry officer, Buzbee led special operations infantry units in the Persian Gulf and Somalian conflicts. Later, he was selected to become a reconnaissance officer and commanded Recon Company, First Marine Regiment. After an assortment of awards and accomplishments, Buzbee ended his military career at the rank of captain.

Buzbee’s aspirations next turned toward a law degree from the University of Houston Law Center. While there, Buzbee served as the managing editor of the Houston Law Review. His peers elected him class captain, and he won state and regional mock trial championships. Additionally, Buzbee was voted best advocate. He graduated summa cum laude and second in his class.

After an impressive start to his law career working for other firms, Buzbee founded The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, Texas. By successfully bringing many notable cases to billions of dollars in verdicts, he secured his legendary status as “The Shark” to clients and opposing attorneys alike. He has been called a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters, named 2015 Attorney of the Year by the Texas Lawyer, and a “big, mean, ambitious, tenacious, fire-breathing Texas trial lawyer. Really big. Poster boy big,” by The New York Times. He was featured on the cover of New York Times Magazine and Texas Monthly said, “Buzbee has made his name going after corporations, and he usually wins big!”

Needless to say, he is not your ordinary attorney, and he is no ordinary man. To truly understand Tony Buzbee, one must look beyond his professional accolades. When you get to the heart of the matter, it is the firm foundation of his upbringing that crafted him into the superstar he has become today. Cass County leaves an indelible mark on those who have ever called it home. Like so many other young people from this quiet area, Buzbee could not wait to get away to the hustle and bustle of big city life, but he could not stay away for long. His 7,000-acre ranch in Northeast Texas is not just a testament to his success, it has been the perfect home away from home, bringing him back to his roots and giving him a place to step away.

At one point, Buzbee admits, he and his friends used the property for “all kinds of dumb things, like blowing up cars and shooting competitions. I owned a tank, and we’d run over old cars with it,” he said. But today, this beautiful acreage, dubbed Antioch Buzbee Ranch, has been set aside to fulfill a greater purpose.

“I love this area. It’s very unique. Everywhere is changing and growing, but this place isn’t much different from when I was growing up. Everything I do now is the same as I did back then, just on a different scale. I wandered these woods, trespassed, and fished in other peoples’ ponds, and hunted on other people’s land. My family has been in this general area for five generations, and my parents still live in the home I grew up in. When I originally bought this place, it was to be near them,” said Buzbee. “They live about a mile up the road.”

In 2021, Buzbee married the gracious and beautiful Frances Moody, whose family name appears on buildings, bridges, and banks across Texas. Many are familiar with Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas, and The Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas. “I knew her family for years and sat on a bank board with her father. I obviously knew who she was since the Moody family is probably the most charitable family in Texas,” said Buzbee. “We kept on running into each other at charity events—one time specifically at a valet stand,” said Frances. “I was leaving, he was just arriving. I guess that shows the difference in our personalities,” she said with a laugh. Because the Moody family name has become synonymous with philanthropy in the Lone Star State, Frances does her part to carry on that legacy. She has a big heart for many causes, but her love of animals supersedes many passions in her life. When she and Buzbee joined together, the future of Antioch Ranch became obvious.

“First, it started because we needed a place to put some of these horses we were rescuing,” Buzbee said. “I told her, ‘I have plenty of pastures.’ We were involved in several animal rescue charities in Houston even before we were married, and I always had a passion for animals. I just had never before included this property in that work.” With Frances, the vision, organization, and scale of the couple’s rescue project quickly grew.

What began as pastures of horses and cows, which aren’t all that uncommon in this neck of the woods, has grown into a safe haven for kangaroos, camels, alligators, llamas, goats, zebras, wildebeest, and many other species. These animals are not just rescued and thrown out to pasture by the Buzbees. Each animal lucky enough to find its way to the ranch can count on a permanent place to live out its life. “I used to kill two or three deer off this property every year. I’d bring my buddies up here the first week of November and we’d hunt, but there has been no hunting on this property since two years before Frances and I got married. Now it’s just kind of a refuge.” There is no breeding or selling of animals from the property, and many are lovingly known by name. They are cared for on a level that most house pets rarely enjoy. The ranch is staffed with caretakers who have adopted the vision and created an oasis. “We love this place. Every time we are here, Frances wants to get out and hand-feed every animal,” Buzbee said. “I love them all,” said Frances, but she and Buzbee agree the donkeys are one of their favorites. “They are sweet,” she said, “and they are actually protective. You can put them in a field with other animals, and they are likely to guard them from coyotes and other predators. I just love them.” “She has made sure we have donkeys in every main field,” joked Buzbee.

There are marvels around every bend in the road, including a chapel that is a cherished refuge. “The chapel is about a mile round trip from the main house, so it’s a nice walk over here to have a quiet moment. Everything inside was recovered from churches that were closed, including the stained glass windows. The Bible in there is about 200 years old, and the door is almost 200 years old too. I bought a lot of these things at auctions. We have special Easter services here, and the former Governor of Texas once even preached here.”

Another passion of the Buzbee’s is art. They are serious collectors of impressive, invaluable pieces displayed at their Houston residence. However, Houston is not the only place to benefit from their impeccable artistic taste. Friends and neighbors of Antioch Ranch can all share in a special exhibit anytime they drive past the large-scale, stacked-stone sculpture, “Quarried Consciousness,” which is a reclining male figure created by artist Angus Taylor. The installation of this unique creation came after a trip to Cape Town, South Africa, where Buzbee and Frances attended a solo exhibition at the Everard Read Gallery and decided this eye-catching wonder of another world was destined for East Texas.

Power couple is a well-deserved description for Frances and Tony Buzbee. But, beyond the flash and frills of the beautiful life they have built together, the peace and quiet of their East Texas home brings them back to the family, faith, and belonging that is easily found in a small community. Antioch Ranch is a beautiful reminder that the only thing better than setting off to discover the adventures of a big life is coming back home again.

Animal Species Living at Antioch Ranch

  • Addax
  • Alpaca
  • Axis
  • Blackbuck
  • Blesbok
  • Buffalo
  • Camel
  • Cattle
  • Chicken
  • Donkey
  • Dog
  • Eland
  • Ellipsis Waterbuck
  • Emu
  • Fallow
  • Goat
  • Highland
  • Horse
  • Kangaroo
  • Lechwe
  • Llama
  • Oryx
  • Ostrich
  • Pere David  Deer
  • Pig
  • Red Stag
  • Sheep
  • Water Buffalo
  • Wildebeest
  • Zebra


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