Joseph Badu was a student in Paris, France until the night he and
his college buddies got a wild hair, drank too much wine, painted
the statue of the Virgin Mary blue, and placed an empty wine bottle
in her arms.
It was sacrilege of the worst sort. The college expelled the vandals
and filed charges. Badu's father, at the end of his rope, told his
wayward son to go to jail or go to America.
Badu chose America. His father quietly hustled him out of the country.
The young man sailed to Nova Scotia in 1880. He traveled by ship
to New York and then to New Orleans. He met a group of French Engineers
on Bourbon Street and went with them to Tampico, Mexico to build
In Mexico he contracted yellow fever. His friends placed him on
a freighter bound for New Orleans. He was barely alive. No one thought
he would survive, but he recovered.
Badu came to Texas after seeing the name "Paris" on a map. He worked
as a teacher of mathematics and French at Mrs. Ellen Richardson's
School for Young Women in Paris. His students called him "professor,"
and the name stuck.
Professor Badu married Charlie Carrol Neal in Paris. The young couple
moved to Austin where
Badu managed the Avenue Hotel at the corner of Congress and 8th
Looking for a business opportunity, Professor Badu went to Llano
in 1894 to investigate the mineral deposits in the Hill
Country. He liked what he saw and decided to stay.
was booming. When prospectors discovered iron ore deposits in northwestern
Llano County, the
town changed overnight from a village in the middle of nowhere to
a community of some importance.
Badu managed the Algona Hotel in Llano.
Except for a 2 year stretch as manager of the Driskill Hotel in
Austin, Badu made Llano
his home for the rest of his life.
Professor Badu did more than anyone to call attention to the mineral
resources in Llano
and surrounding counties. He formed a company to mine iron ore from
Iron Mountain near Valley
Spring. He mined another site near Fly
Gap along the Mason
Professor Badu's company mined manganese. His men extracted copper
Mountain and talc from a hill near Oxford.
Hill, 22 miles northeast of Llano,
was one of his more interesting projects. Geologists identified
47 different minerals at Barringer
Hill before Lake
Buchanan washed over it.
Badu never found the mother lode, so he got creative. In addition
to mining, he bought and sold property. He acted as an agent to
buy and sell property for others. He parlayed his minimal discoveries
into a profitable business.
Badu was a natural salesman. He had a way with people. He was comfortable
sipping cognac with New York capitalists. He was equally at ease
drinking whiskey and telling jokes with the men who worked the mines.
No one did more to publicize the minerals of Llano
County than Professor Badu. He would periodically go to Austin
and San Antonio,
talk up his discoveries and attract new investors. He made many
trips to New York, Cleveland and Chicago. His connections brought
eastern capital into Llano
insisted he was a developer, not a promoter. During all the years
he handled mineral development he never offered stock to the public
When the iron
boom went bust, Professor Badu sold granite and marble. In 1916
his company mined molybdenite used for hardening steel. He shipped
the stuff to England where manufacturers used it to forge large
guns and armor plating.
In 1890 the
Llano Improvement and Furnace Company built a 2 story structure
to house the First National Bank. When the iron boom fizzled and
the Llano Improvement and Furnace Company went bankrupt, Badu bought
the building. He and his family lived on the upper floor and rented
the lower floor to the bank. The building still stands just north
of the river.
Professor Badu died in Llano
on January 30, 1936 and is buried in City Cemetery.