Queen Elizabeth’s Connection To Aggieland
The iconic signature of Queen Elizabeth II adorns two documents housed within Texas A&M University’s Memorial Student Center — official letters of patent certifying Aggie oil man Leland Thomas Jordan as an honorary member of the Order of the British Empire.
But as MSC L.T. Jordan Institute for International Awareness director Cory Arcak explains, the relationship between the late British monarch and Aggieland’s Jordan family runs even deeper. As the world marks the passing of Elizabeth at the age of 96, some small pieces of her legacy remain on the A&M campus for students and the public to view.
The story of the Jordan family’s relationship with the British Crown starts in 1948 when Leland and his wife, Jessie Wright Jordan, moved to Kuwait, which was a British protectorate at the time. Leland, a Lufkin native who graduated from Texas A&M in 1929 with a degree in mechanical engineering, had been chosen to lead the newly created Kuwait Oil Company — a joint venture between his previous employer, the Gulf Oil Corporation, and the British state-owned Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which would later become British Petroleum. So in addition to his old Gulf Oil bosses, Jordan was also now answering to Buckingham Palace.
Elizabeth II ascended to the throne just a few years later, and evidently, was pleased with Jordan’s performance. During his time at the helm of Kuwait Oil, the young queen recognized his service to British economic interests in the region with two official titles — Honorary Commander of the Civil Division of the Order of the British Empire in 1958 and Honorary Knight Commander in 1961. The badges and documents associated with both titles are on display in the MSC L.T. Jordan Institute’s gallery.
Also on display are gifts and artifacts that suggest an even closer relationship between Elizabeth and the Jordans — perhaps most notably, an intricate crown pin presented to Jessie Jordan, marking her as a representative of the British Crown at official functions.
“They essentially honorarily represented the UK Government in Kuwait because of their role with British Petroleum,” Arcak said, noting that the Jordans also corresponded with the queen during that time.
These royal gifts, along with countless other treasured keepsakes from the Jordans’ international contacts, found a home at Texas A&M in 1986, when Jessie Jordan established the institute as a way to expose A&M students to the peoples and cultures of the world. Today, the institute’s collection remains a living testament to the Jordans’ ability to carry the Aggie spirit with them overseas.
“This was a very significant man who was very humble at the same time and truly gave back to Texas A&M,” Arcak said. “His success was a reflection of the authentic and intentional relationships he and Jessie built with individuals, organizations, and ultimately nations. It’s something we could all take a lesson from today.”