Jerry Hart of Hart Galleries, Scheduled to Serve His Time on a Felony Conviction, Reflects on the Past
Jerry Hart has been sitting at Avalon Diner for nearly two hours and he's barely touched the English muffin that he glazed with butter when it first arrived at the corner table. The antique dealer, convicted of misapplication of fiduciary property in connection with his once high-flying business, has had a lot to say during the first interview with the media that he's done in years.
Photo by Steve Jansen Jerry Hart
"Sometimes I wake up and it seems like a bad dream," says Hart, who stirs his iced tea as high school kids from St. John's and Lamar catch up on the latest gossip at the surrounding tables. "What can I say? This has been a five-year odyssey."
Barring a judicial miracle, Jerry, 68, and his wife Wynonne, 64, will be going back to prison to serve the remainder of their 14-year stints. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied a petition for a retrial. Now, the Harts' fate is in the hands of the United States Supreme Court.
Even for a riches-to-rags story, the Harts' tale ranks up there as one of the most dramatic falls from the elite.
Jerry Hart was raised by antiquing lifer Samuel Hart, who was the dean of Texas auctioneers. "I worshipped my dad and he was my stepfather -- a lot of people don't know that," says Hart.
Instead of taking a similar route, Hart studied medicine at Tulane. After the Bellaire High graduate flunked out of college in 1964, he joined the Army, spending six years in field hospitals.
In the '70s, he moved to Dallas for a Corporate America gig. While there, he met a flight attendant for Braniff International Airways named Wynonne. The two, who raised three children, have been married 38 years.
After Samuel passed away in 1975, Jerry moved back to Houston to take care of the messy business affairs that had deteriorated due to his dad's health episodes and his mom's unwillingness to do what it takes to keep a business afloat.
"Mom was one of the people who would sleep until 1 in the afternoon. She would never come into the store. She wanted me to go to her house to conduct meetings almost every other day," remembers Hart, who adds that he quit when his mom insisted that they hire a guy that gave Jerry the creeps.
"Mom said hire him or you're out, so I left. He ended up taking all kinds of advantage of my mom," says Hart. "I was basically on the street with a new house, new baby and about $4,000 or $5,000 in the bank."