Clayton Williams, Sr.
| Clayton Wheat Williams, Sr.
(Texas oilman, engineer, geologist, farmer, rancher, historian, county commissioner, and philanthropist)
|Born|| April 15, 1895 |
Fort Stockton, Pecos County, Texas, USA
|Died|| September 9, 1983 (aged 88) |
Fort Stockton, Texas
|Spouse|| Chicora Lee Graham Williams,|
known as "Chic" Williams
(married 1928-1983, his death)
Clayton Wheat Williams, Sr. (April 15, 1895 – September 9, 1983), was an engineer, geologist, oilman, military officer in World War I, rancher, county commissioner, historian, philanthropist, and civic leader from Fort Stockton in West Texas.
Williams was the fourth child of Oscar Waldo Williams, a Harvard University-educated lattorney]] who would serve for a decade as the Pecos county judge, and the former Sallie Wheat, hence his middle name. Williams was born in an officers’ building of the former Fort Stockton Army base, which had housed the Buffalo soldiers of the American West from 1867 to 1886. O. W. Williams had prospected for gold and silver in Silver City, New Mexico Territory, before he came to Fort Stockton. O. W. was in New Mexico during the heyday of Apache Chief Geronimo and Billy the Kid. He was also a suspect in the shotgun death of a "rogue" sheriff named A. J. Royal, but the killer was never apprehended, and Clayton Williams, Sr., insisted that his father was not the culprit.
After attending Fort Stockton public schools, Williams enrolled in 1911 at Texas A&M University in College Station, then an all-male institution with a military bent. To reach TAMU, he travelled by stagecoach north to Monahans in Ward County (known for its sand dunes) and then took the railroad nort-east to Dallas and south to College Station. In 1915, Williams received his Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering.
He was then employed for two years in New Mexico as an electrician for a mining company. In 1917, he joined the officers’ training camp at Leon Springs near San Antonio and soon procured a commission as a second lieutenan] from the artillery school at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. He volunteered for duty in France. Until the end of the war, he was an instructor in military schools in Langres and Cleremont-Ferrand, France. In 1919, Williams was in Paris, where he joined a group of veterans who formed the American Legion.
Marriage to Chicora Graham
On September 10, 1928, Williams married the former Chicora Lee Graham (December 17, 1905 – April 13, 1998) of Sterling City near San Angelo, Texas. Chicora, known as "Chic," was the daughter of Oscar H. Graham (died 1949) and Evie Lee "Mernie" Graham (1878–1972). Chicora attended Trinity University, then in Waxahachie in Ellis County, but graduated from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, named for former Governor Sullivan Ross. She taught school in tiny Gail in Borden County on the South Plains even before she obtained her degree. Chicora was named for an Native American girl who slipped food to Chicora’s paternal grandfather, Captain Joe Graham of the Confederate Army, while he was a Union prisoner of war. Chicora’s aunt was the first to bear the name, and Chicora’s granddaughter, known as "Chim," is the third Chicora in three generations of the Williams family.
Clayton and Chicora married immediately after her graduation from Sul Ross, and the couple honeymooned in the Grand Canyon of Arizona, with Chicora’s mother, "Mernie," accompanying them. Mernie lived with the Williamses after her husband's death and later with their only son, Clayton Wheat Williams, Jr. (October 8, 1931 – February 14, 2020), an oilman who was the 1990 Texas Republican gubernatorial nominee; he lost narrowly to liberal Democrat Ann Richards.
Clayton and Chicora also had a daughter, Janet W. Pollard (born 1935), the widow of Midland oilman Robert W. “Bob” Pollard (1935–2004), a native of Kansas City, Missouri, and the mother of four sons. Janet Pollard and co-author Louis Gwin published Harsh Country, Hard Times: Clayton Wheat Williams and the Transformation of the Trans Pecos, a biographical account of Pollard's father published in 2011.
From 1919 to 1920, Williams worked as an engineer for the Oil Belt Power Company in Eastland, located east of Abilene, Texas. For four years, he was a surveyor and an engineer for the Texas and New Mexico state highway departments. In 1924, he became the chief engineer for the Texon Oil and Land Company, in which position he developed an interest in geology though he had no formal training in the field. He became one of the earliest licensed geologists in Texas, having taken the lead in the discovery of the Settles and Harding oilfields in Howard County near Big Spring, and the first discovery well in the Ellenburger field. Upon Williams’ recommendation, Texon in 1926 drilled the deepest well in the United States until that time, the University 1-B well. In 1927, Williams established a water and ice works plant in Crane, south of Odessa, which he operated until 1935, having by that time resigned from Texon.
In the late 1920s, Williams enrolled for a year of law school at the University of Texas at Austin but returned to his independent oil and ranching business.
Outside Fort Stocktown, where the family had an in-town residence, Williams maintained a ranch of thirty-five sections and an irrigated farm of about three hundred to four hundred acres.
Active in community affairs, Williams served for eighteen years as an elected Pecos county commissioner, having been elected in 1936. He was defeated in the 1954 Democratic primary in a contest that focused on declining water resources in the Trans-Pecos country. For several years, Williams served on the Fort Stockton School Board. He was a member of the United Methodist Church and the Masonic lodge in Fort Stockton.
Williams achieved distinction as a historian of West Texas. His publications include several scholarly articles and five books: Never Again (3 vols., 1969), Animal Tales of the West (1974), and Texas' Last Frontier: Fort Stockton and the Trans-Pecos, 1861-1895 (1982). The latter work was edited by Ernest Wallace, a late professor of history at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Janet Pollard said that her father "not only wrote history, he made history."
Williams gave generously to charitable and civic organizations in Fort Stockton, to his alma mater, Texas A&M, and the Permian Historical Society, of which he was a fellow. He also contributed to the Fort Stockton Historical Society and the West Texas Historical Association, both of which he served an annual term as president. In addition to his role in the establishment of the national organization, Williams was the commander in Fort Stockton of the American Legion and was further involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. His name is engraved on a plaque on the USS Texas (BB-35) battleship and at the Alamo in San Antonio. In 1974, he was named Fort Stockton's "Outstanding Citizen." In 1982, the year before his death, the West Texas Historical Association dedicated its Yearbook', now known as the West Texas Historical Review, in his honor.
Death and legacy
Janet Pollard often compares her father to the Atticus Finch character, the compassionate lawyer portrayed by Gregory Peck in the novel and the film, To Kill a Mockingbird. She says that her mother, "Chic," reminds her of the actress Claudette Colbert: “uplifting, happy, inspirational, the kind of person you wanted to be around all the time."
In 1983, Williams was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He reacted "stoically. ... All is well. I am not afraid." Shortly before his death, the family attended a cattle auction and barbecue at their ranch near Alpine in Brewster County. A photograph of the couple then taken, presumably their last in public together, is included in the Mike Cochran 2007 book, Claytie: The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter. The picture is also displayed in the J. Evetts Haley Museum in Midland, which focuses on western themes. Williams died a few days later the day before their 55th wedding anniversary. Chicora lived another fifteen years. They are interred at East Hill Cemetery in Fort Stockton.
Clayton Williams, Jr., summed up his father's philosophy of life: "Heights one day, depths the next."
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Social Security Death Index. ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved on September 12, 2009; under pay wall.
- ↑ Mike Cochran, Claytie: The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter (biography of Clayton Williams, Jr.) (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2007), pp. 30, 381; hereinafter cited as Claytie.
- ↑ Claytie, p. 15.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Ernest Wallace. Williams, Sr., Clayton W.. Texas State Historical Association: The Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on November 17, 2019.
- ↑ Claytie, pp. 30-31.
- ↑ Claytie, p. 32.
- ↑ Claytie, p. 33.
- ↑ Clayton W. Williams Death – Obituary: Cause of Death. Texas A&M University sports information (February 15, 2020). Retrieved on February 17, 2020.
- ↑ Claytie, p. 16.
- ↑ Megan Lea Buck (December 13, 2011). Midlander publishes book on West Texas pioneer father after decades of research. Midland Reporter-Telegram. Retrieved on November 17, 2019.
- ↑ Today in Texas History: Carl G. Cromwell drills world's deepest oil well. blogs.chron.com. Retrieved on December 2008; no longer on-line.
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 12.2 Claytie, p. 31
- ↑ Claytie, pp. 14-15
- ↑ Claytie, p. 332.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 Claytie, p. 17.
- ↑ Claytie, pp. 20-2.
- ↑ Claytie, p. 378.