Jack Crichton

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John Alston "Jack" Crichton​

(Texas oil and natural gas industrialist)

Jack Crichton Class of 1937.jpg

Born October 16, 1916​
Crichton, Red River Parish
Louisiana, USA
Died December 10, 2007 (aged 91)
Dallas, Texas

Resting place:
Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church Columbarium in Dallas​​

Political Party Republican​ nominee for governor of Texas in 1964
Spouse Marilyn Berry Crichton​

Two daughters:
Anne C. Crews
Catherine C. Morris

Thomas Jack and Mary Crichton

Alma mater:
Clifton Ellis Byrd High School
Texas A&M University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology​​

Religion Presbyterian

John Alston Crichton, known as Jack Crichton (October 16, 1916 – December 10, 2007),[1] was an oil and natural gas industrialist from Dallas, Texas, who was among the first of his ranks to recognize the importance of petroleum reserves in the Middle East.[2] In 1964, he carried the Republican banner in a fruitless campaign against the second-term reelection of Governor John Connally, then a Democrat, who switched parties nine years later.

In 1990, Crichton (pronounced CRAY TON) wrote in an opinion piece for The Dallas Morning News that he first realized the vastness of the Middle Eastern oil reserves prior to 1950. He and a coworker determined, he said, that the Burgan Field in Kuwait, for example, held ten billion barrels of crude oil. In 1951, he helped to establish San Juan Oil Company in Dallas, where he became the vice president of operations. During the 1950s, he took a group of American businessmen to Yemen to search for oil. During his long career, he was the president of the Yemen Development Corporation and the Dorchester Gas Corporation, Crichton was also involved in the mining of copper, zinc, gold, silver, and nickel through his Arabian Shield Development Company.[2]


Crichton was born on a cotton plantation in the community of Crichton near Coushatta in Red River Parish in northwestern Louisiana. His parents were Thomas Jack Crichton, who died in 1929 when Jack was thirteen, and Mary Crichton. He graduated in 1933 from Clifton Ellis Byrd High School in Shreveport and then enrolled at Texas A&M University in College Station. He played tennis, basketball, and ran cross country track. His classmates included future industrialist Harry Roberts "Bum" Bright (1920–2004) and Earle Cabell (1906–1975), later a mayor of Dallas, who unseated veteran Republican U.S. Representative Bruce Reynolds Alger (1918–2015) in the 1964 landslide for Lyndon B. Johnson. At TAMU, Crichton wrote an award-winning essay, "The Political Career of Huey P. Long".[3]

Crichton served TAMU as the president of the Lettermen's Association and chairman of the Development Foundation. He also served on the board of the Association of Former Students from 1965 to 1968, was the association president in 1967, and in 1983 was named a "Distinguished Alumnus."[4] He later obtained a Master of Science degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Massachusetts, at which he was affiliated with Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.[2]

Military service and business dealings

​ Crichton served in the United States Army during World War II as a field artillery officer and special agent. He won the Air Medal, five Battle Stars, and the Bronze Star. He retired as a colonel in the Army Reserve.[4]

He was stationed in Europe in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was a field artillery officer and special agent. In 1946, Crichton was recruited by Everette DeGolyer, a former conservation director in the administration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and later a co-founder of Texas Instruments, to operate a group of companies which were frequnetly renamed to make it more difficult to trace their operations. According to investigative journalist Russ Baker, the companies "operated largely below the radar, and fronted for some of North America's biggest names, including the Bronfmans Seagram's liquor, the DuPonts, and the Kuhn-Loeb family of financiers."[3]

In 1952, Crichton joined a syndicate that included DeGolyer and Clint Murchison of Dallas to use connections in the government of General Francisco Franco to obtain drilling rights in Spain. The operation was handled by Delta Drilling, owned by Joe Zeppa. In August 1953, Crichton joined the Empire Trust Company and later became its vice president. The company maintained a network of associates similar to a "private CIA". Empire Trust was an investor of the Fort Worth-based General Dynamics.[3]

In 1956, Crichton became commander of the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment, which operated under Lieutenant Colonel George Whitmeyer, the overall commander of all Army Reserve units in East Texas. According to Crichton, there were about a hundred men in the unit, with nearly half of them coming from the Dallas Police Department.[3]

Cuban-Venezuelan Oil Voting Trust Company

​ Crichton was also involved with several other oilmen who negotiated drilling rights in Cuba under President Fulgencio Batista. Standard Oil of Indiana signed an agreement with the Cuban-Venezuelan Oil Voting Trust Company (CVOVTC), a unit originally established by William F. Buckley, Sr., for access to fifteen acres. During the mid-1950s, CVOVTC was one of the four or five most traded entities on the American Stock Exchange. Batista's communist successor, Fidel Castro, reduced the size of claims for oil exploration to a maximum of two thousand acres and ended large-scale explorations by private companies.[3]

The rise to power of Fidel Castro ruined CVOVTC, which had invested $30 million looking for oil in Cuba. The company was de-listed in December 1960 from the American Stock Exchange.[3]

Intelligence matters

​ Critchton was appointed head of the intelligence component of Dallas Civil Defense. The conservative radio commentator Paul Harvey wrote in September 1960: "The Communists, since 1917, have sold communism to more people than have been told about Christ after 2,000 years." He urged his readers to support the "counter-attack . . . mounted in Dallas."[3]

In 1961, Crichton joined with fellow Dallas conservatives to establish the program "Know Your Enemy", which aimed to combat communist influence that "was undermining the American way of life." In 1962, Crichton opened a command post underneath the patio of the Dallas Health and Science Museum with the goal of maintaining the continuity-of-government were the United States attacked.[3]

In November 1963, Crichton was involved in the arrangements of the fatal visit of U.S. President John F. Kennedy to Dallas. Crichton's friend, Deputy Police Chief George L. Lumpkin, a member of the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment, drove the pilot car of Kennedy's motorcade. Lieutenant Colonel George Whitmeyer, the East Texas Army Reserve commander, was also in the car. The pilot car stopped briefly in front of the Texas School Book Depository, where Lumpkin spoke to a policeman controlling traffic at the corner of Houston and Elm streets.​

At the time of the assassination of President Kennedy and the wounding of Governor Connally, Crichton was attending the annual luncheon held that year at the Adolphus Hotel on Commerce Street in Dallas on the Friday before Thanksgiving Day to honor the TAMU and University of Texas football teams, who meet on the gridiron annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Crichton recalls:​

I walked over to Elm Street to see the Kennedy delegation. . . . President Kennedy and Jackie made a handsome couple. She was resplendent in her pink dress and pink pillbox hat. The crowds on the sidewalks applauded, and waved as they drove by. . . . I entered the hotel . . . The room was almost filled, and people were seated at the individual tables. ... We had the invocation, and many guests began to eat their lunch. Suddenly we heard sirens screaming and someone from outside ran up to the head table and excitedly said, 'The President, Vice President, and Governor Connally have all been shot.' I stood and announced the news. There was stunned silence in the room. Someone then produced a radio, and the news confirmed that the President (and Connally) had been shot.[5]

Gubernatorial race

In making his race for governor, Crichton had to resign as president of the Association of Former Students of Texas A&M, a position to which he had just been elected. A classmate from Houston named John Lindsey moved up from vice president to head the organization.[6] Instead, he served in the post in 1967.

Crichton tapped a neighbor, Hughes Brown, as his campaign manager. Brown told Crichton that the assassination in Dallas meant an "uphill battle, but you will have a chance to advance the cause of the Republican Party in Texas, and in politics anything can happen."[7] Prior to the assassination, a poll had showed John F. Kennedy trailing in a trial heat in Texas for the 1964 general election.[8] ​ ​

Crichton's 13 political points

In the campaign, Crichton focused on these points:

  • (1) his opposition to the policies of President Johnson
  • (2) lowering state taxes
  • (3) cutting oil and beef imports
  • (4) stronger criminal justice measures to protect citizens
  • (5) increasing Texas' oil production
  • (6) opposition to a state civil rights law; the national Civil Rights Act of 1964 was at the time signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson
  • (7) full voting rights for U.S. military personnel
  • (8) state water resource development
  • (9) reduction of traffic problems
  • (10) decentralization in college and university administration
  • (11) higher public school teacher pay
  • (12) development of a two-party system
  • (13) ethics in state government.[9]

With Clint Walker and Coke Stevenson

Crichton was accompanied in a campaign appearance by actor Norman Eugene "Clint" Walker (1927–2018), former star of the American Broadcasting Company television series, Cheyenne (1955–1963). Walker once resided in Brownwood, Texas.[10] Though he addressed some large audiences during the campaign, in Muleshoe in Bailey County in West Texas Crichton spoke from the back of a wagon to only five people plus a stray dog.[10]

Crichton also traveled to Junction in Kimble County to meet with former Democratic Governor Coke Robert Stevenson (1888–1975), the official loser by eighty-seven disputed votes in the 1948 runoff primary for the U.S. Senate against Lyndon Johnson. Stevenson had supported John Tower in Tower's unsuccessful 1960 senatorial general election against Johnson and was backing Goldwater in 1964 as well in the presidential contest. Stevenson told Crichton that the 1948 election "is an important part of American history, for it got Lyndon to the Senate, which he later controlled, and was a stepping stone to his becoming President. As for me, I was depressed for quite a while, but in retrospect it has allowed me to enjoy my ranch and my young daughter. With that, we had another bourbon and branch water, and I thanked him and departed."[11]

Crichton, Goldwater, and Bush

While Crichton ran for governor, George Herbert Walker Bush, a Massachusetts native, sought the U.S. Senate seat held by the liberal Democrat Ralph Yarborough of Austin. Crichton was unopposed for his nomination, but Bush faced a primary fight with the 1962 Republican gubernatorial nominee, Jack M. Cox (1921–1990) of Houston. Crichton and Bush spoke from some of the same podiums that year. Crichton traveled 55,000 miles in the campaign, addressed audiences in 85 cities and towns, and made 275 speeches. At the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California, he was elected chairman of the Permanent Organization Committee and gave the report of that panel from the convention floor.[12]

Crichton strongly supported the Barry Goldwater presidential candidacy: "In my opinion Goldwater would have made a great president. He would either have withdrawn our presence in Vietnam or gone whole hog to win it, instead of the piecemeal strategy of the Johnson administration that so hampered our military leaders as they in effect were not allowed to win the Vietnam conflict."[13]

Crichton wrote a book, The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns in Texas in 1964, which among other topics discusses the split at the 1964 convention between the partisans of Goldwater and New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller and the last-minute attempt by Governor William Warren Scranton of Pennsylvania to bridge the differences. Crichton and Bush supported the eventual nominee, Goldwater, the U.S. senator from Arizona who lost Texas by a wide margin to native son Lyndon Johnson.[14] Crichton went to a summer meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania, having flown on the private jet of Winthrop Rockefeller, then the Moderate Republican gubernatorial nominee against Orval E. Faubus in Arkansas.[15]

Election results

Though Crichton and Bush were both defeated, Bush ran a stronger campaign against Yarborough than Crichton managed against Connally. Yarborough and Connally were sharp intra-party rivals at the time. Final results showed Connally with 1,877,793 votes (73.8 percent) to Crichton's 661,675 (26 percent). Crichton did, however, outpoll the tally amassed by the next Republican candidate against Connally in 1966, Thomas Everton Kennerly, Sr. (1903–2000), of Houston, by more than 300,000 votes in a lower-turnout election.[16] Kennerly ran unsuccessfully in 1964 for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court.

Crichton noted that he spent $65,000 (538,000 in 2019 dollars) on his gubernatorial race, the majority for five hundred billboards to promote his name identification. He also depended heavily on local television and newspaper coverage in the cities that he visited.[17] About half of Crichton's spending was from his personal funds. Crichton's expenditures averaged ten cents for each vote received, whereas the losing 2002 gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Tony Sanchez of Laredo, spent $10 per vote, having disbursed $20 million in his campaign against Rick Perry.[18]

Death and legacy

Crichton retired in December 1967 from the Army Reserve after thirty years of service. He received the Legion of Merit for having organized the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment.[2]​ ​ Crichton was president of Nafco Oil and Gas and owned Dorchester Gas Producing Company.[19]​ He was the president of the Dallas Petroleum Engineers Club and a director of Florida Gas Company, Clark Oil and Refining, Whitehall Corporation, Transco Energy, and the Consolidated Development Corporation.[3] In 1965, he wrote another book, The Dynamic Natural Gas Industry, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in Norman, Oklahoma.[20]

Crichton died in Dallas of complications from cancer at the age of ninety-one. Crichton and his wife, the former Marilyn Berry (1927–2010), a native of Kansas.[21] The couple had two daughters, Catherine C. Morris (born 1955) and husband Craig Allen Morris (born 1954) and Anne C. Crews (born 1953) and husband Kyle W. Crews (born 1955). Anne was formerly an assistant press secretary in the first administration from 1979 to 1983 of Bill Clements, the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction. Crichton also had a surviving sister, Frances "Dinks" Atkinson (1913–2015) of Shreveport, and two grandchildren, one of whom, John Crichton Morris, is named for his grandfather.[4]

In his short memoir, Crichton describes his political legacy:​

Although I lost to a popular governor with his arm in a sling from the Kennedy tragedy, I think I was successful in helping to establish the Republican Party . . . to make Texas a two-party state. I met and made friends with some wonderful people who shared my views. An example; twenty years after the election I was in an airport in Baltimore, and an elderly lady came up to me and said, "I was your precinct chairman in Brownsville, and I'll always be grateful for your effort in the 1964 election." Such an appreciation made my efforts in 1964 worthwhile.[22]

​ Crichton recalled how 1964 brought two new names to national political prominence, Ronald W. Reagan, who gave the celebrated television speech for Goldwater on October 27, 1964, and George H. W. Bush, though defeated in the first of two Senate bids later became Reagan's vice president and presidential successor. He continued: "The election also established the foundation of the Republican Party in Texas under then state chairman Peter O'Donnell's leadership, and the voters were shown qualified candidates who stood for conservative principles. The influx into Texas by Republicans from other states who shared these principles finally led to the Republican Party controlling both the [state] House and Senate in 2003."[23]​ ​ Crichton's papers are deposited at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station. He had first been invited to turn over his files to Baylor University in Waco but decided Texas A&M would be the more appropriate venue, considering his past ties to the university and to George H. W. Bush.​


  1. Social Security Death Index. ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved on April 8, 2010.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Joe Simnache (December 15, 2007). "John Alston "Jack" Crichton: Oilman, military officer in WWII". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved on October 9, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Jack Alston Crichton. Spartacus-educational.com. Retrieved on October 9, 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Association past president Jack Crichton '37 passes away, Aggienetwork.com, accessed April 8, 2010; no longer on-line.
  5. Jack Crichton, The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns in Texas in 1964, self-published, 2004, pp. 7-8, ISBN 1-4184-2574-5 (paperback).
  6. Crichton, p. 16.
  7. Crichton, p. 15.
  8. Crichton, p. 44.
  9. Crichton, p. 58.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Crichton, p. 37
  11. Crichton, pp. 35-37.
  12. Crichton, pp. 53-55.
  13. Crichton, p. 48.
  14. The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns: In Texas in 1964. flipkart.com. Retrieved on April 9, 2010. 
  15. Crichton, p. 27.
  16. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Texas governorship.
  17. Crichton, p. 34.
  18. Crichton, pp. 56, 59.
  19. http://www.aggienetwork.com/tribute/index/37-11/
  20. Crichton, p. 79.
  21. Marilyn Berry Crichton. Ancestry.com. Retrieved on September 4, 2019.
  22. Crichton, p. 50.
  23. Crichton, pp. 48-49.