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Philanthropists wed on Valentine's Day

February
14
1904

On this day in 1904, Walter William Fondren married Ella Florence Cochrum at Corsicana, Texas. Walter Fondren came to Texas as a sixteen-year-old orphan. He entered the oil business as a roughneck in the Corsicana oilfields, and went on to become one of the most successful oilmen in the state and the major stockholder of Humble Oil Company. As a teenager, Ella Fondren worked in her family's boardinghouse in Corsicana, where she met her future husband, then working as a driller. Ella aided him throughout his career, beginning shortly after their marriage, when she settled the family in Houston and purchased stock in the firm that became Texaco, Incorporated, an investment that was eventually worth millions. The couple were known for their philanthropic efforts. The Fondrens established the Fondren Lectures in Religious Thought at Southern Methodist University, and donated nearly half a million dollars to SMU to build the Fondren Library. After Walter's death in 1939, Ella carried on their philanthropic interests, establishing the Fondren Library at Rice University and administering the Fondren Foundation. Ella died in 1982, shortly before her 102nd birthday.

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