Olin Culberson, son of William Albert and Martha Artemesia (Richardson) Culberson, was born at Turnersville, Coryell County, Texas, on October 26, 1886. He was taught by his parents at Culberson Select School, a family enterprise, and afterward labored as a railroad worker in Hillsboro until 1911. That year he was appointed deputy clerk of Hill County. The following year he married Mary Lou Rochelle of Hubbard; the couple had one daughter.
In 1918 Culberson resigned his office to serve in World War I. Upon returning to Hillsboro, he was twice elected county clerk of Hill County. In that office he discovered and exposed a $263,000 road-bond fraud. In 1925 he became county judge. During his two terms on the bench he used the recovered bond-fraud money to construct needed roads and bridges. He refused to run for a third term, moved to Edna, and purchased an interest in a dry-goods store. He moved in 1932 to Austin, where he was asked to accept a position with the Railroad Commission in order to conduct a rate investigation of the Lone Star Gas Company. First as chief examiner and later as chief of the gas utilities division, he conducted sixteen major rate investigations for the commission. These antagonized certain gas interests, pressure groups sought his removal, and in 1939 he was discharged.
The following year, as a reform candidate, Culberson bested eighteen opponents and was elected railroad commissioner. He was reelected three consecutive times. In addition to proposing a weekly meeting of the railroad commissioners and insisting on ten days' notice for all public hearings, he was responsible for other important rulings. Political appointees were replaced by graduate petroleum engineers. The flaring of casinghead gas was stopped, and its return to the well became mandatory. A malodorant was added to natural gas (see NEW LONDON SCHOOL EXPLOSION). Annual inspections of liquefied petroleum gas installations in schools and public buildings were established. Culberson implemented a new system of oil accounting and fought freight-rate discrimination against Southwest Texas. While on the Railroad Commission, he earned a reputation as an uncompromising champion of independent oil producers.
Culberson served the Texas Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association as secretary for over forty years, and he was active in many charitable organizations. He died on June 22, 1961, and was buried in the State Cemetery in Austin. In 1963 the Olin Culberson Memorial Research Center, a center for the study of cardiovascular diseases, was dedicated at Scott and White Memorial Hospital in Temple.
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Olin Culberson Scrapbook, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Houston Press, June 24, 1961. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Robert Stephen Peel,
“Culberson, Olin Wellborn Nichols,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 01, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
December 1, 1994