Walter William Lechner, oilman, was born in Terrell, Texas, on October 13, 1890, the son of Philip and Priscilla (Truss) Lechner. He attended Terrell High School and a local junior college called North Texas (later Texas Military College), where he did so well in stenography that he was asked to teach the course. He enrolled in 1912 at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas (now Texas A&M University) for a year. In 1917 Lechner became a roustabout in the Moonshine Hill oilfield for the Cezeaux and Martin Drilling Company; a few months later he became a driller. On December 11, 1917, he enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps of the United States Army. He saw action at Saint Mihiel and in Meuse-Argonne with the 169th Aero Squadron and arrived back in the United States on May 1, 1919, with a bronze star. In 1919 Lechner reentered the oil business in Burkburnett as an employee of Currin and Keans Carnation Oil Company. In 1922 he was employed by Loutex and moved to Snyder, where he endured considerable hardship until he brought in the J. J. Moore No. 1, the first producing well in Scurry County, on October 9, 1923. It was this well that first produced helium combined with nitrogen, which Lechner used for cooling watermelons. In April 1930 Lechner met Barney A. Skipper and set about making arrangements that culminated in the Lathrop No 1, the second well of the tremendous East Texas oilfield. Lechner had more than forty flowing wells in 1933. He bought leases in Scurry County in 1948. Shortly afterward the Diamond M field was brought in. Shell Oil bought Lechner's leases for $1,000 an acre and half of the royalties. Early on, Lechner married May Kyle, and they had a son. They were divorced after World War I, and on September 1, 1920, Lechner married Ruth (Maggie) Nowlin. They moved to Dallas in 1934, where Mrs. Lechner became known for her azalea garden. In 1939 they moved to a home they called "WaRu" at Eagle Mountain in Tarrant County. Lechner chaired Beauford H. Jester's campaign for governor in 1946; in 1949 Governor Allan Shivers appointed him to the Texas Game, Fish, and Oyster Commission (later the Texas Game and Fish Commission). During World War II Lechner served in Washington, D. C., on the refinery division of the Petroleum Administration. He died on September 3, 1979, in Dallas and was buried in the Hillcrest Mausoleum. He left $5 million to Texas A&M University.
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James A. Clark, An Oilman's Oilman, ed. Judith King (Houston: Gulf, 1979). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Oil and Gas Industry
Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Jerrell Dean Palmer,
“Lechner, Walter William,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
March 1, 1995
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 6, 2019
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: