Murchison, Clinton Williams, Sr. (1895–1969)

By: Ernestine Orrick Van Buren

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: May 1, 1995

Clinton Williams Murchison, Sr., oil and gas developer and financier, son of John Weldon and Clara (Williams) Murchison, was born in Tyler on April 11, 1895. He forfeited the college education planned for him by his parents and worked in his father's bank, where he acquired financial expertise. He served in the United States Army during World War I and became a first lieutenant. In 1919 he joined his lifelong friend Sid W. Richardson as a lease trader in the flourishing Burkburnett oilfield. He quickly moved into exploration and development, and despite the fluctuations in the price of oil, he sold his holdings in 1925 for $5 million and moved his base of operations to San Antonio. He speculated in South Texas and in 1928 reestablished himself in Dallas.

In 1929 Murchison formed the Southern Union Gas Company, which soon supplied natural gas throughout Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Arizona, and New Mexico. In 1930 he became one of the earliest developers in the East Texas oilfield. He quickly acquired extensive leases and production and built the Tyler Pipe Line to deliver crude oil to a new refinery in Tyler; he shipped additional oil from Tyler by rail to Houston for distribution throughout the world. Murchison named his new corporation American Liberty Oil Company, to express his opposition to proration and other government regulation of private industry. When the price of oil fell to ten cents a barrel as a result of the glutted market, he changed his mind about conservation laws; however, he crusaded throughout his career against government regulation of oil and gas prices. He consistently defended the soundness of the depletion-allowance law provided to encourage oil exploration (see RAILROAD COMMISSION).

In 1945 Murchison formed Delhi Oil Corporation, which quickly became one of the largest integrated independent oil companies in the country. Delhi achieved international attention because of the great gas reserves developed by its subsidiary, Canadian Delhi, in western Canada. Murchison conceived of an all-Canadian pipeline to deliver natural gas from the fields of Alberta to the eastern seaboard; it was completed in 1958 as the 2,100-mile Trans-Canada Pipe Lines. Later, Delhi Australia, another subsidiary, developed gas reserves in Australia, and Delhi Coastal Transmission, still another subsidiary, became the independent Florida Gas Company, which transported gas from points along the Texas coast to cities in Florida. In 1955 Delhi merged with Taylor Oil and Gas Company to form the Delhi-Taylor Oil Corporation. While developing Delhi, Murchison had been acquiring holdings in Kirby Petroleum Company with the idea of merging it into Delhi or Taylor. After the Delhi-Taylor merger he concentrated on molding Kirby as a strong, independent company; it was the last oil company he developed. In the late 1930s Murchison began diversifying his investments. He acquired numerous life-insurance companies, banks, bus lines, publishing firms, heavy industrial building materials companies, and an assortment of companies serving such leisure activities as hunting, fishing, travel, and gardening. He was a cattleman throughout his life and acquired extensive ranches in Mexico and East Texas. He experimented in improving cattle strains and in developing superior grazing grasses. He was an avid sportsman, who entertained friends, business associates, and celebrities at his private hunting and fishing retreats in Texas and Mexico. Murchison married Anne Morris of Tyler in 1920; they had three sons before her death in 1926. One of their sons, Clinton W. Murchison, Jr., became a longtime owner of the Dallas Cowboys. In 1943 Murchison married Virginia Long of Commerce. He died on June 20, 1969, in Athens, Texas, and is buried there in City Cemetery.

Ernestine O. Van Buren, Clint: Clint Williams Murchison (Austin: Eakin Press, 1986).
  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters
Time Periods:
  • Texas Post World War II

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ernestine Orrick Van Buren, “Murchison, Clinton Williams, Sr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995