John Bernard O'Hara, chairman of the board of the Dr Pepper Company, was born on August 22, 1884, in Duryea, Pennsylvania, the son of John Francis and Mary Loretta (Gilboy) O'Hara. He attended public schools in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He began his career in 1904, working as an engineer and surveyor for various coal companies and as an independent inspector of mines in Pennsylvania until 1917, when he was called for duty during World War I. He was sent to Waco, Texas, for training, and there he met his future wife, Virginia Lazenby, daughter of Robert Lazenby, one of the inventors of the Dr Pepper formula. During the war O'Hara saw action in Europe and was discharged a major. He returned after the war and married Virginia on June 12, 1919. Their only son, Robert Bernard O'Hara, was killed in action during World War II. After his marriage O'Hara went into business with his father-in-law, setting up a market for Dr Pepper in the Waco area and opening a second plant, which O'Hara managed, in St. Louis. In 1923 the main plant was moved from Waco to Dallas, and O'Hara served as vice president and manager of the Dr Pepper Company. In 1933 he was president of Dr Pepper, and in 1943 he became chairman of the board, a post he held until his death. O'Hara made Dr Pepper a national company. In addition to his activities with Dr Pepper, he served as a director with the American Bottlers of Carbonated Beverages Association, the First National Bank, Fidelity Union Life Insurance Company, Children's Hospital, and the local Salvation Army. He was a member of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Catholic Church, and the Athletic, Dallas Country, and Petroleum clubs. He died in Dallas on December 30, 1961, and was interred at Restland Memorial Park. In 1972 Virginia O'Hara established the John B. O'Hara Institute at the University of Dallas to encourage undergraduate students in chemistry and biology.
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Dallas Morning News, December 31, 1961. Who Was Who in America, vol. 4.
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Lisa C. Maxwell,
“O'Hara, John Bernard,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 16, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995
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