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Richardson, Sid Williams (1891–1959)

Ben H. Procter Biography Entry

Sid Richardson, oilman, was born on April 25, 1891, in Athens, Texas, the son of John Isidore and Nancy (Bradley) Richardson. He earned $3,500 in 1908 by cattle trading while still a senior in high school. He attended Baylor University and Simmons College for about eighteen months, then quit to become a salesman for an oil-well supply company, an oil scout, and a lease purchaser; although he remained interested in the cattle business and ranching, his main concern was the oil industry. He became an independent oil producer in Fort Worth in 1919. His finances fluctuated widely, and he accumulated wealth and lost it several times during the 1920s. He was well established as a millionaire by 1935, when he opened up the rich Keystone oilfield in Winkler County. From his suite of offices in Fort Worth he individually leased more oil land than did several major oil companies; operated three cattle ranches; and owned the Texas State Network (a radio and television organization), a carbon black plant at Odessa, and the Texas City Refining Company. He purchased St. Joseph's Island off the Texas coast in 1936 and resided there when he wasn't in Fort Worth. In 1954, with his longtime friend Clinton Williams Murchison , he backed fellow Texan Robert Ralph Young in a successful fight for control of the New York Central Railroad by buying 800,000 shares worth $20 million.

The public seldom knew of Richardson's business activities, and few knew what he looked like, for he rarely talked to reporters and did not like publicity. In politics he was a confidant of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whom he advised at times during World War II about oil affairs. In 1952 he helped persuade his Republican friend Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president. In 1956, however, he returned to the Democrats after the president vetoed a natural-gas bill. Though he never publicized his gifts, Richardson made large contributions to civic groups, churches, libraries, and especially to Boys, Incorporated, a California charitable organization. On July 7, 1947, he established the Sid W. Richardson Foundation, designed to aid churches, hospitals, and schools in Texas. Richardson was considered one of the wealthiest men in the nation; some estimates of his worth ranged up to $800 million, and he was often referred to as the "bachelor billionaire."

He died, apparently of a heart attack, on September 30, 1959, at his St. Joseph's Island ranch home. He was buried at Athens, Texas, and many dignitaries attended the funeral, including Lyndon B. Johnson, Samuel T. (Sam) Rayburn, and evangelist Billy Graham, who conducted the services. The Richardson Foundation presented to the University of Texas at Austin a $2 million gift to increase the holdings of its History of Science Collection, housed in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. In appreciation the university named the new building adjacent to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library after Richardson. The building, on the campus of the university, consists of five levels and was dedicated on January 21, 1971. Sid Richardson Hall currently houses the Research and Collections Division of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Austin American, October 1, 1959. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Who's Who in America, 1956–57.

Categories:

  • 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.

Ben H. Procter, “Richardson, Sid Williams,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 27, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/richardson-sid-williams.

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