Summerfield G. Roberts, businessman and philanthropist, was born in Dallas on October 17, 1891. He was the son of Matthew Cartwright and Emily (Griffith) Roberts of Terrell, Texas. He graduated from Wesley College at Terrell in 1910. He received his B.A. from the University of Texas in 1914 and his M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1916. On August 15, 1916, he received a patent for an improved water heater that regulated temperature and steam pressure. During World War I Roberts served in the United States Navy and rose from ensign to lieutenant commander. He married Annie Lee Warren on May 15, 1920 (see ROBERTS, ANNIE L. W.). In the early 1920s he moved to Dallas and went on to become a successful oil executive and business leader. He served as president of Strebor Oil Company in Dallas from 1923 to 1969 and was president of Hanover Oil Company in Dallas from 1932 to 1969. He was vice president of Dalclark Oil Corporation, an officer and stockholder of Caribou Oil Company and Pyramid Oil Company, and worked in several other oil ventures. He was director of Great National Life Insurance Company, Traders and General Insurance Company, and Texas Independent Petroleum Producers.
As a fifth-generation Texan interested in Texas history and culture, Roberts encouraged writing and research on the Republic of Texas by endowing the Summerfield G. Roberts prize for the best Texas history book through the Sons of the Republic of Texas. The first prize was given to Eugene C. Barker for the Life of Stephen F. Austin in 1951. In addition, Roberts donated his James W. Fannin collection to the Dallas Historical Society and provided funds for a rare book library on Texas history. He donated several Frank Reaugh paintings to the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum and commissioned paintings of the heroes of Texas which currently hang in the Texas State Library. Roberts served on the board of directors of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Alton-Oschner Hospital Foundation in New Orleans and was a past president of the Dallas Historical Society. He was a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas, the Sons of the American Revolution, and the Philosophical Society of Texas. Roberts was also honored as a Knight of San Jacinto by the Sons of the Republic of Texas. He died in Dallas on January 2, 1970. Following his death the Summerfield G. Roberts Foundation was established.