Thomas Baker Slick, Jr., oilman, rancher, philanthropist, and founder of the Southwest Research Institute and the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio, was born at Clarion, Pennsylvania, on May 6, 1916, the son of Thomas Baker and Berenice (Frates) Slick. His father, one of the most famous independent oil operators in the Southwest, was known as "Lucky Tom" and "King of the Wildcatters." When Tom Slick, Sr., died in 1930 at the age of forty-six, he left his children approximately $15 million. Tom, Jr., used his wealth to support activity in a variety of fields, including scientific research, oil drilling, cattle breeding, exploration, and collections of modern art. When Slick was twelve, his family moved from San Antonio to Oklahoma City. He attended Phillips Exeter Academy from 1931 to 1934. In 1938 he earned a premedical degree in biology from Yale University, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa. He later took graduate courses at Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During the first part of World War II he was a "dollar-a-year" man for the War Production Board in Washington and a cargo officer in Chile for the Board of Economic Warfare. He later served in the navy in the Pacific and Japan.
Slick established a number of research organizations, beginning in 1941 with the Foundation of Applied Research (now the Texas Biomedical Research Institute; see ARGYLE HOTEL). He also founded the Institute of Inventive Research (1944; liquidated 1953), designed to develop and promote the ideas of independent inventors; the Southwest Research Institute (1947); the Southwest Agricultural Institute (1957); the Mind Science Foundation (1958), which investigates the human mind; and the Human Progress Foundation (1960), was intended to promote better conditions through science, education, and the advancement of peace. The first three of these-the SFRE, IIR, and SR-became units of the Southwest Research Center, which Slick endowed with 3,800 acres of land and $2 million. Slick helped to develop Brangus cattle, and his herd of registered Anguses was one of the three largest in the country. His oil activities included the discovery in 1947 of the Benedum Field in West Texas, one of the most significant oil finds in the United States after World War II. Slick was coinventor of the lift-slab method of building construction. He wrote The Last Great Hope (1951) and Permanent Peace: A Check and Balance Plan (1958). He was a collector of modern art and sculpture. As an avid adventurer and world traveler, he spent two weeks with a Waiwai tribe in the jungles of British Guiana in 1956, after his plane made a forced landing during a diamond-hunting trip. Slick hunted wild boar in New Zealand in the 1950s as described in Lawson Burrows’s book Te Anau Anchorage (1974). He also organized several expeditions to search for the "Abominable Snowman" in the Himalayan Mountains and led one of the expeditions himself, in 1957. Later his attention shifted to the Pacific Northwest, where there were reports of a Bigfoot or Sasquatch.
Slick was a trustee and governor of the Texas Research Foundation, the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology (Massachusetts), the Stanford Research Institute (Palo Alto), Trinity University, and the San Antonio Medical Foundation. He was a member of numerous organizations, including the United World Federalists, the National Planning Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Explorers Club. He also served on the board of directors of a number of companies, including Slick Airways and Dresser Industries, and was a founder of the TexStar Corporation. In 1953 he received an honorary doctor of science degree from Trinity University. Slick was married and divorced twice and had four children. He died in a private airplane crash on October 6, 1962, near Dell, Montana, and was buried in Mission Burial Park, San Antonio.