Williams, Clayton Wheat (1895–1983)

By: Ernest Wallace

Type: Biography

Published: September 1, 1995

Clayton Wheat Williams, engineer, military officer, geologist, oilman, rancher, civic leader, historian, and philanthropist, the fourth child of Sallie (Wheat) and Oscar Waldo Williams, was born in an officers' building of the abandoned Fort Stockton in the town of Fort Stockton, Texas, on April 15, 1895. He attended Fort Stockton public school and Texas A&M, where he obtained a degree in electrical engineering in 1915. During the next two years he worked as an electrician for a mining company in New Mexico. In 1917 he joined the first Officers' Training Camp at Leon Springs, Texas, received a commission as a second lieutenant from Fortress Monroe Artillery School in Virginia, and then volunteered for military duty in France, where he received additional training in artillery warfare. Thereafter, until the end of the war, he served as an instructor in military schools in Langres and Cleremont-Ferrand, France. During 1919 and 1920 Williams worked as an engineer for the Oil Belt Power Company in Eastland, Texas, and for the next four years he was a surveyor and an engineer for the highway departments in Texas and New Mexico. In 1924 he became chief engineer for the Texon Oil and Land Company. While thus employed he advanced to the head of the land and geological departments. Despite the fact that he had no formal training in geology, he became one of the earliest licensed geologists in Texas and was responsible for the discovery of the Settles and Harding oilfields in Howard County and for the first oil discovery in the rich Ellenburger formation. He was largely responsible for convincing Texon officials to drill the successful University 1-B well in 1926. It was the world's deepest well at the time. In 1927 he constructed the water and ice works in Crane, Texas, which he operated until 1935.

In 1928 Williams resigned from Texon and on September 10 married Chicora (Chic) Lee Graham of San Angelo; they had two children, Clayton W., Jr., and Janet. Thereafter, he was independently engaged in the oil and ranching business and active in numerous civic and community affairs. As an elected official, he served for twelve years as a Pecos County commissioner and for several years on the Fort Stockton School Board. He was a Scottish Rite Mason and a member of the Methodist Church, the Permian Historical Society, the West Texas Historical Association, the Texas State Historical Association, the Pecos County Historical Commission, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Williams also achieved distinction as a regional historian and as a philanthropist. His publications include several scholarly articles and five books: Never Again (3 vols., 1969), Animal Tales of the West (1974), and Texas' Last Frontier: Fort Stockton and the Trans-Pecos, 1861–1895 (1982). Williams gave generously to worthy events and organizations in Fort Stockton; other beneficiaries of his generosity included Texas A&M University, the Permian Historical Society, the West Texas Historical Association, and the Texas State Historical Association. Williams was the recipient of many honors. He was a fellow of the Permian Historical Society, and he served as president of the Fort Stockton Historical Society and the West Texas Historical Association and as commander of the American Legion and VFW posts in Fort Stockton. He was an honorary life member of the Pecos County Sheriff's Posse and the Board of Stewards of the First United Methodist Church in Fort Stockton. His name is engraved on a plaque on the battleship Texas and on the list of "First Campers" in the garden at the Alamo. In 1974 he was named Fort Stockton's Outstanding Citizen, and the West Texas Historical Association Year Book for 1982 is dedicated to him. Clayton W. Williams died on September 9, 1983, and was buried in East Hill Cemetery, Fort Stockton.

Fane Downs, "Clayton W. Williams," West Texas Historical Association Year Book 58 (1982). Samuel D. Myres, The Permian Basin: Petroleum Empire of the Southwest (2 vols., El Paso: Permian, 1973, 1977). Martin W. Schwettmann, The Discovery and Early Development of the Big Lake Oil Field (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1941). Who's Who in the South and Southwest.


  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature
  • Folklorists
  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Business
  • Science
  • Geologists and Geophysicists
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters

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

Ernest Wallace, “Williams, Clayton Wheat,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 26, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/williams-clayton-wheat.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995