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Wrather, John Devereaux, Jr. (1918–1984)

Amanda Oren Biography Entry

Jack Wrather, oilman and entrepreneur, was born on May 24, 1918, in Amarillo, Texas, the son of Mazie (Cogdell) and John Devereaux Wrather, Sr. He was raised in Tyler and graduated from Tyler High School in 1935. He then went on to the University of Texas, from which he graduated cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in 1939. He was a lifelong member of the Methodist Church. On July 31, 1941, he married Mollie O'Daniel, the daughter of Governor Wilbert Lee (Pappy) O'Daniel. They had two children. Mollie filed for divorce in 1945 with ensuing court battles as late as 1952. On February 5, 1947, he married the movie actress Bonita Granville. They also had two children. Wrather spent his college summer vacations working in the oilfields of East Texas. From 1942 to 1947 he served in the United States Marine Corps Reserves before inheriting his father's oil company, Overton Refining Company, and expanding its holdings into a very successful business. Wrather produced a multi-million-dollar fortune in oil, movies, television, radio, and hotel resorts. He produced his first movie, The Guilty, in 1946, and by 1955 he had produced six more. Beginning in the 1950s he produced Lassie for twenty years on network television. Wrather also produced the Lone Ranger television show from 1954 to 1957, and produced two Lone Ranger films. He diversified his business dealings even more with the purchases of New York radio station WNEW, Tulsa, Oklahoma, television station KOTV, and San Diego, California, television and radio stations KFMB-TV and KFMB. In 1957 Wrather owned the MUZAK corporation, which at that time owned one of the world's largest recording plants and library. Wrather also developed the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California, along with the Twin Lakes Lodge in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the L'Horizon Hotel in Palm Springs, California. He spent $25 million restoring the Queen Mary and saved the Spruce Goose airplane from demolition in 1981 as a favor to his friend Howard Hughes. Because of his business dealings in California, Wrather became a close and trusted friend of Ronald Reagan. He was one of the first people to encourage Reagan to run for public office in California. He then served as a member of Reagan's "Kitchen Cabinet." Wrather was considered one of the leading entrepreneurs of his time. He died of cancer in California on November 12, 1984.

Betty Burtis Babione, Men of Achievement, 1958, Texas ed. (Dallas: Biographical Arts, 1958). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Oil and Gas Industry
  • Business
  • Oil Entrepreneurs and Wildcatters

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

Amanda Oren, “Wrather, John Devereaux, Jr.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 22, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995
August 6, 2020