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Hugh Roy Cullen(1881-1957)

Hugh Roy Cullen was known as the "king of the wildcatters." He once said that the trouble with the oil business was that people expected to find oil on the surface. Cullen discovered millions of barrels of oil in fields that his competitors had abandoned because he was willing to dig deeper.

In the midst of a fruitful career as a cotton broker in San Antonio, Cullen determined the flow of wealth was headed to Houston and moved his family there in 1911. He quickly earned a reputation as an honest, reliable cotton buyer and eventually acquired a seat on the Houston Cotton Exchange. But in 1917 he became interested instead in a method called "Creekology," detecting oil through the study of surface geology and the paths of flowing water around land formations.

Over the next several years, Cullenís philosophies of digging deeper and creekology led to profitable discoveries at Pierce Junction and Blue Ridge. In 1928, he formed the South Texas Petroleum Company with partner Jim West. At Humble Field, where oilmen and geologists had tried unsuccessfully to draw oil for 30 years, Cullen was able to force his pipes through the shale, and his wells there yielded 5,000 barrels a day.

After five years of strong production at Rabbís Ridge, West and Cullen sold it to the Humble Company and dissolved their partnership. Cullen took his portion of the proceeds and formed Quintana Petroleum in 1932. Within a year, he discovered the Tom OíConnor field, the largest oilfield in the state.

In 1938, Cullen divided the interests and oil fields of Quintana Petroleum among his four daughters and their children. Cullenís new company, Quintana Products, was then able to drill oil and carry out exploration on the fields owned by the trusts of his descendents.

Cullen, who at age 12 cur short his own formal education to support his mother, had long admired his grandfather Ezekiel Cullen, who founded the public school system in Texas. So when his only son, Roy Gustave, was killed by a falling derrick in 1936, he funded a building at the University of Houston in his name. Cullenís donations to the school over the next 20 years took the university from one building on a high school campus to nine colleges with 45 buildings on 250 acres.

Cullen once said he was selfish enough to want to see his money spent before his death. In 1947 he established the Cullen Foundation for the purpose of supporting education, medicine, and charitable institutions. By 1955 he had reportedly given away 93 percent of an estimated $250 million fortune to the University of Houston, Texas Medical Center, Baylor University College of Medicine, Texas Southern University, the Houston Symphony Society, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Boy Scouts, and the YMCA.

Cullen never ran for office, but was a believer in statesí rights and a champion of free enterprise unimpeded by government meddling or regulation. He once said: "As long as I am an American, I intend to use my God-given right to fight for the things that I believe made America strong, and to defend my country against the foreign Ďismsí and the European and Asiatic political systems that I believe will make us weak and ultimately destroy us."


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