WHO'S WHO - GEORGE P. MITCHELL
The late Houston entrepreneur, developer, and civic supporter George Phydias Mitchell was many things to many people.
To those in the energy and petroleum industries, Mitchell was best known as co-founder of Mitchell Energy & Development Corporation. A native of Galveston who was born in 1919 to Greek immigrants, Mitchell received his degree in petroleum engineering and geology from Texas A&M University. "I was born to parents who had little education," he explained. "That was their dream for us, perseverance and knowledge and getting a good education."
Following his service with the Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, Mitchell joined a new wildcatting company as a consulting geologist and engineer, then later as partner. This wildcatter struck gold in north Texas gas fields. Started Mitchell Energy & Development in 1946. Later renamed Mitchell Energy & Development Corporation, the company today is one of the largest independent gas and oil producers in the state, and one of the largest real estate developers in the Houston-Galveston region. According to Mitchell, the company has found more than 200 oil and 350 gas properties since its beginnings in 1946.
Mitchell also adds his talents to improving his industry. He served on the National Petroleum Council and was also a past president and chairman of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association.
During the 1960s, Mitchell frequently traveled around the country, and what he saw going on nationwide disturbed him greatly. He worried that the so-called "white flight" to the suburbs would lead to subdivisions that might stifle a city’s core. He envisioned a planned community where mixed-income housing could be developed close to downtown jobs and shops. A real estate project on a scale never seen in the booming Houston area – a complete new town. This vision resulted in The Woodlands. The vibrant community opened in 1974.
The Woodlands is located north of Houston on 25,000 acres and is home to 200,000 people. It houses over 107,769 residents and has created over 100,000 jobs. The Woodlands has received international acclaim for its planning, particularly in the area of ecology.
When sold in 1997 to the partnership of Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. and Morgan Stanley Real Estate fund II, it had a population of 48,000, led Houston’s market in new home sales for seven consecutive years, and was the state’s new homes sales leader. Today the acreage totals over 27,000 and the population is estimated at 90,000.
In 1988, Mitchell was elected as a trustee of the University Research Association, a director of the Gas Research Institute, and a member of the World Resources Institute Council. In 1989, he was selected as a member of the President’s Circle of the National Academy of Sciences.
George Mitchell sold Mitchell Energy & Development to Devon Energy in 2001 for $3.5 billion.
Mitchell was also renowned in the academic and research communities as founder of the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) and Center for Global Studies. A contract and grant research institution headquartered at The Woodlands’ Research Forest, HARC is a collaboration of eight universities, as well as high-tech research and commercial spin-offs of universities. Through HARC, Mitchell founded the Center for Global Studies, which sponsors a series of conferences on environmental and growth issues and problems. The Center awards The Mitchell Prize, $100,000 in awards at each conference, to encourage research into environmental and growth issues and problems. In addition, Mitchell is a supporter of education, having served on the Texas Select Committee on Higher Education and the Texas Governor’s Science and Technology Council. The tennis center at Texas A&M University was named in his honor. Built for an estimated $4.2 million, the official ribbon cutting ceremony was held on October 23, 1998.
Mr. Mitchell was an adviser to Project Independence and a member of the National Petroleum Council. He served three terms as president and two terms as chairman of the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association. He is a member of the All-American Wildcatters, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and American Institute of Mining Engineers, as well as numerous other professional, business, educational, and civic organizations. Mr. Mitchell served as a member of Texas’ Select Committee on Higher Education and the Texas Governor’s Science and Technology Council.
A longtime environmentalist now looking to save the planet; opposed oil drilling in Alaska wildlife refuge, funded a $10 million National Academies study on sustainable development and population growth.
Mr. Mitchell was probably best known to the Houston community as a supportive civic leader. He and his late wife, Cynthia, were deeply involved with the arts and are active in rebuilding the Galveston area. In 1985, they revived the mid-winter Mardi Gras celebration in Galveston, which now draws 500,000 visitors annually. Mr. Mitchell and his wife Cynthia took leading roles in the rejuvenation of Galveston’s historic Strand District by restoring 17 commercial buildings.
"We have a strong sense of community," Mitchell said. "And we want to serve both Houston and Galveston as best we can."
In 2004, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth as $1.6 billion, placing him among the 500 richest people worldwide.
George P. Mitchell died July 26, 2013, at his home in Galveston, Texas aged 94 of unknown causes, while surrounded by relatives. He was the father of ten children.