Legendary oilman and philanthropist dies

Well-known oilman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Clayton Williams died Feb. 14 surrounded by his family at his home in Midland. He was 88. He reportedly died from complications of pneumonia.

Perhaps most notorious for his ill-fated bid for governor of Texas, the Republican lost to Democrat Ann Richards in 1990, but remained a loyal Republican throughout his life.

Though born in Alpine, Williams grew up in Fort Stockton, and started his career there by brokering oil and gas leases before he started drilling oil wells. He hit enough strikes to become one of the state’s largest independent oilmen by 1982. In 2017, Noble Energy purchased Williams’ Midland-based Clayton Williams Energy for $2.7 billion in stock and cash.

An alumnus of Texas A&M University, Williams gave millions to the school over the years, and the Clayton W. Williams, Jr., Alumni Center was named after him.

In 2019, Williams and his wife, Modesta, made a sizeable donation to benefit the Museum of the Big Bend expansion. His son Jeff Williams and wife Erin last year hosted the Trappings of Texas Roundup Party at their ranch in Alpine, an event Clayton and Modesta attended.

Said Museum of the Big Bend Director Mary Bones, “We appreciate the generosity and kindness the Williams family has extended to the museum. Clayton was a figure larger than life. We appreciate the ranching families for supporting the museum, and Clayton was an important part of that community.”

Speaking for the Williams family, Denise Kelly, Williams’ long-time assistant, said, “The people’s hearts in the Big Bend area make Alpine the wonderful place that it is, and that endears the Alpine ranch to us. The people of Alpine make it what it is.”

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