Clayton Wheat Williams, Jr., passed into heaven’s gates surrounded by his loving family on Feb. 14, 2020. Clayton was born Oct. 8, 1931 in the small West Texas town of Alpine to Clayton and Chicora (Graham) Williams. The son and grandson of legendary pioneering West Texans, he grew up in nearby Fort Stockton, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M in 1954 with a degree in animal husbandry. He then served two years in the U.S. Army before being honorably discharged. While in the Army, he waited tables at the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas and learned first-hand that people like to be treated with respect and consideration.
Clayton took the $5,000 he saved from waiting tables and discharge pay, and from scratch, started selling life insurance in Fort Stockton. Soon after, Clayton entered the oil and gas business as an independent oil lease broker in 1957. From his Coyanosa oil and gas discovery, he founded Clajon Gas in 1959 that went on to be the largest individually owned gas company in Texas when he sold it in 1988. He loved building pipeline and eventually built pipeline throughout Texas.
A former employee said of Clayton that he outworked everyone around him. Future employees for decades would also find that to be true. His legion of former and current employees loved him not only as a boss, but also as a friend, and admired his work ethic. He felt the same way about his employees.
He often said he ran his business like Christopher Columbus. When he left, he didn’t know where he was going; when he got there, he didn’t know where he was; and when he got back, he didn’t know where he’d been. And like Christopher Columbus, he did it all on borrowed money!
In 1984, Clayton founded the first all-digital long distance company in Texas, ClayDesta Communications. Because an actor was too expensive, Clayton starred in his own commercials that were filmed on his Alpine ranch. He would go on to be an industry leader in oil and gas exploration, production, and transportation, Brangus cattle, commercial alfalfa at Fort Stockton Farms, oilfield services, and telecommunications, and diversifying into banking and real estate. Along the way, he founded more than two dozen companies.
Clayton Williams Energy owned 3,000 wells scattered over Texas, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Utah, and was a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange until he sold it in 2017. Clayton’s outspoken leadership during Texas' economic ups and downs earned him respect as a survivor and a man with tremendous tenacity and foresight.
Always a Texas Aggie, he continued to support his alma mater and Aggie football, and contributed to many scholarship projects. One of his great joys was teaching a course at the business school at A&M from 1983-89. In 1989, the Clayton W. Williams, Jr. Alumni Center was named in his honor.
An Eagle Scout and an All-American Wildcatter, he has received many awards for his leadership in oil and gas, agriculture, and real estate development. He was honored with the A&M Distinguished Alumni Award in 1981, inducted into the Petroleum Museum Hall of Fame in 2005, earned many lifetime achievement awards, and was honored to give the Aggie Muster address at A&M in 2005.
When he wasn’t working, Clayton and Modesta traveled and hunted all over the world. They loved seeing new countries and the adventures their many travels took them on. Clayton earned the Grand Slam and Super Slam of sheep hunting, and loved retelling the stories that went along with each trip.
In 1990, Clayton was the Republican Party’s nominee for governor of Texas, and he continued to support Republican, conservative efforts.
Clayton was modest about his faith in God, but gently shared the gospel of Jesus with others. He always had his favorite scriptures to quote with sick friends and loved ones to be sure they knew Jesus. On various tables in his CWEI offices, Clayton had the “Plan to Salvation” pamphlets for anyone to read or take home. He was a member of Community Bible Study for many years. He liked to refer to it as “cramming for finals.”
Clayton was an American patriot, loved God and his country, and loved supporting the military, veterans, and local and state law enforcement. Clayton and Modesta established the 200 Club in the 1970s to provide support for local disabled and wounded officers or for their families if the officers were killed. He felt privileged to also be a part of thanking America’s wounded veterans at the annual Show of Support/Hunt for Heroes event, and hosted hunts for some of the veterans every year.
Clayton was most proud of his 55-year marriage to his wife Modesta, and the couple’s five children, nine grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Clayton and Modesta took delight in their family, and took every opportunity to be at activities in which they were involved. Family gatherings at their Alpine ranch were memorable times that forever linked the generations.
Clayton is survived by his wife Modesta and their five children, Kelvie Cleverdon and husband Tim of Midland, Texas, Allyson Groner and husband Jerry of Midland, Clayton Wade Williams and wife Kristy of Midland, Jeff Williams and wife Erin of Alpine, and Chim Welborn and husband Greg of Midland. He is also survived by grandchildren Joshua and Jered Groner, Michael Clayton Muhlbauer, Anna Baum, Aubry and Chance Williams, Hyson and Modesta Welborn, and Alex Williams; and five great-grandchildren Ava Muhlbauer, Brooks Groner, Cooper, Caleb and Logan Baum. He leaves behind many nieces, nephews, dear friends, and loved ones.
Pallbearers will be members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, Clayton Wade Williams, Jeff Williams, Jerry Groner, Greg Welborn and Tim Cleverdon. Honorary pallbearers will be Joshua Groner, Jered Groner, Michael Clayton Muhlbauer, Clay Pollard, Scott Pollard, Graham Pollard, Adam Pollard, and Michael Baum.
The family would like to thank Dr. Summer Merritt, Lee Sanchez, Emilio Castellon, Amanda Stuart, Liza Baumbash, Malisa Berry, and Lori Davila for their sweet, attentive medical care to Clayton during these difficult days.
A visitation will be held Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 from 5-7 p.m. at the Branch at npw, 3800 North Big Spring Street, Midland, TX, 79705. Funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church. There will be a private family burial.
In lieu of flowers, friends may contribute in Clayton's memory to the First Presbyterian Church of Midland, the Association of Former Students in the name of Clayton W. Williams, Jr., Memorial Scholarship Fund, 505 George Bush Drive, College Station, TX, 77840, Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, and Midland Memorial Hospital.
Arrangements were under the direction of Nalley-Pickle and Welch Funeral Home and Crematory of Midland. Online condolences can be made at npwelch.com.