Jack Crichton

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Jack Crichton
John Alston Crichton

(1916-10-16)October 16, 1916
DiedDecember 10, 2007(2007-12-10) (aged 91)
Resting placePreston Hollow Presbyterian Church
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
EducationC.E. Byrd High School
Alma materTexas A&M University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
OccupationOil and natural gas industrialist
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Marilyn Berry Crichton

John Alston Crichton, known as Jack Crichton (October 16, 1916 – December 10, 2007),[1] was an oil and natural gas industrialist from Dallas, Texas, who was among the first of his ranks to recognize the importance of petroleum reserves in the Middle East.[2] In 1964, he carried the Republican banner in a fruitless campaign against the reelection of Governor John B. Connally, Jr., then a Democrat, who in 1973 switched parties.

In 1990, Crichton (pronounced KREI-tun) wrote in an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News, stating that he first realized the vastness of the Middle Eastern oil reserves prior to 1950. He and a coworker determined, he said, that the Burgan Field in Kuwait, for example, held ten billion barrels of crude oil. In 1951, he helped to establish San Juan Oil Company in Dallas, where he became the vice president of operations. During the 1950s, he took a group of American businessmen to Yemen to search for oil. During his long career, he was the president of the Yemen Development Corporation and the Dorchester Gas Corporation, Crichton was also involved in the mining of copper, zinc, gold, silver, and nickel through his Arabian Shield Development Company.[2]

Early years and education[edit]

Crichton was born on a cotton plantation in the community of Crichton near Coushatta in Red River Parish in northwestern Louisiana. He graduated in 1933 from C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, and then enrolled at Texas A&M University in College Station. He played tennis, basketball, and ran cross country track. His classmates included future industrialist H.R. "Bum" Bright and Earle Cabell, later a U.S. Representative and a mayor of Dallas.[citation needed] Crichton served TAMU as the president of the Lettermen's Association and chairman of the Development Foundation. He also served on the board of the Association of Former Students from 1965–1968, was the association president in 1967, and in 1983 was named a Distinguished Alumnus.[3] He later obtained a Master of Science degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Boston, where he was affiliated with Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.[2]


Crichton served in the Army as a field artillery officer and special agent. He won the Air Medal, five Battle Stars, and the Bronze Star Medal. He retired as a Colonel in the US Army Reserve.[3]

During World War II, Crichton served in Europe in the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. He was a field artillery officer and special agent. In 1946, Crichton was recruited by Everette DeGolyer, a former conservation director in the administration of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and later a co-founder of Texas Instruments, to operate a group of companies which renamed frequently, presumably to make it more difficult to trace their operations.[citation needed]

In 1952, Crichton joined a syndicate that included DeGolyer and Clint Murchison of Dallas to use connections in the government of General Francisco Franco to obtain drilling rights in Spain. The operation was handled by Delta Drilling, owned by Joe Zeppa.[citation needed] Crichton served as vice president of the Empire Trust Company from 1953 to 1959.[4]

In 1956, Crichton became commander of the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment, which operated under Lieutenant Colonel George Whitmeyer, the overall commander of all United States Army Reserve units in East Texas.[citation needed]

Intelligence matters[edit]

Prior to his 1964 political campaign, Crichton had developed a close association with the future President George Herbert Walker Bush.[citation needed]

At the time of the assassination of President Kennedy and the wounding of Governor Connally, Crichton was attending the annual luncheon held that year at the Adolphus Hotel on Commerce Street in Dallas on the Friday before Thanksgiving Day to honor the TAMU and University of Texas football teams, who meet on the gridiron annually on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Crichton recalls:

"I walked over to Elm Street to see the Kennedy delegation. . . . President Kennedy and Jackie made a handsome couple. She was resplendent in her pink dress and pink pillbox hat. The crowds on the sidewalks applauded, and waved as they drove by. . . . I entered the hotel . . . The room was almost filled, and people were seated at the individual tables. . . . We had the invocation, and many guests began to eat their lunch. Suddenly we heard sirens screaming and someone from outside ran up to the head table and excitedly said, 'The President, Vice President, and Governor Connally have all been shot.' I stood and announced the news. There was stunned silence in the room. Someone then produced a radio, and the news confirmed that the President had been shot.. . . "[5]

Gubernatorial race[edit]

In making his race for governor, Crichton had to resign as president of the Association of Former Students of Texas A&M, a position to which he had just been elected. A classmate from Houston named John Lindsey moved up from vice president to head the organization.[6] He served in the post in 1967 instead. Crichton tapped a neighbor, Hughes Brown, as his campaign manager. Brown told Crichton that the assassination in Dallas meant an "uphill battle, but you will have a chance to advance the cause of the Republican Party in Texas, and in politics anything can happen."[7] Prior to the assassination, a poll had showed John F. Kennedy trailing in a trial heat in Texas for the 1964 general election.[8]

As Crichton ran for governor, George H.W. Bush sought the U.S. Senate seat held by the liberal Democrat Ralph W. Yarborough of Austin. Crichton was unopposed for his nomination, but Bush faced a primary fight from the 1962 gubernatorial nominee Jack Cox of Houston. Crichton and Bush spoke from some of the same podiums that year. Crichton traveled 55,000 miles (89,000 km) in the campaign, addressed audiences in 85 cities and towns, and made 275 speeches. At the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California, he was elected chairman of the Permanent Organization Committee and gave the report of that panel from the convention floor.[9]

Crichton strongly supported the Barry M. Goldwater presidential candidacy: "In my opinion Goldwater would have made a great president. He would either have withdrawn our presence in Vietnam or gone whole hog to win it, instead of the piecemeal strategy of the Johnson administration that so hampered our military leaders as they in effect were not allowed to win the Vietnam conflict."[10]

In the campaign, Crichton focused on these points: (1) his opposition to the policies of President Johnson, (2) lowering state taxes, (3) cutting oil and beef imports, (4) stronger criminal justice measures to protect citizens from criminals, (5) increasing Texas' oil production, (6) opposition to a state civil rights law, (7) full voting rights for U.S. military personnel, (8) state water resource development, (9) reduction of traffic problems, (10) more decentralization in college and university administration, (11) higher public school teacher pay, (12) development of a two-party system, and (13) ethics in state government.[11]

Crichton traveled to Junction, Texas, during the campaign to meet with former Democratic Governor Coke Stevenson, the official loser by eighty-seven votes in the 1948 runoff primary for the U.S. Senate against Lyndon Johnson. Stevenson had supported John Tower in the 1960 senatorial general election against Johnson and was backing Goldwater in 1964 as well in the presidential contest. Stevenson told Crichton that the election "is an important part of American history, for it got Lyndon to the Senate, which he later controlled, and was a stepping stone to his becoming President. As for me, I was depressed for quite a while, but in retrospect it has allowed me to enjoy my ranch and my young daughter. With that, we had another bourbon and branch water, and I thanked him and departed."[12] Though Crichton and Bush were both defeated, the latter ran a stronger race against Yarborough than Crichton managed against Connally. Yarborough and Connally were sharp intra-party rivals at the time. Final results showed Connally with 1,877,793 votes (73.8 percent) to Crichton's 661,675 (26 percent). Crichton did, however, outpoll the tally amassed by the following Republican candidate against Connally in 1966, Thomas Everton Kennerly, Sr. (1903–2000), of Houston, by more than 300,000 votes in a lower-turnout election.[13] Kennerly ran unsuccessfully in 1964 for a seat on the Texas Supreme Court.

Crichton wrote the book The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns in Texas in 1964, which among other topics discusses the split at the 1964 convention between the partisans of Barry M. Goldwater and Nelson A. Rockefeller and the last-minute attempt by William Warren Scranton of Pennsylvania to bridge the differences. Crichton and Bush supported the eventual nominee, Goldwater, the U.S. senator from Arizona who lost Texas by a wide margin to native son Lyndon B. Johnson.[14] Crichton went to a summer meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania, having flown on the private jet of Winthrop Rockefeller, then the Republican gubernatorial nominee against Orval E. Faubus in Arkansas.[15]

In Amarillo, Crichton was accompanied in a campaign appearanced by actor Clint Walker, former star of the ABC television series Cheyenne, who had once lived in Brownwood, Texas.[16] Though he addressed some large audiences during the campaign, in Muleshoe in Bailey County in West Texas Crichton spoke from the back of a wagon to only five people plus a stray dog.[16]

Crichton noted that in 1964 he had spent $65,000 on his race, the majority for five hundred billboards to promote his name identification. He also depended heavily on local television and newspaper coverage in the cities that he visited.[17] About half of Crichton's spending was from his personal funds. Crichton's expenditures averaged ten cents for each vote received, whereas the losing 2002 gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Tony Sanchez of Laredo, spent $10 per vote, having disbursed $20 million in his campaign.[18]

Death and legacy[edit]

Having served as colonel of the 488th Military Intelligence Detachment, Crichton received the Legion of Merit upon his retirement from the Army Reserve in 1967.[19]

Crichton was president of Nafco Oil and Gas and owned Dorchester Gas Producing Company.[20] He was a member of the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers Club and served as its vice-president in 1964 and president in 1965.[21] Crichton served as director of Florida Gas Company, Clark Oil and Refining, Whitehall Corporation, Transco Energy, and the Consolidated Development Corporation.[2] In 1965, he wrote the book The Dynamic Natural Gas Industry, published by the University of Oklahoma Press in Norman, Oklahoma.[22]

Crichton died in Dallas of complications from cancer at the age of ninety-one. He and his wife, the former Marilyn Berry (1927-2010), a native of Eureka in Greenwood County in southeastern Kansas who came to Dallas in the late 1940s to work for Braniff Airlines.[23] The couple had two daughters, Catherine C. Morris and husband Craig Morris and Anne C. Crews (born 1953) and husband Kyle W. Crews (born 1955). Anne was formerly an assistant press secretary in the first administration of Governor Bill Clements. Crichton also had a surviving sister, Frances "Dinks" Atkinson, and two grandchildren.[3] The Crichtons are interred in the columbarium of Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, of which they had been among the earliest members.[24]

In his short memoir, Crichton describes his political legacy:

"Although I lost to a popular governor with his arm in a sling from the Kennedy tragedy, I think I was successful in helping to establish the Republican Party . . . to make Texas a two-party state. I met and made friends with some wonderful people who shared my views. An example; twenty years after the election I was in an airport in Baltimore, and an elderly lady came up to me and said, 'I was your precinct chairman in Brownsville, and I'll always be grateful for your effort in the 1964 election.' Such an appreciation made my efforts in 1964 worthwhile."[25]

Crichton recalled how 1964 brought two new names to national political prominence, Ronald W. Reagan, who gave the celebrated television speech for Goldwater on October 27, 1964, and George H. W. Bush, though defeated in the first of two Senate bids later became Reagan's vice president and presidential successor. Crichton continued: "The election also established the foundation of the Republican Party in Texas under [state chairman] Peter O'Donnell's leadership, and the voters were shown qualified candidates who stood for conservative principles. The influx into Texas by Republicans from other states who shared these principles finally led to the Republican Party controlling both the [state] House and Senate in 2003."[26]

Crichton's papers are deposited at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station. He had first been invited to turn over his files to Baylor University in Waco but decided Texas A&M would be the more appropriate venue, considering his past ties to the university and to George H. W. Bush.


  1. ^ "Social Security Death Index". ssdi.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Retrieved April 8, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d "Joe Simnacher, "John Alston "Jack" Crichton: Oilman, military officer in WWII"". Dallas Morning News December 15, 2007. Retrieved October 9, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Association past president Jack Crichton '37 passes away". aggienetwork.com. Retrieved April 8, 2010.[dead link]
  4. ^ Who's who in Engineering, Volume 9, 1964, p. 387.
  5. ^ Jack Crichton, The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns in Texas in 1964, self-published, 2004, pp. 7-8, ISBN 1-4184-2574-5 (paperback)
  6. ^ Crichton, p. 16
  7. ^ Crichton, p. 15
  8. ^ Crichton, p. 44
  9. ^ Crichton, pp. 53-55
  10. ^ Crichton, p. 48
  11. ^ Crichton, p. 58
  12. ^ Crichton, pp. 35-37
  13. ^ Congressional Quarterly's Guide to U.S. Elections, Texas governorship
  14. ^ "Book: The Republican-Democrat Political Campaigns: In Texas in 1964". flipkart.com. Retrieved April 9, 2010.
  15. ^ Crichton, p. 27
  16. ^ a b Crichton, p. 37
  17. ^ Crichton, p. 34
  18. ^ Crichton, pp. 56, 59
  19. ^ Army reserve magazine, Volume 14, January 1968.
  20. ^ http://www.aggienetwork.com/tribute/index/37-11/
  21. ^ Hurst, William, ed. (1968–1969). "Officers and Directors" (PDF). Journal of the Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers Club. I: 2, 12. Retrieved July 20, 2017.
  22. ^ Crichton, p. 79
  23. ^ "Marilyn Berry Crichton". Findagrave.com. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  24. ^ "John Alston "Jack" Crichton". Findagrave.com. Retrieved June 20, 2017.
  25. ^ Crichton, p. 50
  26. ^ Crichton, pp. 48-49
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jack Cox
Republican gubernatorial nominee in Texas
John Alston "Jack" Crichton

Succeeded by
T.E. Kennerly