Radcliffe Killam

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Radcliffe Killam
Born (1910-07-01)July 1, 1910
Grove in Delaware County, Oklahoma, USA
Died September 8, 2007(2007-09-08) (aged 97)
Laredo in Webb County, Texas, USA
Occupation Oilman
Spouse(s) Sue Spivey Killam

David Killam
Adrian Kathleen Killam
Tracy Killam DiLeo

Terry Killam Wilber (deceased)

Oliver Winfield Killam

Harriet "Hattie" Smith Killam

Radcliffe Killam (July 1, 1910 – September 8, 2007) was a wealthy oilman, rancher, businessman, and philanthropist in Laredo, the seat of Webb County in south Texas. He was a particular benefactor of various educational and medical institutions. In 1997, Worth cited the Killam family as one of the largest landowners in the United States, with 200,000 acres (810 km2).[1] Part of that includes the 125,000-acre (510 km2) Duval County Ranch west of Freer, which Killam purchased in 1994.[1]

Early years, education, military[edit]

The Winfield subdivision off Del Mar Boulevard in Laredo, Texas, is named for Oliver Winfield Killam, the father of developer Radcliffe Killam who served in the Oklahoma State Senate from 1915 to 1918, before he moved his familty to South Texas in 1920.

Killam was born in Grove in Delaware County in northeastern Oklahoma to Oliver Winfield Killam (1874–1959) and the former Harriet "Hattie" Smith (1876–1949), Killam's father was a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1911 to 1914 and the Oklahoma State Senate from 1915 to 1918. He worked for statehood of the former Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory.[2]

Killam moved with his family, wife and three children, to Laredo in 1920, when Radcliffe was ten years of age. His father had come to south Texas to prospect for petroleum and natural gas on mineral leases that he had acquired while in business in Oklahoma. The third Killam well brought about an oil boom in Mirando City in eastern Webb County in 1921, nearly a decade before the better known East Texas Oil Boom centered about Kilgore. Killam grew up in the oil fields and spent his summers on the rigs.[2] He graduated in 1932 from Laredo High School, now Martin High School. He played on the former Laredo polo team and was a consummate horseman, who never complained, even when being thrown from a horse.[3] Killam procured a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Harvard Law School.[4]

After Harvard, Killam returned to Laredo to work with his father. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served first in the Atlantic and then was the commanding officer of a PT boat in the Pacific. He left the Navy in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant commander.[4]


The Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas

After the war, Killam returned once again to Laredo with his wife, the former Sue Spivey of Bonham, Texas. He resumed working in the oil business but found much time as well for his family and his community.[4]

He received many awards over the years that recognized his civic and business contributions. In 1952, Killam headed the Washington's Birthday Celebration Association. He was "Mr. South Texas" in 1978; his father had held the same title in 1956.[2]

Much of Killam's philanthropy was given privately. According to his banking colleague Gary Jacobs, "His charitable contributions were always anonymous. He never wanted publicity or recognition. He was a very loyal person to his friends and the institutions he supported."[5]

Killam was a strong supporter of a four-year university for Laredo, which was instituted in 1970 as Texas A&I University and thereafter renamed in 1977 as Laredo State University. He and his family donated 300 acres (1.2 km2) in the early 1990s for the new Texas A&M International University campus to replace the original campus. Killam was particularly supportive of the TAMIU Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade, of which he was the main private donor in the amount of $2 million. TAMIU conferred honorary doctorates to Radcliffe and Sue Killam for their generosity toward the institution and the community. The TAMU library jointly bears the names of both Radcliffe and Sue Killam.[3]

Killam also supported Laredo Medical Center, formerly the Roman Catholic-affiliated Mercy Hospital. He gave to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Killams gave some $500,000 to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Killams also gave to their common alma mater, UT Austin. They once gave a $50,000 matching grant to save the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra from disbanding.[3][5]

In 1947, Oliver Killam purchased the 80,000-acre (320 km2) Ortiz Ranch, which Radcliffe continued to develop. He founded the Mil Ojos ("Thousand Eyes") Hunting Club on his ranch. He was one of the first landowners in Texas to implement a game management program. He was instrumental in the creation of Lake Casa Blanca as a reservoir for the City of Laredo and gave an easement for much of the land that it covers.[3] The lake is now a part of Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.[6]

Killam was the director of several trade associations, including the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association (now the Texas Oil & Gas Association), the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the All-American Wildcatters Association, and the Southwest Research Institute. He was also a director of Alamo National Bank.[3]


Killam died at home. He was predeceased by his parents and a sister, Patricia Louise Killam Hurd (1915–1955).[7] He was cremated. No individual marker has been placed at the family plot.

Radcliffe and Sue Killam had a son, David W. Killam of Laredo, and two daughters, Adrian Kathleen Killam and Tracy Killam DiLeo, both of Austin. At the time of his death, Killam had four grandsons. There was also a deceased daughter, Terry Killam Wilber.[4]


  1. ^ a b Danini, Carmina (2009-09-08). "TAMIU's biggest donor dies at 97". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2008-02-12. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b c "History of the Killam Family". The Killam Companies. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Cortez, Tricia (2007-09-11). "Killam leaves mark on city". Laredo Morning Times. pp. 1, 10A. Retrieved 2008-02-11. [dead link]
  4. ^ a b c d Laredo Morning Times staff (2007-09-10). "Obituaries for 9/10/2007: Radcliffe Killam". Laredo Morning Times. p. 9A. Retrieved 2008-02-11. [dead link]
  5. ^ a b Aguilar, Julian (2007-09-09). "Oil giant dies; Radcliffe Killam always loved his hometown". Laredo Morning Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-02-11. [dead link]
  6. ^ "Lake Casa Blanca International State Park". State Parks & Destinations. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 2007-02-09. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  7. ^ Killam family grave markers, Laredo City Cemetery