Sid Richardson

Sid Richardson

Sid Williams Richardson, the son of John Isidore and Nancy (Bradley) Richardson, was born on 25th April, 1891, in Athens, Texas. After a brief stay at Baylor University he left in 1912 to become a salesman for an oil-well supply company.

In 1919 he joined forces with Clint Murchison Snr. and established an oil company in Fort Worth. At first this was a highly successful venture and he became a prosperous businessman. However, in 1921 the oil market collapsed and he lost most of his fortune.

Richardson continued to search for oil but by 1934 he was in debt to the banks in the region of 1$ million dollars. He approached an old friend, the newspaper publisher, Charles Edward Marsh. His loan of $30,000 was invested in drilling operations in Winkler County in Texas. In 1935 he discovered oil in what became known as the Keystone Field. Marsh split the profits with Richardson, who used the remaining money to drill up to 80 wells in the Keystone Field, allowing him to repay his debts.

Marsh used some of the profits he made from the oil business to buy a large estate in Virginia named Longlea. Whereas Richardson invested in three large cattle ranches. In 1936 Richardson purchased St. Joseph's Island off the Texas coast. Richardson was also an avid art collector. He was particularly keen on the work of Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell . These paintings can now be seen at the Sid Richardson Museum .

In the late 1940s, Richardson and another Texas oil mogul, Clint Murchison, met J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was the start of a long friendship. Later, Bobby Baker claimed that. "Murchison owned a piece of Hoover. Rich people always try to put their money with the sheriff, because they're looking for protection. Hoover was the personification of law and order and officially against gangsters and everything, so it was a plus for a rich man to be identified with him. That's why men like Murchison made it their business to let everyone know Hoover was their friend. You can do a lot of illegal things if the head lawman is your buddy."

In July, 1947, he established the Sid W. Richardson Foundation. He used this organization to provide money to churches, hospitals and schools in Texas. By this time Richardson was one of the richest men in the United States. It is estimated he was worth $800 million and he became known as the "bachelor billionaire".

Richardson had originally been a supporter of the Democratic Party and was associated with a group of right-wing politicians that included Richard B. Russell, Robert Kerr, Sam Rayburn and Lyndon B. Johnson. However, in 1952 he became a supporter of Dwight Eisenhower. He joined forces with Clint Murchison and J. Edgar Hoover to mount a smear campaign against Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic candidate for the presidency. He also supported Joseph McCarthy. According to Anthony Summers: "During the Truman years, musing in private about the perfect political lineup, Edgar had named Murchison and Richardson as ideal candidates for high office - or at least as financial backers for politicians to his liking. Murchison had been obliging ever since. He threw money at Edgar's friend Joe McCarthy, placed airplanes at the Senator's disposal".

When Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency, Richardson suggested he employed his friend, Robert Anderson, president of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, to become Secretary of the Navy. Eisenhower agreed to this suggestion. Later, Anderson became Secretary of the Treasury (1957-61). In this post he introduced legislation beneficial to the oil industry. Robert Sherrill, the author of The Accidental President (1967) has argued: "Exactly what generosity Richardson showed has never been more than wildly hinted at, but it apparently was enough to make Eisenhower moderately grateful. When Richardson and other Texas oil men recommended Robert Anderson, Eisenhower named him Secretary of the Navy. The importance of this to Texas oil men is a matter of almost comical stress. Anderson, a resident of landlocked Fort Worth, knew nothing of naval affairs before he got the post, but that hardly matters; all he needed to know was that Texas is the largest oil-producing state and that the Navy is the largest consumer of oil as well as leaser of valuable lands to favored oil firms."

In 1954 Richardson joined forces with Clint Murchison and Robert Ralph Young in order to takeover the New York Central Railroad. This involved buying 800,000 shares worth $20 million. Richardson also owned the Texas State Network (a radio and television organization) and the Texas City Refining Company.

Sid Richardson died of a heart attack on 30th September, 1959, at his home in St Joseph's Island. He was buried at Athens, Texas.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Anthony Summers, The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1993)

Texan oil moguls Clint Murchison and Sid Richardson... had assets in excess of $700 million, not counting as much again in untapped oil reserves.

Recognizing Edgar's influence as a national figure, the oilmen had started cultivating him in the late forties - inviting him to Texas as a houseguest, taking him on hunting expeditions. Edgar's relations with them were to go far beyond what was proper for a Director of the FBI. And although the Murchison milieu was infested with organized crime figures, Edgar considered him "one of my closest friends."

"Money," the millionaire used to say, "is like manure. If you spread it around, it does a lot of good." Murchison and his Texas friends spread a great deal of dollar manure on the political terrain.

They had traditionally been conservative supporters of the Democratic Party - until the presidency of Harry Truman. He enraged oil men by publicly denouncing their tax privileges, and by vetoing bills that would have brought them even greater wealth. Murchison habitually spelled Truman's name with a small t, to show how little he thought of him.

Murchison's political instincts were of the far, far Right. He was a fervent supporter of states' rights, reportedly funded the anti-Semitic press and was a primary source of money for the American Nazi Party and its leader, Lincoln Rockwell, who considered Edgar "our kind of people.'

During the Truman years, musing in private about the perfect political lineup, Edgar had named Murchison and Richardson as ideal candidates for high office - or at least as financial backers for politicians to his liking. Murchison had been obliging ever since. He threw money at Edgar's friend Joe McCarthy, placed airplanes at the Senator's disposal and promised him support "to the bitter end."

(2) Robert Sherrill, The Accidental President (1967)

Anderson's powerful influence over Lyndon Johnson, and the position Anderson was marked to play in directing the financial policies of the Johnson administration, were both known and predictable from the beginning. They have been intimate allies for thirty years of politics in Texas and Washington. They were especially intimate in the creation of an oil program which, without much public awareness, had developed to a controversial crisis that was effectively quashed only by Kennedy's death.

The seed of that program was really planted, more than a quarter of a century ago, on a passenger train clacking through the night. There are several accounts of what happened, but one goes this way: oil millionaire Sid Richardson, and President Roosevelt's son Elliott, and Bill Kittrell, a kind of prodigy of Sam Rayburn's and a well-known man about Texas, were keeping each other company on a trip to Washington. But the conversation was beginning to droop, so Richardson sent Kittrell into the chair car to scout for a fourth for a round of bridge. By and by Kittrell came back with a young Army colonel in tow, an open-faced fellow by the name of Dwight Eisenhower.

From the train trip developed a strong friendship between Eisenhower and Richardson; after the war, when Eisenhower was being rushed by both political parties, his Texas oil pal showed up in Paris to tell him that if he ever did get into politics he could count on plenty of Richardson money.

Exactly what generosity Richardson showed has never been more than wildly hinted at, but it apparently was enough to make Eisenhower moderately grateful. When Richardson and other Texas oil men recommended Robert Anderson, Eisenhower named him Secretary of the Navy. The importance of this to Texas oil men is a matter of almost comical stress. Anderson, a resident of landlocked Fort Worth, knew nothing of naval affairs before he got the post, but that hardly matters; all he needed to know was that Texas is the largest oil-producing state and that the Navy is the largest consumer of oil as well as leaser of valuable lands to favored oil firms. From this producer-consumer relationship things work out rather naturally, and it was this elementary knowledge that later made John Connally (who had for several years, through the good offices of his mentor Lyndon Johnson, been serving as Sid Richardson's attorney and who later became executor of the Richardson estate) and Fred Korth, also residents of Fort Worth, such able secretaries of the Navy, by Texas standards...

Eisenhower, on the urging of Richardson and Lyndon Johnson, named him to the office of Secretary of Treasury, and on June 21 (1957), ten days after selling his gift oil property, Anderson was free and clear to tell the Senate Finance Committee that he held no property that would conflict with his interest in the cabinet post.

A few weeks later Anderson was appointed to a cabinet committee to "study" the oil import situation; out of this study came the present-day program which benefits the major oil companies, the international oil giants primarily, by about one billion dollars a year.

Although Standard of Indiana, one of the companies involved in Anderson's million-dollar windfall, used the resulting import program to great success, moving in a few years from a company with no foreign holdings to one of the largest overseas oil explorers, there was nothing illegal in this mutual benefit. Anderson could be charged with nothing more than poor taste.

Nor was Anderson held solely responsible for the oil import program's formula; not at all. Industry insiders believed-and their beliefs were printed in industry publications-that equally influential in the shaping of the program were Lyndon Johnson and his ally in all things pertaining to oil industry legislation, the late Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma. Kerr, an owner of the Kerr-McGee Oil Company, did very well under the new oil program, but his attitude toward conflict of interest was singularly easygoing. "Hell," he once remarked, "if everyone abstained on grounds of personal interest, I doubt if you could get a quorum in the U.S. Senate on any subject."