David Harold Byrd was born in Detroit, Texas, on April 24, 1900. He studied geology at the University of Texas (1917-19) and during his holidays worked on an oil rig in Santa Anna.
After leaving university he worked for H. E. Humphreys. He joined Old Dominion Oil Company of San Antonio in 1924 but the following year he became a freelance geological consultant. During this time he acquired his nickname by drilling fifty-six dry holes. His luck changed when he discovered oil on 5th May, 1928. The Byrd-Daniels oil-field produced 1,000 barrels a day, which sold for three dollars a barrel.
Byrd formed a business partnership with Jack Frost and in 1931 founded Byrd-Frost Incorporated. The new company operated 492 East Texas wells that produced an average of 4,000 barrels a day. In the 1930s he purchased property, including the Texas School Book Depository building in Dallas.
During this period Byrd became very interested in aviation. In 1938 Governor James Allred appointed him to the Texas Civil Aeronautics Commission. In September 1941 he formed the Civil Air Patrol. During the Second World War Byrd commanded an antisubmarine base for the Civil Air Patrol at Beaumont.
Byrd's cousin was Harry F. Byrd, who was described by Alden Hatch (The Byrds of Virginia: An American Dynasty) as "the leader of conservative opinion in the United States." Byrd also had a close relationship with Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson and John Connally. As Byrd pointed out in his autobiography, I'm an Endangered Species: "Another goal was to reach a rapport with the politicians who ran things, especially at the seat of state government in Austin.... Sam Rayburn, Morrie Sheppard, John Connally, and Lyndon Johnson on the national scene were to become men I could go to any time that I wanted action, and so were a succession of Texas governors."
In 1944 Byrd founded Byrd Oil Corporation and B-H Drilling Corporation. In 1952 Byrd established the Three States Natural Gas Company. Byrd later sold Byrd Oil to Mobil and Three States to Delhi-Taylor. Byrd used this money to invest in aircraft production and established Temco. A company that employed Mac Wallace after he was convicted of killing John Kinser.
Barr McClellan (Blood, Money & Power) points out that Byrd, along with Clint Murchison, Haroldson L. Hunt and Sid Richardson, was part of the Big Oil group in Dallas. McClellan argues that "Big Oil would be during the fifties and into the sixties what the OPEC oil cartel was to the United States in the seventies and beyond". One of the main concerns of this group was the preservation of the oil depletion allowance.
Byrd became involved in the Suite 8F Group, a collection of right-wing businessmen. The name comes from the room in the Lamar Hotel in Houston where they held their meetings. Members of the group included George Brown and Herman Brown (Brown & Root), Jesse H. Jones (multi-millionaire investor in a large number of organizations and chairman of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation), Gus Wortham (American General Insurance Company), James Abercrombie (Cameron Iron Works), Hugh R. Cullen (Quintana Petroleum), William Hobby (Governor of Texas and owner of the Houston Post), William Vinson (Great Southern Life Insurance), James Elkins (American General Insurance and Pure Oil Pipe Line), Morgan J. Davis (Humble Oil), Albert Thomas (chairman of the House Appropriations Committee), Lyndon B. Johnson (Majority Leader of the Senate) and John Connally (Texas politician). Alvin Wirtz, Thomas Corcoran, Homer Thornberry and Edward Clark, were four lawyers who also worked closely with the Suite 8F Group.
Suite 8F helped to coordinate the political activities of other right-wing politicians and businessmen based in the South. This included Robert Anderson (president of the Texas Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of the Treasury), Robert Kerr (Kerr-McGee Oil Industries), Billie Sol Estes (entrepreneur in the cotton industry), Glenn McCarthy (McCarthy Oil and Gas Company), Earl E. T. Smith (U.S. Sugar Corporation), Fred Korth (Continental National Bank and Navy Secretary), Ross Sterling (Humble Oil), Sid Richardson (Texas oil millionaire), Clint Murchison (Delhi Oil), Haroldson L. Hunt (Placid Oil), Eugene B. Germany (Mustang Oil Company), Lawrence D. Bell (Bell Helicopters), William Pawley (business interests in Cuba), Gordon McLendon (KLIF), George Smathers (Finance Committee and businessman), Richard Russell (chairman of the Committee of Manufactures, Committee on Armed Forces and Committee of Appropriations), James Eastland (chairman Judiciary Committee), Benjamin Everett Jordan (chairman of the Senate Rules Committee), Fred Black (political lobbyist and Serve-U Corporation) and Bobby Baker (political lobbyist and Serve-U Corporation).
Byrd was also close to Jack Alston Crichton who was president of Nafco Oil and Gas. Both men were also directors of Dorchester Gas Producing. In 1961 Byrd joined forces with James J. Ling and Chance Vought Corporation to form Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV). Byrd expanded into other business areas. For example, he owned a frozen food business in Crystal City. He was a strong opponent of trade unionism and described their activities as a "terrible cancer". In 1963, when the Teamsters' Union began recruiting his employees, he moved his frozen food business to La Pryor.
In November, 1963, Byrd left Texas to go on a two-month safari in Africa. While he was away President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Lee Harvey Oswald, who was accused of being the lone-gunman, worked in Byrd's Texas School Book Depository building. In February, 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson, granted a large defense contract to LTV to build the A-7 Corsair II. According to Peter Dale Scott, (The Dallas Conspiracy) this was paid for out of the 1965 budget which had not yet been approved by Congress.
Byrd was a member of the Dallas Petroleum Club. It has been argued that it was here that he met George de Mohrenschildt, David Atlee Phillips and George H. W. Bush. Richard Bartholomew suggested in Byrds, Planes, and an Automobile that Byrd knew David Ferrie via the Civil Air Patrol.
In 1978 Byrd published his autobiography, I'm an Endangered Species.
David Harold Byrd died in Dallas on 14th September, 1986.