Sid Richardson

Sid Williams Richardson was born on April 25, 1891 to John Isidore Richardson (1856-1911) and Nancy Bradley Richardson (1860-1934) in Athens, Texas. His father was born and died in East Texas. His mother was born in Mississippi, survived his father by about 23 years and died in Wichita Falls.

One of his obituaries says that he earned $3,500 by trading cattle while he was still in high school in 1908. He briefly attended college at Baylor University and Simmons College (now Hardin-Simmons University) for about eighteen months during 1910, 1911 and 1912 until his funds ran out and went to work in the early days of the oil industry. He stated at the ground level, first working as a salesman for an oilfield supply company, then as an oil scout and lease purchaser.

Richardson struck out on his own in the late teens as an independent oil producer. During the next decade or so, he was said to have made and lost “fortunes” several times, weathering the Great Depression and the years leading up to it. He participated an a huge oil find called the Keystone field out in Winkler County (West Texas). The Keystone discovery is located between Kermit and Goldsmith. The image below is from a postcard of Wink, Texas. At the time of the Keystone field’s development beginning in 1935, Wink was already an oilfield boom town with oil having been discovered in the 1920s. The image below appears to date back to the twenties, based on the ages of the vehicles.

Image credit: Portal to Texas History

The West Texas oil find is said to have established his financial security and Richardson began to expand into ranching and other businesses, including radio and refining. Some of his companies were the Sid Richardson Gasoline Company, the Sid Richardson Carbon Company and Sid Richardson, Inc.

Over the years, he is known to have been associated in business with other Texas individuals like Clint Murchison and Amon Carter. At various times, he was also associated with politicians including Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, but is not known to have run for office himself.

He was personally philanthropic for a number of years and then established the Sid W. Richardson Foundation when he was in his upper 50s in 1947. His foundation widely supported organizations of many types, including Texas colleges and universities. Although many students might not have known who Richardson was, they attended classes in buildings named the Sid Richardson Building or that otherwise bore his name.

He was a life long bachelor, though at least one author maintains that while in college he had a love interest who later married someone else, after he left school. Richardson is related to the Fort Worth Bass family through his sister Anne Cecilia Richardson Bass (1886-1970) who married E. Perry Bass. There were two other siblings, Jack William Richardson (1893-1947) and Berta Fayrene Richarson (1898-1974). All of his siblings had families. Anne and Sid resided in Fort Worth and may have been the better known of the four in North Texas.

Over the years, Richardson accumulated many fine works of western art. These became the nucleus of the collection of the Sid Richardson Museum which opened in 1982 in downtown Fort Worth. Richardson is also one of three individuals whose names are usually associated with the conservation effort to prevent the Texas longhorn from becoming extinct. The other two persons were rancher Graves Peeler and author J. Frank Dobie.

Richardson had built a vacation home down on St. Joseph Island (also known as San Jose Island) on the Gulf Coast, which he had purchased about 1936. He owned the entire small island. It was there that he died in the fall of 1959 of an apparent heart attack. Richardson is interred in Athens Cemetery along with siblings Berta Fayrene and William Jack. Anne is interred in Wichita Falls.

Buildings named for Sid Richardson include structures on the campuses of Texas Christian University, Baylor University, Austin College, Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth Country Day School, Hardin-Simmons University, Howard Payne University, University of Texas at Austin and the Sid Richardson Museum. Also named for him is Sid Richardson College at Rice University and the Sid Richardson Scout Ranch and portions of other buildings at Trinity University, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital and Texas Southmost College.

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