GEORGE T. KIMBELL
George T. Kimbell was born April 19, 1901, in Pittsburgh, Texas, and worked on the family farm and as a cowboy for the large ranches in Clay County until 1922, when he was hired to manage the Bradford Supply store in Burkburnett, Texas. In 1927, he and John Bostic bought an old lease, junked it, and started, the Kimbell-Bostic Supply Company in Burkburnett. Kimbell-Bostic Supply bought the bankrupt American Refining Company in Wichita Falls, junked the refinery out and moved its offices there around 1935.
In the meantime, Kimbell and Bostic had joined with I.E. Harwell in 1929 to form a partnership known as Burk Royalty Company. After Bostic’s departure, Harwell and Kimbell incorporated, making Kimbell president, Harwell vice president and Glen H. Bear secretary-treasurer.
In 1935, Burk Royalty moved to Wichita Falls and Clyde Bohner bought out Harwell, and the Burk Royalty Company, a corporation, was dissolved, Kimbell and Bohner operated as Burk Royalty Company, a co-partnership until March 1, 1956, when Burk Royalty Co., the present corporation, was formed.
Although Burk Royalty Co. is principally an oil and gas exploration and producing company, it, or its affiliates, were heavily involved in the independent refining business in the 1930s and 1940s, controlling Bryson Pipe Line and Refining Company of Bryson, Tydal Refining Company of Gainesville, Western Refining Company, near Fort Stockton, and Masters Refining Company in Dallas.
Some of G.T. Kimbell’s labor policies were ahead of their time. He never docked his workers for being sick and when the price of oil in East Texas hit ten cents a barrel, he shut his leases in but kept his pumpers on the payroll to the extent of their grocery bills.
In addition to his oil interests, Kimbell was on the boards of directors of Kibo Compressor Company and City National Bank and served as a member of the North Texas Oil and Gas Association. He also loved the land and had various ranching operations in North Texas, Southern Oklahoma, and Australia.
Kimbell was active in the community. He was a member of Edgemere Church of Christ and was involved in the founding of the Community Chest in Wichita Falls, the ancestor of today’s United Way, for which he served as president. He also supported the Boys Club of Wichita Falls (now the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wichita Falls), serving at one time as president and as its chairman of the board.
Kimbell’s son, David, remembers his father for his sense of duty.
“My most vivid memory was of him coming home after two weeks of working without sleep after the New London School Disaster,” Kimbell said, referring to the devastating 1937 natural gas explosion beneath the public school in the East Texas town of New London, killing hundreds of students and teachers. “Every company shut down and furnished men and equipment. It made quite an impression on me to see how unselfish the men and companies were.”
Knowing the demands of his dad’s operations at home the significance of his dad’s decision to join with his colleagues in the disaster relief—at huge personal expense for all of them—was not lost on young David.
“It was just part of his philosophy,” David said. “Yes, he believed in hard work, but he also knew that there was no such thing as a selfmade man. We’re all indebted to someone.”
As a child growing up in Burkburnett, it would be an understatement to say he enjoyed a front-row seat to the independent operator lifestyle.
“I spent the first six years of my life living in a duplex on 4th Street in Burkburnett,” David said. “There was a squeaky pump jack in the backyard and we kids used to ride on the rods.”
G.T. had his own philosophical take on the industry and the people in the industry taking those issues on.
“As for the industry as a whole and the issues they deal with, my dad used to say, ‘It’s the same things going on now that’s always gone on. There’s just a different gang doing it.’” One thing that set George Kimbell apart from much of the gang was his laser-beam focus on setting—and achieving—his business goals, a trait that attracted David to the business as much as any other.
“I was always interested in going into the business. I appreciated how hard my father worked. He started out with zero capital,” David said. “He used to say that the most difficult thing he’d done in his whole life was to accumulate that first $5,000 of savings.”
George Kimbell lived in uncertain and sometimes harsh times, but he taught his son that you can only do what you can do.
“He must have had a world of concerns. Look at what his generation had to deal with: two world wars with a depression in between. But his philosophy was there was not time for worry, only time for work,” David said. “His main pleasure was his family, but behind that would be his work. He loved company building.” Thanks to a wonderful support team, George Kimbell was able to remain active as CEO the rest of his life, working when it suited him and coming into his office only when needed.
“In his later years, he did a lot of traveling with my mother,” David said. “Oh, she worshipped him. They were married in 1922 or 23. Until death do you part …”
G.T. Kimbell and Ruth Anderson were married December 29, 1923, and were together until G.T.s death in 1976.
It seems some things are just meant to be.
More than a decade before Clyde Bohner would join forces with G.T. Kimbell and create one of the true North Texas oil and gas dynasties in Burk Royalty without warning, when his employer sent him to service a customer in Northeast Oklahoma— and went out of business while he was still on the road. The company’s sudden collapse left Bohner stranded in Tulsa and forced him to start anew.
And start anew he did, first taking a job as production superintendent with Bell Oil & Refining Company in Grandfield, Oklahoma. He moved to Burkburnett in the early days of the boom as an employee of OP&B Gasoline Plant and, in 1920, went into business for himself, launching the Bohner Oil Company in Burkburnett. With his headquarters, machine shops and center of operations in the Northwest Field, Bohner held front-row seats to Burkburnett’s boom days and over the years it was one of his great joys to share stories from that era. Among his favorites described an “engineering” process by which barrels of moonshine whiskey were mounted atop pump jacks, a technique that— according to the connoisseurs at the time— utilized the device’s rocking motion to accelerate the aging process.
In 1935, Bohner bought into the Burk Royalty company in Wichita Falls, joining forces with oilman G.T. Kimbell. The company had started in 1929 as a partnership of Kimbell, John Bostic, and I.E. Harwell.
Following Bostic’s departure, Bohner bought out Harwell’s interest to form the new enterprise, which operated as a partnership until March 1, 1956, when they formed the Burk Royalty Company, which still operates today.
While continuing to operate Bohner Oil Company, Bohner focused most of his energies on Burk Royalty, where he carried most of the responsibility for production, as well as being involved in Burk’s pipeline and refining operations. He served Burk Royalty Co. as a vice president and chairman of the board.
Bohner was very active in the community, lending particular support and leadership to the Boys Club of Wichita Falls, for which he served as president and chairman of the board. His support of Cal Farley Boys Ranch, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Future Farmers of America earned him honorary membership in all of those organizations. His lasting legacy, however, is one that he shares with many of his North Texas contemporaries, that of a true entrepreneurial spirit striving to compete—and prosper—in a business dominated by giant corporate powers. Clyde Bohner was born September 10, 1890, in Kansas City, Missouri, and died June 30, 1971, in Wichita Falls. His wife, Mildred Doris (Reiney) Bohner, died May 21, 1987.
DAVID A . KIMBELL
D. A. Kimbell graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in geology in 1951. Shortly after graduating, he founded Alan Drilling Company, a three-rig North Texas drilling company in 1952 with partner James C. Bohner of Burkburnett. They sold the drilling company in 1973 and he became the exploration manager for Burk Royalty Co. In 1962, he was elected president and took an active role in the management of the company. He held that position until his father passed away in 1976 when he assumed the position of chairman of the board.
The company, under his leadership, evolved from a pioneer of water flood projects in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Arkansas in the 1960s and 1970s to an active exploration and production company. The company’s exploration activities were concentrated primarily in East Texas, but also included projects in South Texas and Louisiana. In addition, the company was active acquiring producing properties in the Permian Basin.
He guided the company through the uncertainties caused by the adverse legislation creating crude oil price controls, limits on natural gas markets, and windfall profits tax. When the crude oil price collapsed in the mind 1980s, he developed a strategy of survival which allowed the company to prosper during a long period of low prices. His management style encouraged employees to make recommendations and decisions which developed a sense of loyalty and a sense of family among employees. As a result, the company became known for its long-tenured employees and low turnover.
He also developed a strategy that would allow the company to continue to be owned and managed by the Kimbell family for future generations, continuing the entrepreneurial spirit of a family-owned independent oil and gas company. He took great pride in being fair and honest in all his business practices and was well-respected among his peers.
He served as president of the North Texas Oil & Gas Association (now the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers) and on the Board of Governors of the Independent Producers Association of America. He was a member of both organizations for more than 50 years. He also served as president and chairman of the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Wichita Falls and as chairman of the board of its endowment fund. He was on the Board of Regents of North Texas State University in Denton and was active in the affairs of Midwestern State University, cochairing the President’s Excellence Club. He also served on the Alumni Advisory Council for the Department of Geology at the University of Oklahoma.
David Kimbell passed away in February 2013. Burk Royalty Co., Ltd., continues under the leadership of his three sons: G. T. Kimbell II, David A. Kimbell, Jr., and Stan Kimbell.