The Oil and Gas Industry Lost a Good One

February 2017, Vol. 244, No. 2

Getting older we tend to wander to the obituary page to see who passed away that we have known. As time moves forward, there is a greater chance of making that sad connection. It happened last month when I read of the Jan. 12 death of Glenn H. McCarthy Jr., son of the legendary wildcatter/hotelier and a pretty good oilman in his own right.

Glenn was 78. I had not seen him since I interviewed him in 1996 to work on a book of his late father, which never materialized. McCarthy was one of the featured profiles in my 1995 book The Oil Makers, Insiders Look At The Petroleum Industry. I admit my primary interest was to use the Glenn McCarthy name as a selling point for my book. But after hours interviewing his son at length, I found a kind, thoughtful man with no interest in living off of his father’s name or following in his flamboyant lifestyle.

Glenn had a law degree but became involved in the oil and gas business as a teenager, becoming the head of the McCarthy Oil & Gas Co, in his 20s. It was no surprise that he became an oilman as both of his grandfathers worked at Spindletop when it was brought in shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In fact, the McCarthy name is part of the history of two of the original Seven Sisters, Texaco and Amoco.

A burly fellow whose soft spoken voice belied his size, Glenn was extremely well-prepared for all of our meetings in his small Houston Galleria office. McCarthy Oil & Gas was a shell of what it had been, thanks to a series of recessions that decimated much of the domestic industry. Glenn sat behind the partner’s desk that helped shape the history of the second Spindletop boom. Behind him was a beautiful painting of his father’s historic Shamrock Hotel and a framed copy of a Time magazine with his dad on the cover.

Glenn said the lack of price stability concerned him. How can you attract investment when it is impossible to forecast with any degree of accuracy a rate of return? Some were pushing for an import tax on foreign oil, not him. “The biggest problems are the government regulations that stymie us everywhere we turn,” in particular “the punitive aspects of the taxes have been placed on the industry. All in all, the oil industry is the heaviest taxed industry in the United States, probably the world.”

He talked about a book that revealed the Reagan administration’s machinations to wreck the Soviet economy via an agreement with the Saudis to flood the market with cheap oil, knowing that it would destroy America’s domestic industry, which it did, including McCarthy Oil & Gas. “Although we didn’t have the whole picture put together as set out in the book, we all knew it couldn’t have been a mistake – it would have had to be orchestrated –  the downfall of the industry.”

Glenn also had a few choice words for environmental activists that could also be voiced today.

“We’ve got to have some sort of parity, equality, where we’re treated like normal human beings. Instead, we’re treated by ecologists as though we’re horrible ogres trying to destroy the ecology of the world. The men and women I’ve known in the oil industry are dedicated, conscientious, marvelous educated people who strive to do their best for the industry and for their environment- both. But that’s overlooked. What has happened is they’ve made it so difficult for us to operate in the United States.”

Glenn said he was planning to write a book about his dad whom he described as “probably the greatest natural oil and gas finder that ever lived.” The book was never written because Glenn refused to include some of the tawdry details of his father’s life. It was the unrequited love of a son for his father. Such was the case in his dad’s later years when Glenn visited him in the hospital to present him with the McCarthy Oil & Gas Co. title that had been lost through bankruptcy, but was repurchased by the son.

“He held it for a few moments with tears in his eyes, then handed it back and said ‘I’ve had my run, son. Now it’s your turn.”

Rest easy, Glenn.

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