WARREN PETROLEUM COMPANY
Tulsa-based Warren Petroleum Company was founded by William Kelly Warren (1897 1990). Born in Nashville, Tennessee, on December 3, 1897, Warren was the son of Thomas Hines and Amelia Elizabeth Cecil Warren. While attending parochial schools in Nashville, he became acquainted with Myrtle (Mrs. Daniel A.) McDougal of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, who advised him to "go West." Heeding her advice, in February 1916 he boarded the train to Sapulpa, where he was awed by the booming oil industry. Before leaving Nashville Warren met Natalie Overall, and while he was in Oklahoma their relationship grew. They were married on September 21, 1921, and had six daughters and one son.
With McDougal's help, Warren found a job with the railroad serving Depew and Shamrock in the heart of the oil country. That job lasted five days. He could not resist the lure of the oil fields. Wanting to gain all the experience he could, he worked for Gypsy Oil Company, Gilliland Oil Company, Gulf Oil Corporation, Margay Oil Corporation, and McMan Oil and Gas Company in Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana during the following months. Finally, on March 15, 1922, he founded Warren Petroleum Company of Delaware, headquartered in Tulsa. He had three hundred dollars in the bank, and the company had two employees, Warren and his wife.
Wanting to find his niche in the petroleum industry, Warren concentrated on marketing natural gasoline and liquefied petroleum gases (LPG) by purchasing the production of gasoline plants. By 1925 the company owned the output of thirty-one plants in five states and by 1929 had expanded to fifty plants. In 1929 Warren organized Western Gasoline Company, which became Warren Petroleum Company of Oklahoma in 1932 and Warren Petroleum Corporation in 1937. By 1953 one of the largest producers and marketers of natural gasoline and LPG in the world, the company had more than two thousand employees, six shipping terminals in Texas, New Jersey, Florida, and Alabama, LPG plants in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Illinois, and Indiana, and the world's largest privately owned fleet of railroad tank cars. When Gulf Oil Corporation purchased Warren Petroleum Corporation for more than $420 million on November 10, 1953, it was the largest exchange of money in the nation's energy industry up to that time.
William Warren founded the Transwestern Pipeline Company in 1959. However, most of his time was occupied by the William K. Warren Foundation, which he had established in 1945 and which received the legacy of Warren Petroleum Corporation. The foundation was instrumental in the establishment of Tulsa's St. Francis Hospital in 1960. Warren died in Tulsa on June 12, 1990.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Clyda Reeves Franks, Tulsa: Where the Streets Were Paved with Gold (Chicago: Arcadia Press, 2000). Kenny A. Franks, The Oklahoma Petroleum Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). Paul F. Lambert, et al., Historic Oklahoma: An Illustrated History (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 2000).
Clyda Reeves Franks
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