The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter
Texana - Business History
6 x 9, 446 pp.
72 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 08/09/2007
Price:        $24.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter

By Mike Cochran

The native son of a distinguished West Texas family and a 1954 graduate of Texas A&M whose career and personal pursuits have ranged from farmer to insurance salesman to wildcatter, pipeline entrepreneur, rancher, banker, real estate mogul, big game hunter, conservationist, philanthropist, front-running gubernatorial candidate, and oil tycoon, Clayton W. Williams Jr. is by all measures one of a kind.

He has repeatedly been on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, yet more than once Claytie has also been on the verge of bankruptcy. This authorized biography captures the dimensions of his fascinating life: his determined work ethic and honesty; his passionate interests and rough-hewn style; his devotion to wife and constant companion Modesta and family; his all-in wildcatter bets and integrity-above-all payoff of debts; his patented gaffes in the “wildest, woolliest Texas governor’s race ever” and their spotlighted consequences for the state and nation; and running through it all, both unrestrained celebrations and knees-on-the-ground repentance.

His many notable successes, his most admirable traits, as well as his most outrageous flaws are all portrayed in this book, often in Claytie’s own words or in the extensive comments, revealing anecdotes, and first-person accounts of others, supplemented by family and business documents, as well as contemporary journalistic records.

This book tells it all, revealing one distinctive maverick who has left his boot prints all across Texas for 75 years.

MIKE COCHRAN has covered many memorable news stories in Texas, often with the Associated Press, during the past four decades, such as the JFK assassination, the U.S. space program, and most statewide political campaigns, and he has earned several journalistic awards in the process. He is the author of three previous books.

What Readers Are Saying:

“…Cochran is one of Texas’ most experienced and skilled reporters of the past 50 years (maybe ever) and a master storyteller. Those qualities of the author, combined with the fascinating life of Claytie Williams, combine for a very compelling book.” --New Braunfels Herald

“Most recall West Texan ‘Claytie’ Williams Jr. as the candidate who, in losing the 1990 gubernatorial race to Ann Richards, shot himself in the foot more times than a centipede with a machine gun. But Mike Cochran’s biography of the colorful oilfield wildcatter, rancher, banker, born entrepreneur—a page-turner reading more like an adventure novel—introduces the philanthropist, loyal friend, honest and sometimes soft-hearted side of the bar-room brawling, hard-drinking, plain-cussing, fanatical Texas Aggie who has been a near-billionaire and also on the verge of bankruptcy in the boom-or-bust oilpatch. Claytie’s life might be a movie—except I think it was shot in the 1950s as Giant with James Dean playing the Claytie Williams role, though they called him Jett Rink. A good read, for Texans or others.” --Larry L. King, author of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

“Claytie is quite the colorful man whose personality is bigger than the Permian Basin he hails from. George and I are both friends and fans of his.” --Barbara Bush

“Clayton Williams’s passion for making friends, making money, and making music is legendary. I’ve always admired Clayton. He’s a genuine American—as tough as a boot but with a heart as big as Texas.” --Charley Pride, member of the Country Music Hall of Fame

“Claytie Williams is a living symbol of the mythical larger-than-life Texan, sometimes down but never out, willing to back his judgment on a Hail Mary pass, win, lose, or draw. He is one of the most affable people I have ever met.” --Elmer Kelton, Western Novelist

“There is a forthrightness to his book that reflects Claytie’s own basic honesty, his inimitable combination of straight talk, braggadocio, combativeness, and poking fun at himself.” --Dave McNeely, author and dean of Texas Political Reporters

“Clayton Williams defies the laws of physics—as an oilman/rancher he proves that oil and water DO mix.” --Bob Parker

“Clayton Williams looks across the Texas landscape and sees two things more clearly than most—where water will flow on the surface, and oil beneath.” --W. Herbert Hunt

“Clayton Williams’s perfect counterpart is Col. Charles Goodnight. Their shared values and ‘my word is my bond’ reputation along with their pioneering accomplishments put them in the same category of remarkable leaders. Charles Goodnight, had he known Clayton, would have praised Clayton as the right man to join with him on that last great trail drive.” --JP Bryan, Texas State Historical Association former President, 6th generation


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