Through numerous interviews and unlimited access to Parten’s personal papers, the author tells the fascinating story of Parten’s life, from small town East Texas at the turn of the century to the capitals of the world. After studying at the University of Texas from 1913 to 1917, he served in World War I as the youngest major in the field artillery. He entered the oil business in 1919 and was a true pioneer in the industry, establishing numerous energy businesses that earned millions of dollars and employed thousands of people. While serving on the University of Texas Board of Regents from 1935 to 1941, Parten used his knowledge of the oil business to greatly increase the university’s income from its oil holdings, and fought tenaciously for academic excellence and freedom of speech for students and faculty. When democracy was threatened during World War II, Parten was a dominant figure in the development of the “Big Inch” and “Little Inch” pipelines, which stretched from East Texas to the East Coast and provided critical fuel for the victorious Allied war effort. In 1945 Parten served as chief of staff for the U.S. delegation to the Allied War Reparations Commission in Moscow and later participated in the Potsdam Conference in Berlin.
A lifelong Democrat of moderately liberal cast, Parten was a player in state and national politics, often crusading on the liberal and losing side of elections and issues. In 1950 he helped establish the Fund for the Republic in an effort to counter threats to basic civil liberties during the Red Scare of the 1950s. His support for the Texas Observer and for sometimes unpopular politicians and ideas brought important liberal ideas to the local and national stage. As a generous philanthropist and political activist—often behind the scenes—Parten supported world peace and opposed nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War. A man who stood firmly behind his beliefs, Parten was a quiet doer in a culture that is more likely to recognize the flamboyant gesture. He held fast to his principles, but as a lifelong learner he was always willing to change. J. R. Parten was a man who made a difference.
About the Author
Published by Texas State Historical Assn