William T. Payne

William T. Payne

William T. 'Bill' Payne is the true definition of the American dream. Growing up in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Bill Payne worked just about everywhere. He served as a church janitor, milked cows, delivered newspapers and helped with harvest.

He worked his way through college by selling pots and pans. In 1915, he graduated from Oklahoma A&M with a degree in chemistry and bacteriology before going on to earn a master's in microbiology at MIT. He served as a 2nd Lieutenant in World War I in the Army Sanitation Corps, before finding his true life's passion in the oil and gas industry.

In 1921, Bill went to work with Walter Helmerich, and in 1925, they organized their own oil company, Helmerich and Payne, Inc. The company is probably best known for establishing a working oil rig on the lawn of the Oklahoma State Capitol. Bill left to form Big Chief Drilling Company, where he played a major role in developing the method of extracting oil from Mississippi Limestone.

Bill lived his life by the philosophy "the price we pay for living on earth is what we do for others." This led him to be extremely engaged in the community, volunteering for various civic, educational, religious and youth organizations.

After his death in 1981, he gifted his company, Payne Petroleum, to the Oklahoma City Community Foundation — a gift that more than doubled the assets of the Community Foundation at the time. His family, led by daughter-in-law, Nancy Payne Ellis, and grandson Bond Payne, who both served as Oklahoma City Community Foundation Trustees, continue his legacy by supporting organizations he cared about through the William T. Payne Fund. The fund has since awarded millions of dollars to a number of organizations including Westminster Presbyterian Church, Boy Scouts of America, Oklahoma Christian University and Mercy Health Foundation.

Read more:
2003 - William T. Payne
2009 - Doing for Others
2019 - Late Oklahoma Oilman William T. Payne's Legacy Lives On

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