Everette Lee DeGolyer (October 9, 1886 – December 14, 1956), was an prominent oilman, geophysicist and philanthropist in Dallas. He was known as "the founder of applied geophysics in the petroleum industry", as "the father of American geophysics," and was a legendary collector of rare books.
DeGolyer was born in a sod house on October 9, 1886, the son of John and Narcissa Kagy Huddle DeGolyer of Greensburg, Kansas. He was the eldest of three children. The family moved to Joplin, Missouri, where Everette attended school while his father worked in lead and zinc mining in the area. In 1901 the family moved to Norman, Oklahoma, where Everette attended the University of Oklahoma preparatory school. DeGolyer attended the University of Oklahoma beginning in the fall of 1905. During the summers of 1906-1909 he worked for the United States Geological Survey, starting as a cook and working up to field assistant. In 1909 DeGolyer began work as a field geologist for the Mexican Eagle Petroleum Company (El Aguila Oil Company), remaining with the company for ten years, where he was involved in the discoveries of the Potrero del Llano No. 4 in 1910 and the Las Naranjas field after 1911. DeGolyer married Nell Virginia Goodrich, a teaching assistant at the University of Oklahoma, in 1910, living in Tampico, Mexico. DeGolyer returned to the University of Oklahoma to finish his A.B. degree in geology, receiving it in 1911.
DeGolyer opened a petroleum geology consultancy in 1914, moving to Montclair, New Jersey to work in New York City in 1916. In 1919, while working as a consultant to the British entrepreneur Lord Cowdray, DeGolyer negotiated the sale of the El Aguila company to Royal Dutch Shell. In the same year, DeGolyer organized the formation of the Rycade Oil Company as well as the Amerada Petroleum Corporation for Lord Cowdray, rising to become general manager, president, and chairman from 1929 to 1932 DeGolyer left the firm in 1932, but remained with Rycade, which was established to explore salt dome oil deposits through 1941. As a geophysical consultant with Rycade, DeGolyer made the first torsion balance survey in the United States at the Spindletop oilfield. An oilfield found by DeGolyer on behalf of Rycade at Nash, Texas was the first oilfield anywhere to be discovered using geophysics. From 1925 DeGolyer established the Geophysical Research Corporation as a subsidiary of Amerada to develop reflection seismology techniques originated by J. Clarence Karcher and Eugene McDermott, leaving in 1932 to move to Dallas, Texas. DeGolyer provided financial support for the 1930 establishment of GRC's successor, Geophysical Service Incorporated. GSI went on to spin off Texas Instruments. In 1936 with Lewis MacNaughton, DeGolyer established the petroleum exploration consulting firm DeGolyer and MacNaughton, and Core Laboratories, Incorporated the same year to provide drilling core and fluids analysis. DeGolyer was also associated with the Atlatl Royalty Company from 1932 to 1950 and the Felmont Corporation in 1934. In 1956 he established Isotopes, Incorporated to provide radioactive isotopes for oilfield and industrial purposes.
During World War II, DeGolyer served as director of conservation with the Office of the Coordinator for National Defense from 1941 to 1942. He was assistant deputy of the Petroleum Administration for War in 1942-43, and was in charge of the Petroleum Reserves Corporation mission to the Middle East in 1943-44 He was president of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers in 1927, and was a director of the American Petroleum Institute for twenty years. In 1946, working on behalf of the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency, DeGolyer recruited Jack Crichton of Dallas, to operate a group of companies which frequently were given new names, presumably to make it more difficult to trace their operations. Crichton became a prominent oil and gas industrialist and was the 1964 Republican gubernatorial nominee.
In non-petroleum-related activities, DeGolyer was active in publishing, where he had controlling interest and was chairman of the editorial board of the Saturday Review of Literature. DeGolyer was also associate editor of New Colophon and the Southwest Review. A regent of the Smithsonian Institution, he was also distinguished professor of geology at the University of Texas at Austin in 1940 and held seven honorary doctorates.
DeGolyer was the first recipient, in 1966, of the DeGolyer Distinguished Service Medal awarded by the Society of Petroleum Engineers, which recognizes "distinguished service to SPE, the profession of engineering and geology, and to the petroleum industry." He received the Sidney Powers Memorial Award from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists in 1950. Everette L. DeGolyer Elementary School in Dallas, located at 3453 Flair Drive, is named after DeGolyer.
The DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University was established in 1957 by gifts from DeGolyer and his wife, Nell, and from bequests in his will. DeGolyer served on the boards of the Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Arboretum, and Dallas Public Library. The DeGolyers lived at Rancho Encinal near Dallas. The 1940 estate, located on the shores of White Rock Lake, would later become the permanent location of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. The DeGolyer Estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Everette and Nell DeGolyer had four children: Nell Virginia, born in Norman, Oklahoma, Dorothy Margaret, Cecilia Jeanne and Everett Lee Jr, all born in Montclair, New Jersey. Cecilia married George C. McGhee, a protégé of Everette's, who would go on the become a U.S. Undersecretary of State and U.S. Ambassador to West Germany and Turkey. DeGolyer was a prolific collector of rare books, donating his collection on the history of science to the University of Oklahoma. Turning his back on his alma mater, his collection of rare books of modern American and English writers was donated to the University of Texas at Austin. The DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University holds works on law relating to oil and gas. DeGolyer was very involved in the founding of St. Mark's School of Texas in the early 1950s. SMU also keeps DeGolyer's collection on the history of Mexico and the American west.