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East Texas wildcatter's rich legacy honored Association recognizes Longview 'capitalist' Rogers Lacy

By Mike Elswick melswick@news-journal.com
May 8, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.

Legendary East Texas oilman and wildcatter Rogers Lacy, his family and the ongoing business enterprises he formed decades ago were honored this past week by the Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association.

In a ceremony held at Kilgore's Meadowbrook Country Club, Lacy and the company he incorporated in 1946, R. Lacy, were recognized for their contributions to the industry and the state. R. Lacy has grown into a major independent oil and gas producer in East Texas.

Dick Dial, president of R. Lacy, provided information on Lacy and an overview of the company.

"His formal education ended in the seventh grade, but he was very smart and a good businessman," Dial said of Lacy.

Lacy was born in Longview in 1882 to John Stephen and Medora Rogers Lacy. His father arrived in Rusk County in 1848 from Tennessee with his family. From Rusk County, the family moved to Longview in 1873, and Lacy married Lawson Keener in 1913 in Longview.

"He was the last of nine children and was very industrious," Dial said. "His original start in business was operating a nursery and raising fruit trees."

Among the history of Lacy that Dial mentioned was on the letterhead for one of the enterprises Lacy was involved in 1913, the Texas Caddo Land and Oil Co., he referred to himself as a "capitalist." Dial said Lacy was involved in a variety of ventures from operating a mercantile to orchards and investing in land.

"He was the consummate wildcatter - a high-risk taker," Dial said. With that risk came some failures along the way, but Lacy kept picking himself up and going on

"He was described as a jolly guy who would look you in the eye," Dial said. "He was fair, but a good businessman."

When the oil boom hit East Texas, Lacy caught the "oil fever" and invested in some land that was to become the world's biggest oil field. By the time of his death in 1947, he had amassed a fortune from business investments.

In the early 1920s, Lacy bought 200 acres in the Willow Springs Gas Field, and in 1930 he bought about 40 acres in Kilgore.

"During the depression his businesses failed, he was wiped out like a lot of others, but he kept on going," Dial said. Among Lacy's other acquisitions was a land purchase east of Dallas.

"He later gave the land to the Buckner orphanage," he said. Buckner still operates a children's home on that property, Dial added.

Dial said by the 1940s, Lacy acquired an interest in the Hawkins Oil Field, where the company still has assets. Lacy played an integral role in the development and drilling of a number of fields and formations that today have become common terms in the industry, such as the Rodessa Limestone, the Carthage Field and others.

"In 1940, he started Southern Gas Co. and marketed natural gas to the city of Longview," Dial said. "In 1943, he drilled his first Carthage well, but it was a dry hole."

Just as Lacy had done in the past, he picked up and moved on. Later in 1943, he completed another well in the Carthage Field and the company he founded has been active in that field since, Dial said.

<strong>Expanding horizons</strong>

While oil and natural gas formed the basis of much of Lacy's focus in his final years, he also looked at other business ventures. Those included applying for a Dallas area television station license and looking at investing heavily in a major Dallas hotel.

One of Lacy's biggest claims to fame and one which never quite materialized were plans to construct a major hotel property in Dallas. Lacy had retained noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright to design The Rogers Lacy Hotel.

News coverage of the plans made the front page of Dallas newspapers and was the talk of the town after World War II, Dial said.

The hotel building site was on the southwest corner of Commerce and Ervay in Dallas. Dial said it was ahead of its time with features that included an interior central atrium with liberal use of metal and structural glass siding rising up stories above the city's skyline.

"Plans to build it were scrapped as the projected costs skyrocketed, but the rendition has been written up in architecture magazines and gained a lot of exposure," Dial said. The project was finally quelled for good on Dec. 9, 1947, when Lacy died.

Dial said when Lacy died, his business was in one of the down cycles, and he left his estate with an estimated debt of $20 million.

Before 1946, his business ventures had been of the sole proprietorship nature. That year he incorporated and used the outside legal services of attorney Jack Price.

Upon Lacy's death the following year, Price was brought in to run the company, Dial said.

"He spent years unwinding deals that had been made to pay all the debt," he said. While there was considerable debt, the company still had plenty of assets, and those were used to form the basis of the company today that retains the founder's name - R. Lacy Services.

Over the ensuing years, the company bought ranch and farm land near Longview and in other states, was involved in raising and selling prized Angus cattle and continued to solidify its base in the energy business.

After the death of Lacy's widow in 1967, the company was split between the couple's two daughters, Ann Lacy Crain and Patsy Lacy Griffith. Dial said the family has continued Lacy's tradition of making donations to a variety of causes.

"A lot of what they've done and groups they've helped, no one knows about because they've given anonymously," Dial said. The company has also continued the tradition of its founder in business dealings.

"He was fair and had a stellar reputation, as the company does today," said Dial, who had done accounting work for the company for years as an independent certified public accountant. He joined the staff in 2006 as chief financial officer and was named president in 2007 when former R. Lacy President Neal Hawthorne retired.

"Rogers Lacy was not as famous as H.L. Hunt and didn't have a company as big as some of the majors," Dial said. "But if he lived another 20 years, the company could have been as big as Exxon or he could have been broke.?

While Lacy worked hard and took care of his business and family interests, Dial said the founder was well rounded.

"He loved to go to the Kentucky Derby and Sugar Bowl games," Dial said.



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