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A Colorful Cast

Bill Patterson

Flamboyant young Penn Square Bank executive vice president and chief of energy lending. The Bartlesville native’s energy and charisma fueled the bank’s meteoric rise, and central place in the house of cards that eventually collapsed and brought down some of the nation’s biggest banks. “I don’t think Bill Patterson was a crook,” recalled Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis, also a prominent former attorney. “He got caught up in the same thing that Beep (Jennings) and everyone else who was participating in that whole frenzy did. You hear about him drinking out of a boot and taking a crowd to Paris and all…which may well be true, because Bill was a lot of fun.” A jury cleared Patterson on all twenty-five counts against him in a sensational Oklahoma City trial. A Chicago jury, however, subsequently convicted him on sixteen counts. He served eighteen months in a federal prison.

J. D. Allen

Perhaps no more colorful, larger-than-life character than this native of tiny southern Oklahoma town Ringling emerged from the New Wild West era. Allen claimed to have drilled his first wells while in high school. Darkly handsome and mustachioed, he lived and worked out of a used Cadillac while promoting oil patch deals in the 1970s. But Penn Square Bank Chairman Beep Jennings took a shine to him and connected him with successful OKC oilman Carl Swan. Partnering with the seasoned Swan, Allen rose to such heights that he rode with Vice President George Bush on Air Force 2 and served as financial co-chairman of the Republican National Committee while still in his early thirties. Allen’s visionary flair and charismatic ability to win over others carried him a long way before his empire imploded in nearly one third of a billion dollars in debt.

Bobby Hefner

One can almost envision a virile Hollywood superstar bringing this quintessential embodiment of Oklahoma bravado, pioneer, and empire building to the screen. Grandson of pioneer luminary Robert A. “The Judge” Hefner, the visionary petroleum geologist gained his own sobriquet: “The Father of Deep Gas Drilling.” Driven by a conviction that immense reservoirs of untapped natural gas lay deep beyond the normal drilling range in western Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin, Hefner and his GHK Companies spearheaded development of the technology, including computers, for miles-deep gas exploration. They drilled some of the deepest wells in history. Hefner helped launch the oil and gas boom by parleying the confidence of Penn Square Bank into scores of millions of dollars in funding. The overarching result was immensely expensive wells that failed to recoup their cost, due to still-modest natural gas prices and the stress of low level exploration to the existing technology.. One historian admiring of Hefner told the author, “If he had had a Dean McGee to balance him like Robert Kerr did, there is no telling what he might have accomplished.” “In the end,” Devon Energy Chairman Larry Nichols said, “Bobby Hefner was right about deep natural gas being down there. The technology just hadn’t caught up with him.”


The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.

View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.


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