top of page

21st Century Pioneer: Aubrey McClendon (1959-2016)

Like all great men, “Aub” made great mistakes and drew great opposition. Media, fossil fuel foes, competitors—particularly of the old school, large corporation variety—called him arrogant, greedy, reckless, and crooked. The Obama Presidential Administration spent years trying to find something with which to charge him. When they did, industry veterans hooted that the Feds’ single-count notion of “collusion” was standard operating procedure for more than a century in the oil patch, including by the landowners, and their banks, whom McClendon was supposedly attempting to squeeze.

In the end, his personal challenges squeezed him. They included his obsessive pursuit of growth and use of debt, to the tune of many billions of dollars. And, ironically, the historic success of his trailblazing natural gas exploration in shale rock, which lowered Americans’ gas prices but also his own profit margins.

Even his death was larger than life. Critics jeered that the flaming, supposedly suicidal, 88-m.p.h. car crash straight into a concrete wall with no seat belt, hours after being indicted and losing his primary funding source, proved that he was not such a big man after all.

One Oklahoma oilman who knew McClendon well laughed at such theories:

“He never wore a seat belt—he actually had them removed from his cars. I’ve seen him go 80 miles an hour on a snowmobile and a jet ski. Eighty-eight miles an hour was no big deal for him. Also, he was hampered physically—a botched Lasik surgery left him completely blind in his left eye and not very good in his right eye.

“Where it happened, he was obviously going the same way he always went to his farm. And anyone who knew Aubrey knew that threatening him with an indictment, SEC or not, was like throwing the gauntlet down: ‘I’ll fight it!’”

Relentless Giving

The OKC native’s vision to lead America back to world energy leadership by mining the untapped potential of natural gas source rock, thus enhancing the nation’s security, is chronicled on other pages of this book. In the end, his greatest feats perhaps lay elsewhere.

Referring to the countless community projects, large and small, that McClendon spearheaded, Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce President David Rainbolt said:

“The quality of life we have come to enjoy in Oklahoma City is due in no small part to his vision and generosity. Very few have the ability or the drive to change a community or state, much less the entire world as Aubrey did.”

Veteran Oklahoma City oilman Chris Gordon also played a significant role in America’s modern day oil and gas rally. He was one of McClendon’s closest friends. In a choked up voice, Gordon recalled that of all the many lessons left him by “Aub,” perhaps the greatest was surprising:

“He was as relentless in his giving as he was in his business. People that were trying, whether single moms or starving authors or Olympic rowing hopefuls, he would help. We don’t have that person now. He made all of us better givers. He made me a better giver. And he was starting to influence a younger generation. He set the bar, the tone. He said, ‘If it doesn’t hurt, then you are not giving.’ I can’t even comprehend that statement, but that’s the way he felt.

“I’m sorry for Oklahoma that he is gone. But I’m really sorry that, if he helped thousands of people when he was here, he would have helped tens of thousands more. Most of whom would never even have known him. People don’t see that he didn’t want thanks from those he helped—he didn’t want anything. ‘I’m going through life and I’m helping as many people as I can’—that’s just who he was.”


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.

19 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All


bottom of page