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Houston Oilman Glenn McCarthy Dead at 81

December 27, 1988

HOUSTON (AP) _ Oilman Glenn Herbert McCarthy, who rose from laborer to national fame as the multimillionaire ″King of the Wildcatters″ in the 1940s and inspired the best-selling novel ″Giant,″ died in a Houston nursing home. He was 81.

McCarthy, the son of an itinerant oil field worker who became one of the world’s most successful independent oilmen, died Monday, according to George H. Lewis & Sons Funeral Home. The cause of death was not disclosed.

By his own estimate, he drilled more than 1,000 oil and gas wells, most of them in Texas but others as far away as Egypt and Bolivia.

In his heyday, McCarthy lived in a mansion, surrounded himself with Hollywood celebrities and powerful politicians and became known as ″Diamond Glenn″ for his flashy lifestyle.

McCarthy had said in an earlier interview that he was dubbed ″The King of the Wildcatters″ by journalist Ernie Pyle, the renowned war correspondent who was killed in World War II.

The best-selling book ″Giant″ by Edna Ferber and 1956 movie of the same title starring James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor was based on McCarthy.

McCarthy, who was born in Beaumont, dropped out of college to go into business for himself. At age 23 married 16-year-old Faustine Lee, the daughter of wealthy Texas oilman T.P. Lee. But his father-in-law disapproved of the marriage.

McCarthy bought and sold a cleaning business and two filling stations before he struck out on his own in the oil business.

By age 26, he had founded two oil fields, extended a third and become a millionaire. He had his first strike at Anahuac, an oil field where the major oil companies had drilled only dry holes and geologists said there was no oil. By 1945, he had discovered 11 Texas oil fields and drilled wells that extended several others.

His wealth in 1949 was estimated at $200 million from 400 producing oil and gas wells, and he counted among his friends Sen. Joe McCarthy, Howard Hughes, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

In what was often referred to as ″Houston’s biggest party,″ he spent more than $1 million to open his $21 million, 18-story Shamrock Hotel on March 17, 1949, amid a trainload of movie stars and Texas socialites. He had 2,500 shamrocks flown in from Ireland for the opening ceremonies, and the meat served at the fete was from champion livestock.

He owned a 15,000-acre ranch in West Texas and through the years owned cattle, a radio station, two banks, newspapers, chemical companies, steel mills, a motion picture production company, an export-import company, and thousands of acres of land. He served as chairman of Eastern Airlines and president of the U.S. Petroleum Association.

In the early 1950s, his luck began running out and he began losing his fortune on West Texas oil wells that didn’t produce and because government oil price ceiling reduced his earnings. Insurance companies that financed McCarthy’s oil-well risks took over most of his investments.

In his later years, he settled into a low-profile lifestyle and lived in a two-story house near La Porte.

He is survived by his widow, Faustine; three daughters; and a son.

Funeral arrangements were pending.