Other notable deaths

May 22, 2008


Oil tycoon, philanthropist

Walter R. Davis, a Texas oil tycoon and philanthropist, died Monday after a period of declining health, his son-in-law, Bob Eubanks, said.

Mr. Davis left his job at a five-and-dime store in North Carolina to start a career in the trucking industry that led to the oil business in Texas.

He started as a long-haul driver of textile products, moved into management and then to the West Coast to join a trucking company whose owner became his mentor and later his business partner.

Mr. Davis moved to Midland, Texas, in the spring of 1952 with financial help from his mentor and began his career as an oil company executive and benefactor.

He expanded his business from one that began with a single truck hauling oil from wildcat drilling wells to refineries.

He developed Permian Oil Co., which merged with Occidental Petroleum, one of the nation's largest oil-related businesses.

He left Occidental and started over, creating Basin Inc., which provided services to the oil industry.

Mr. Davis served on the board of trustees at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill for 16 years, including two as board chairman.

He gave the university millions of dollars, which helped fund construction of the Smith Center basketball arena and a scholarship program for students who agreed to teach in low-income areas in his native northeastern North Carolina.

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