While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Debbie Mauldin Cottrell

DEGOLYER, NELL VIRGINIA GOODRICH (1886–1972). Nell Goodrich DeGolyer, civic leader and philanthropist, was born in New Florence, Missouri, on November 11, 1886, the daughter of Hugh Gideon and Emma Virginia (Hatton) Goodrich. Her father, a teacher and later a dentist, and her mother, a teacher, moved the family to Norman, Oklahoma, in 1900 to give the children access to the University of Oklahoma. Nell, the oldest child, enrolled in the university at age fifteen and studied music under Fredrik Holmberg. She received a music degree in 1906 and a bachelor of arts in 1907. While a student at the University of Oklahoma, she taught in the music department and served as a teaching assistant in the German department, where she met Everette Lee DeGolyer, an engineering student. Nell encouraged Everette to continue his college work, even though it was frequently interrupted by oil-exploration business. On June 10, 1910, they were married in the Goodriches' Norman home. The DeGolyers immediately moved to Tuxpan, Vera Cruz, Mexico, where Everette pursued a highly successful career as a geophysicist. They returned briefly to Norman in 1911 for him to complete his bachelor's degree, then moved to Tampico, Tamaulipas. There Mrs. DeGolyer became active in charity and mission work and served as president of a local club for American women living in Mexico. Her musical talents were also utilized, as she played for a Methodist mission and gave piano lessons in her home. She remained with her husband in Mexico until 1913, when, pregnant and suffering from malaria, she returned to Norman. The couple's first daughter was born there; Everette DeGolyer rejoined his family when political relations between the United States and Mexico deteriorated.

The DeGolyers traveled in Europe on the eve of World War I. Nell enjoyed observing the activities of militant suffragists in England at this time and was impressed with their commitment to civic involvement. Upon their return to the United States in 1916, the DeGolyers moved to Montclair, New Jersey, where three more children were born to them: two daughters and a son. While her husband pursued his oil interests in New York City, Nell became active in the League of Women Voters in New Jersey, but resigned from this nonpartisan group in 1928 to work for Herbert Hoover's presidential campaign. The DeGolyers remained in the Northeast until 1936, when they moved to Dallas to be closer to the East Texas oilfield and Everette's other business interests.

In Dallas, Nell DeGolyer became as well known and respected as her successful husband for her civic activities. She supported the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and civic opera. Because of her earlier involvement in the League of Women Voters, she was asked to become a founding member and the first president of this league's Dallas chapter. She also became an organizer and member of the Dallas chapter of Planned Parenthood; she later served as national president of this organization. She served on the board of trustees for the Wadley Research Institute and Blood Bank and on the board of the Middle East Institute. She was an active Methodist. She shared with her husband a love of travel and books, and also maintained a lifelong devotion to music. Another abiding interest for her in Dallas was the family's forty-four-acre estate known as Rancho Encinal, which she and her husband built and decorated. The thirteen-room Spanish Colonial Revival structure on White Rock Lake in East Dallas, completed in 1940, reflected the DeGolyers' world travels, Everette's outstanding book collection, and Nell's expertise in gardening. Until her death Mrs. DeGolyer lived in this home; it was willed to Southern Methodist University after her death and several years later became the property of the city of Dallas. Into the 1990s the city used it, as the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, to showcase the gardens planned and maintained by Nell DeGolyer. Nell and Everette DeGolyer also provided for establishment of the DeGolyer Foundation, which led to the foundation of the DeGolyer Library at SMU. After her husband's death in 1956, Nell DeGolyer served as president of the foundation's board. She died in Dallas on May 3, 1972. Her funeral was held in Dallas, and she was buried there in Hillcrest Memorial Park. She was survived by her son, two daughters, and numerous grandchildren.

Dallas Morning News, February 11, 1947, February 2, 1949, May 6, 1972. Dallas Daily Times Herald, March 23, 1969, May 5, 1972, September 11, 1976, November 26, 1978. Nell Goodrich DeGolyer Papers, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University. Lon Tinkle, Mr. De: A Biography of Everette Lee DeGolyer (Boston: Little, Brown 1970).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Debbie Mauldin Cottrell, "DEGOLYER, NELL VIRGINIA GOODRICH," accessed April 08, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdevm.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...