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Jack Lala

MURCHISON, CLINTON WILLIAMS, JR. (1923–1987). Clinton Williams Murchison, Jr., businessman, was born in Dallas, Texas, on September 12, 1923, the son of Anne (Morris) and Clinton Williams Murchison, Sr., both of Tyler. His mother died when Clint was only two years old. He and his two brothers, John Dabny and Burk, were raised by their father with help from their aunt. Burk, younger than Clint by two years, died in 1936 at the age of ten from a childhood disease. Both deaths left strong impressions on the young Murchison. Clint, Jr., attended Lawrenceville Prep as a youth, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University in electrical engineering, and received a master's degree in mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. With John Dabny he was heir to the fortune that his father had built during the 1920s and 1930s, primarily through investments in real estate and construction, railroads, and oil. The two brothers took over operation of Murchison Brothers in the late 1940s, operating from headquarters at 1201 Main Street in Dallas, a building project that Clint, Jr., oversaw. The partnership was involved in a wide variety of business holdings, including the Daisy Manufacturing Company, maker of the famed Daisy BB gun; the Centex Corporation; Field and Stream magazine; Henry Holt Publishing Company (later known as Holt, Rinehart, and Winston); and Delhi Oil. Tecon, a construction company started by Clint, Sr., operated world-wide and worked on such projects as the St. Lawrence Seaway, removal of dangerous shale deposits along the Panama Canal, and construction of a tunnel under Havana harbor in Cuba for Fulgencio Batista in the 1950s.

Murchison was known for his flamboyance and an affinity for crazy deals, much like his father. In accord with his father's advice that "money was like manure, it had to be spread around to do any good," Clint, Jr., formed a company to collect manure and process it to produce methane gas, which he sold to an Oklahoma pipeline. The remaining nutrients were then recovered and sold as commercial cattle feed. He named his method the Calorific Reclamation Anaerobic Process, CRAP for short. Along more traditional lines, Murchison was known to appreciate solid potential in investments. While dining at a small barbecue restaurant in Miami during Super Bowl week in January 1971, he was impressed with the food and struck a business deal with its owner, Tony Roma. A world-famous chain of restaurants resulted. In 1959 Murchison purchased the Dallas Cowboys, a National Football League expansion franchise, for $600,000. Texas Stadium, which became the trademark home for the team, was Murchison's idea, and the team, by that time one of the most successful of all sports enterprises, moved there in 1971. At one time Murchison's fortune was estimated at over $350 million by Fortune magazine. However, in 1985 he suffered from the plummeting price of oil and was forced into bankruptcy. A year earlier he had been forced to sell his beloved Cowboys for $80 million, at the time a record price for an NFL franchise. Unfortunately, the sale only served to alert his creditors to his mounting financial problems and force the subsequent bankruptcy.

Murchison was something of an enigma. In 1984 he received the Boys Clubs of America's Herbert Hoover Humanitarian award in recognition for his humanitarian efforts on behalf of youth. But it also became known that he was a notorious womanizer and user of narcotics. His first wife, Jane Catherine (Coleman), whom he married on June 12, 1945, divorced him in January 1973 because of his infidelity. In June 1975, after a brief courtship, he married Anne Ferrell Brandt, the former wife of Gil Brandt, head of the Cowboys scouting department. Murchison died on March 30, 1987, after a brief illness, although his health had deteriorated significantly in the years of his financial troubles. He was survived by his wife, Anne, his former wife, Jane, and four children from the earlier marriage. His funeral was held at Shady Grove Church, and Murchison was buried at Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park in Dallas. Tom Landry, the legendary coach of the Cowboys, was one of several persons who delivered eulogies. Though not known as a particularly religious person, Murchison had been baptized into the fundamentalist Shady Grove Church in December 1981.

Dallas Morning News, March 31, April 1, 3, 1987. Ernestine O. Van Buren, Clint: Clint Williams Murchison (Austin: Eakin Press, 1986). Jane Wolfe, The Murchisons: The Rise and Fall of a Texas Dynasty (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Jack Lala, "MURCHISON, CLINTON WILLIAMS, JR.," accessed July 09, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmu32.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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