Scope and Contents
Walter W. Fondren performed a conspicuous part in the development of the petroleum industry in Texas. The considerable wealth generated by his success in this field was later, through the agency of Ella F. Fondren and the Fondren Foundation, made available to several civic, religious, and educational organizations, predominately in Texas. The Fondren Papers, occupying approximately 7.75 linear feet, provide a record of the Fondrens's acquisition and dispersal of money during the first three-quarters of this century and offers additional information on the financial workings of several well-known institutions and corporations.
The Fondren Papers comprise fourteen Hollinger boxes that include passbooks, ledgers, and other financial records. Books in a tin deed box (ca. 1890-1910) labeled with W. W. Fondren's card were reboxed but the box was retained. Constituted almost completely by correspondence and documents concerning financial matters, the collection is arranged in a single alphabet, the papers in each folder being further arranged in chronological order.
This material is open for research.
Conditions Governing Access
Stored offsite at the Library Service Center and require 24-hour notice for retrieval. Please contact the Woodson Research Center at 713-348-2586 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Permission to publish material from the Fondren Papers must be obtained from the Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
The original instructions regarding the use of the Fondren Papers was governed by an Agreement dated February 23, 1984, which remained in force until February 24, 1999 and required researchers to sign the "Fondren Collection Agreement" form.
Walter W. Fondren was born in 1877 in Tennessee, the son of a farmer, who moved the family to Arkansas in 1883. Orphaned at the age of nine or ten, W. W. Fondren began working on farms in Arkansas and Texas. Then in 1897 he worked as a helper on a drilling rig at Corsicana, Texas, developing rapidly and becoming an independent driller during the first decade of this century. While he was working at Corsicana, he met and married Ella F. Cochrum.
Born at Hazel, Kentucky, Ella Cochrum was in her mid teens when her father died, making it necessary for her to quit school to care for her sister and five brothers. She and Walter Fondren were married on Valentine's Day, 1904 in Corsicana, and soon thereafter moved to Houston, where a son and two daughters were born to them and where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
Mr. Fondren was elected a director of the Humble Oil Company, then controlled mostly by Ross. S. Sterling, in 1912. In 1917 the Humble Oil and Refining Company was formed, and Walter Fondren was elected vice president. He assumed responsibility for drilling on the Gulf coast when Humble was affiliated with Jersey Standard in 1919. When W. S. Farish was elected Jersey director (1933), while retaining the Humble presidency, W. W. Fondren retired. After several years of heart trouble, he died suddenly early in 1939.
The Fondren's interest in aiding worthy institutions led to the establishment of the Fondren Foundation in 1948 to manage the resources of an estate valued at over thirty-three million dollars at the time of Mr. Fondren's death. Prominent among the recipients of this generosity have been St. Paul's Methodist Church, Methodist Hospital, Methodist Homes for Older People and the YMCA, all in Houston and Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Mrs. Fondren's concern with health care and the training of nurses led her to charter the Texas Association of Hospital Auxiliaries in 1943. Over the years she also provided money for scholarships and awards for nursing students. At the time of her death in 1982, Ella F. Fondren had devoted much of this century to local philanthropy.
7.75 Linear Feet (14 boxes)
Language of Materials