T. Boone Pickens

Hometown: Holdenville, Oklahoma

Industry: Oil

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early life

From humble beginnings in a small depression era town, Thomas Boone Pickens, Jr. used his entrepreneurial spirit to become one of the nation’s most successful businessmen. At an early age oil was a part of Pickens life. His father Thomas and his mother Grace both had ties to the oil and gasoline industry. Pickens used this experience and a geology degree from Oklahoma State University to create his own company in the late 1940s. His venture, Mesa Petroleum, eventually became the nation’s largest independent oil company.


During his time at Mesa, Pickens was an innovator and pioneer in both business practices and employee programs. Under Pickens’ direction Mesa created a corporate wellness program complete with stress management classes, a gym and medical screenings. The program was a success and the first to be accredited by the Institute for Aerobic Research. His stamp on corporate America continued throughout the 1970s and 80s as he continually reinvented his business ventures.

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Free enterprise hero

During the span of his career he made millions of dollars, created countless jobs, and always found the time to give back. The breadth of his philanthropy, more than $600 million to date, includes children at risk, education and athletics, conservation and wildlife management, health and medical research and entrepreneurship. Pickens has received numerous awards during his career including the Horatio Alger Award and is in both the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He currently lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife Madeleine.