George P. Mitchell

George Mitchell, the father of natural gas shale exploration, was the first to use hydraulic fracturing to crack the Texas Barnett shale field. He opened the door to shales worldwide. In 2002 Mitchell sold his company, Mitchell Energy & Development, to Devon Energy for $3.5 billion, remaining the largest shareholder. He led Woodlands development, a huge master-planned community north of Houston. He completed $24 million in renovations of his three Galveston hometown hotels, damaged when Hurricane Ike slammed ashore in 2008. A big giver, he’s spent $30 million building the Giant Magellan Telescope, a ground-based replacement for the Hubble. George-Mitchell


Life at an Early Age

Mitchell was born in Galveston on May 21, 1919.

From Greece, where his father had herded goats, his parents came to Galveston. The middle name his parents gave him – Phydias – included Mitchell’s Greek legacy. His father opened small cleaning and shoeshine companies in the New World but was a lifelong gambler as well.

Often resourceful, according to Mitchell’s obituary in the Houston Chronicle, he spent his boyhood fishing along the Galveston ship channel jetties and doing odd jobs for the owners of a fishing pier.

For the family table, his fishing prowess supplied food. Young Mitchell also raised money selling his catch and handmade bamboo fishing poles to visitors in order to support the family.

When Mitchell was 13, his mother, who had inspired him to concentrate on education as the only way to change his circumstances, died. As a boy, he dreamed of becoming an astronomer, according to his obituary, and applied himself to the study of math, physics, and chemistry. His mother wanted him to become a doctor, but then Johnny, his brother, arranged a summer job at an oil patch where Dad was delighted with petroleum hunting.

He honed his entrepreneurial skills by selling gold-embossed stationery to lovesick freshmen during his tenure at Texas A&M University, where he studied petroleum engineering and geology. He graduated from the Texas A&M University Class of 1940.


Meeting His Wife and His The Military Service

Mitchell introduced himself to the identical twin sisters during a train ride back from College Station to Houston.

Cynthia Lorretta Woods, one of them will become his life-long girlfriend. They were married in a double wedding with her twin sister and brother-in-law on Oct. 31, 1943.

Mitchell’s officer training at Texas A&M qualified him for the rank of captain in the US Army, according to his obituary. He was assigned to the Corps of Engineers and stationed in Galveston, while like his brothers and comrades from Texas A&M, he yearned to be deployed overseas.


Starting The Oil and Gas Business

Mitchell worked for a large oil company in the swamps of Louisiana after the war.

He later returned to Houston with his brother, Johnny, to create an independent consulting company. The business that became Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation was founded by Mitchell and his brother during the 1950s and 1960s.

According to a 2016 Houston Chronicle article, Texas oil giant George Mitchell read an academic article in the early 1980s claiming that it could only be possible to extract natural gas economically from shale rock. But the revolution didn’t come soon.

In 2013, energy historian Daniel Yergin wrote that It took a decade and a half of conviction, investment, and dogged determination,”But before Mitchell was done, he launched what has proved to be the most important innovation in energy so far this century.” “Mitchell is sometimes referred to as the father of fracking,” yet for decades before Mitchell’s invention paid off in 1997, fracking was already popular.

Stephen A. Holditch, a veteran of the energy industry, says it is more precise to conclude that Mitchell succeeded in “combining long horizontal wells with hydraulic fracturing,” which made shale gas commercially feasible and laid the groundwork for the domestic gas industry’s subsequent growth. For gasoline, the same methods can also be used. “He’s the father of the shale revolution,” said Holditch, a former professor of Texas A&M petroleum engineering who worked and met him personally for Mitchell’s business. He sold his oil and gas business for 3,5 billion dollars in 2002.


Founding The Woodlands 

His granddaughter, Katherine Lorenz, said the idea for The Woodlands came after Mitchell saw the devastation of Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood following race-fueled riots in 1965. “He knew he could do better. So he went to work creating a sustainable community, “He knew he could do better. So he went to work on creating a sustainable community. In 1974, less than a decade after the riots, the township had its grand opening.

The settlement was part of an urban-planning program sponsored by the federal government that created around a dozen new towns throughout the country. The idea originated in the 1940s in England and in the 1960s jumped the pond. On land formerly part of the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Mill, the Woodlands was established.

The concept was a bit of a stretch, said Kyle Shelton, a program manager at the Kinder Institute for Urban Science at Rice University. “It was an attempt to create a different kind of city, and one that is tied to a long history of utopian ideals: If only we could design the right type of community … then everything would work perfectly.”

On Oct. 19, 1974, the community opened.

By 1976, the only such group that did not join or reach bankruptcy was The Woodlands, historian Roger Briles of East Carolina University wrote in the academic journal Planning Perspectives in 1998. “Only The Woodlands had established sustainability.”

“The biggest difference” between the cities, Shelton said, “is that The Woodlands had George Mitchell.”

Land, money, and vision were the key backers of the township.

At the time, Shelton said the dedication to incorporating nature – the master plan left a third of the acreage as green space – was “revolutionary” Landscape architect Ian McHarg was brought in by Mitchell, who stressed the need to protect the natural watershed. That meant that almost half of the land in the township would be covered against growth.

In 1997, new owners bought The Woodlands Company, but the legacy of Mitchell is still a significant part of the culture.

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, which hosts worldwide entertainment acts, is named after Mitchell’s wife.

In April 1990, the venue opened. The new George Mitchell Nature Preserve trail in the Village of Creekside Park in The Woodlands broke ground in March.


Philanthropic Activities

He became more focused on philanthropic activities after selling his oil and gas business. According to state Sen. Tommy Williams, he is the biggest donor to his alma mater, Texas A&M.

He gave more than 30 million dollars to help construct Chile’s Magellan telescope.

From his long-term curiosity, Mitchell’s gifts to help the study of space grew; he had wanted to become an astrophysicist, but he did not think he could make a living in the field after graduating first in the 1940 class of Texas A&M. The funding and vision of Mitchell also enhanced his hometown of Galveston.

He restored historic buildings on the Strand, beginning in the 1970s. He will purchase, repair, and resell dilapidated properties with covenants promising their protection.

Dwayne Jones, executive director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, said The Strand had other investors, but Mr. Mitchell was the most significant one and he certainly brought the most vision,” “His presence, his efforts, his investment, and his vision really began to transform the island into a higher-quality, greater-visibility tourist entity.”

He also provided 135 acres for the establishment of Texas A&M University at Galveston on Pelican Island.

The dedication of Mitchell to the revitalization of Galveston helped the city heal from Hurricane Ike. He spent $24 million on renovating three of his hotels on the island following the 2008 storm.


Leaving a Great Legacy

Just a year or two before Mitchell died, Jones said at the end of the Strand, he bought buildings along Hendley Row.

Jones said, “He took a declining, slow area of the Strand and he has made it into a really top-notch property,” “And it’s a really beautiful building.”

On Dec. 27, 2009, at 87, Cynthia Woods Mitchell passed away.

George Mitchell passed away at home in his beloved Galveston on July 26, 2013. While George Mitchell’s long and colorful career made him a billionaire, friends and colleagues said he always stayed grounded.

“His story was quintessentially American,” his family said in a statement after he died at age 94 on July 26, 2013.

He left behind 10 children, 23 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Mitchell is best known for his contributions to the oil and gas industry and in Montgomery County, he founded The Woodlands where his legacy and imprint are still greatly visible today. George Mitchell