The Midland Reporter-Telegram, citing one of Williams’ longtime work associates, reported the 88-year-old was surrounded by friends and loved ones when he died from complications of a bout with pneumonia.
According to Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets website, Williams received his bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry from the school in 1954 and served two years in the Army.
In 1957, he entered the oil and gas business as an independent producer and had organized more than 26 major entities, ranging from Clajon Gas (now Aquila Gas Pipeline Corp.) — the largest privately owned natural gas company in Texas — and Williams Company, which has drilled more than 800 wells across the country, the website states.
He also founded Clayton Desta Communications, which built the first totally digital microwave long-distance network in Texas, and his farming and ranching operations encompass almost a half million acres of land in Texas and Wyoming.
In 1981, Williams was named an Association of Former Students Distinguished Alumnus, according to the Corps website, and the Williams Alumni Center on campus is named in his honor. He also was the recipient of the Dean’s Service Award for Teaching Excellence for entrepreneurship class he taught in the College of Business Administration.
Williams, who had contributed funds for a President’s Endowed Scholarship, also served on The Association of Former Students Board of Directors, according to the site.
He had deep connections to the school. In a 2010 article of the Texas Aggie , he said his father, World War I veteran Clayton Wheat Williams, was a 1915 graduate of Texas A&M. His oldest daughter graduated from the University of Texas, as women could not yet be admitted to Texas A&M, but his four other children attended the school. His grandchildren also attended A&M, the article states.
“There is a pride in going to A&M that passes on to our offspring,” he told the magazine. “We’re contagious.”
Williams was the Republican nominee for governor in 1990, losing a close race to Ann Richards.
According to the Midland newspaper, he was an honoree of the Permian Basin International Oil Show in 2002 and was inducted into the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum’s Hall of Fame in 2005. The Permian Basin Petroleum Association also honored him with its Top Hand award.
In January 2017, Noble Energy purchased Clayton Williams Energy in a cash-and stock deal valued at $2.7 billion, states the Reporter-Telegram.
He is also known for the office complex he developed in Midland known as ClayDesta, named for Williams and his wife, Modesta. The two were honored in November when the Association of Fundraising Professionals Permian Basin Chapter named them “Outstanding Philanthropists” during the AFP’s National Philanthropy Day luncheon at the Petroleum Club, according to the newspaper.
In the 2010 interview with Texas Aggie, Williams emphasized his pride in Texas A&M and being an Aggie.
“A&M’s values are not nationwide,” he told the magazine. “Texas A&M is a conservative school, and it’s the most patriotic university in this country. All that comes from the Corps of Cadets and from the alumni, and I’m proud of that.
“I’m proud to be an Aggie. I enjoy being an Aggie. The Spirit of A&M is part of who I am. I’ve been lucky, been blessed, to live in a fine country and attend this fine school.”