William Thomas Payne

Class of
William Thomas Payne

William Thomas Payne

“[My community service] has resulted from other people being nice to me and helping me when I needed help.”
William Payne, 1953


William Thomas Payne was born in Tecumseh, Nebraska, and came with his parents by train, stagecoach, and covered wagon to Tecumseh, Oklahoma, when he was three months old. He earned a degree from Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in 1915 and Massachusetts State College in 1916 with plans to pursue a career in bacteriology, but plunged into the oil business in 1919 as a scout for the North American Oil Company in Cement, Oklahoma. He organized Helmerich & Payne, Inc., in 1925 and served as a representative for the company in the Oklahoma City boom development before founding his Big Chief Drilling Company in December of 1936. His work as an executive oilman and unassuming philanthropist was legendary across the state and around the world.

Fun fact

In 1959 William Payne joined entrepreneur C.R. Anthony as one of only two Oklahomans to ever receive the legendary Horatio Alger Award.

Oklahoma connections

Payne came to Tecumseh, Oklahoma, with his parents when he was three months old.


Oklahoma City






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