“Waite Phillips, who had immense wealth, believed in putting his money to good use. So he gave a lot of it away.”
Waite Phillips was born on a farm in Iowa and graduated from Shenandoah Normal College in 1903. He worked in the coal mining industry until he decided to make oil development his “life’s work” and joined his brothers in the endeavor in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, around 1906. He left Bartlesville in 1914 to take over the management of the North Arkansas Oil Company in Fayetteville. But it was the direct, daily field work in the business that he most enjoyed, so he returned to Okmulgee, Oklahoma, in 1915. He quickly found success in the business. He sold that first business for nearly $5 million in 1924 and formed Waite Phillips Company, which he sold only a year later for $25 million.
He became chairman of the board of the Independent Oil and Gas Company in 1927. Phillip’s Tulsa home became the Philbrook Museum of Art and his Philmont Ranch was left to the Boy Scouts. The exciting story of his life is chronicled in Beyond the Hills: the Journey of Waite Phillips, written by Michael Wallis and published in 1995.
Waite Phillips loved epigrams – words to live by – and always carried a complete typewritten list of them in his pocket. A favorite was, “Achievement consists of doing useful things that most people say cannot be done."
Philllips joined his brothers, Frank and Lee, in the oil business in Bartlesville, Oklahoma around 1906.