Walter Lazenby Williams, 91, passed away on December 26, 2019 in Houston, Texas after a brief illness.
Walter was born on February 4, 1928 in Waco, Texas to Lucy Pearl Lazenby Williams and Major Marshall McDiarmid “Marsh” Williams Jr., U.S.A. (ret.). Following the death of his father in 1935, his mother moved Walter and his older brother Marshall III to her mother-in-law’s large household in Faison, North Carolina. At Faison, Walter and his brother were among several sets of cousins raised under the strong hand of his grandmother, Mary Lyde Hicks Williams. The bond established with their North Carolina cousins quickly became that of siblings, and Walter cherished those connections for the rest of his life.
The family returned to Texas and lived in San Antonio, Texas, where Walter attended Alamo Heights High School, graduating in three years in 1945. Walter chose the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas (Texas A & M). At A&M, Walter was a proud member of the Corps of Cadets and worked as a server in Sbisa dining hall to help pay for his education. He was inducted into engineering honor society Tau Beta Pi in the winter of 1948. He graduated in June 1949 with a bachelor of science in Petroleum Engineering. Later that month, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army and served in the Corps of Engineers in France, where he worked to build a diesel and products pipeline to Germany.
Upon his discharge from the Army he joined American Republic Corporation in Houston which sent him into the field as a roughneck, then appointed him field, and then staff engineer. Subsequently, he worked as an independent petroleum engineering consultant. During that time, he supervised the drilling of the last well in the U.S. to be drilled with a steam-powered rig.
In June 1958 he married Elizabeth Lynne “Betty” Brown. In 1966, they began acquiring the land that would become their beloved Windy Hill Farm at Bellville, Texas, where they spent many happy weekends with family.
In 1964, Walter formed oil and gas producer Texoil Company with Memphis investor T. W. “Bill” Hoehn Jr. From its offices in Houston, Texoil would focus on exploration and production in southern Louisiana for the next 33 years and make numerous discoveries. In June 1994, Walter persevered in his goal of taking Texoil public on the NASDAQ exchange.
In May 1996, Walter joined Charif Souki in co-founding Cheniere Energy, Inc., serving as vice chairman and leading the company’s early exploration and production efforts in the transition zone of coastal Louisiana, and subsequently worked to help the company in its transition into the first LNG exporter in the U.S. He would continue to serve on the board of directors of Cheniere until he retired at the age of 86 in September 2014.
Throughout a career that spanned over sixty-five years, Walter gave numerous young professionals their first jobs, invaluable training and mentoring, and established a high standard of integrity. It was observed of Walter Williams that he “would do the right thing even when it hurt.”
Walter was a keen competitor and enjoyed playing tennis as a member of River Oaks Country Club, and in the World Oilman’s Tennis Tournament, which he served as a member of its board of directors. He was a crack shot with a 12 gauge and enjoyed skeet shoots at his farm, and occasional pheasant hunting in South Dakota and Scotland.
Over the years, Walter supported the Parsons Mounted Cavalry, the Corps of Cadets Association, and the Department of Engineering at Texas A&M University. He and Betty endowed a Corps of Cadets scholarship in petroleum engineering, a College of Agriculture Student Learning Fund, and he served on the advisory council of the College of Engineering.
Walter was a registered Professional Engineer in the states of Texas and Louisiana. In recognition of his contributions to the petroleum industry and to the petroleum engineering profession, he was named a member of the Legion of Honor by the Society of Petroleum Engineers. His professional affiliations included Wildcatters Club, Houston Energy Finance Group, Houston Producer’s Forum, and the Exploration Managers Luncheon group.
He was a Trustee of Houston Museum of Natural Science from 1986 to 1993, and a Life Member of the Friends of Winedale Historical Center. He was a member of The Church of St. John the Divine, River Oaks Country Club, The Petroleum Club of Houston, Allegro, The Breakfast Association and Houston Croquet Association.
Walter is survived by his wife of 61 years, Betty Brown Williams; their children, Lynn Marie Williams Graves and her husband John Lawrence Graves, and Cynthia Lee Williams George and her husband J. Wiley George; grandchildren Faison Anne Graves Weiss and her husband Peter Jewel Weiss, John Ashby Graves, Alexandra Lee “Lexie” Davis, and Marshall Clanton Davis; great-grandchildren Walter Lazenby Weiss and Eloise Madison Weiss, and numerous cousins. He was pre-deceased by his parents and brother Marshall McDiarmid Williams III.
The family would like to extend their gratitude to the doctors, nurses and medical staff of Methodist Hospital for the care provided to Walter during his illness.
A memorial service will be conducted at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on Friday, the 3rd of January, 2019, at The Church of St. John the Divine, 2450 River Oaks Boulevard in Houston, where Dr. Reagan Cocke, Sr. Associate Rector, will officiate. In lieu of flowers, and for those desiring, the family gratefully requests that memorial contributions in Walter’s name be directed to the Betty and Walter Williams ’49 Endowed Scholarship – Acct. 34569, Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840.