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Clayton Wheat "Claytie" Williams Jr. (born October 8, 1931) is an American businessman and philanthropist from Midland in the U.S. state of Texas who ran for governor in 1990. Despite securing the Republican nomination and initially leading in the polls against Democratic challenger State Treasurer Ann Richards by twenty points, Williams ultimately lost the race.

Clayton Williams
Personal details
Clayton Wheat Williams Jr.

(1931-10-08) October 8, 1931 (age 88)
Alpine, Texas, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Betty Meriwether (divorced),
Modesta Williams (present)
ResidenceMidland, Texas, U.S.
Alma materTexas A&M University
OccupationBusinessman, philanthropist
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1954-1957

During the campaign Williams cultivated an image of a cowboy figure who had risen from humble roots to become a powerful business tycoon.[1] The image fared well with the public. However, Williams demonstrated a penchant for making poorly planned statements culminating in an off-color joke about rape that doomed his campaign.

Early lifeEdit

Williams is the son of Clayton W. Williams, Sr., a Pecos county commissioner, and the former Chicora Lee "Chic" Graham.[2] He was born in Alpine, Texas in the Big Bend country of far West Texas, but reared in his father's native Fort Stockton, the seat of geographically large Pecos County.

He graduated from Texas A&M University in College Station in 1954 with a degree in animal husbandry. Then, as had his father during World War I, he served in the U.S. Army.


In 1957, Williams followed in the business of his father, beginning in the oil fields of West Texas as a lease broker. Many of his companies were petroleum-related with interests in the exploration and production of natural gas and transportation and extraction of natural gas and natural gas liquids. In 1993, he took Clayton Williams Energy, Inc. public.

Williams diversified into the more traditional businesses of farming, ranching, real estate, and banking. He also tried his hand at long distance telecommunications. For a time he operated a long distance company, ClayDesta, named for both himself and his wife, Modesta. Williams also taught for six years in the Texas A&M College of Business Administration.

As an administrator, Clayton served as the vice president and director of the Association of Former Students at Texas A&M in 1977.

In January 2017, Clayton Williams Energy was sold to Noble Energy for $2.7 billion.[3]

Political lifeEdit

1990 Texas gubernatorial raceEdit

Williams began his run for Governor of Texas as a Republican. He defeated a field of candidates for the nomination that included former U.S. Representative and outgoing Railroad Commissioner Kent Hance of Lubbock, Clements' former Secretary of State Jack Rains of Houston and Dallas lawyer Tom Luce.[citation needed]

Williams spent freely from his personal fortune, running a "Good Old Boy" campaign initially appealing to conservatives.[4] Prior to a series of gaffes, he was leading Richards (the race was dubbed "Claytie vs. The Lady" in the polls[citation needed]) and was in striking distance[citation needed] of becoming only the second Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction.

In one of his widely publicized missteps, Williams refused to shake hands with Ann Richards in a public debate, an act seen as uncouth. (Senator John Tower had similarly refused to shake the hand of Democratic opponent Robert Krueger in a 1978 appearance in Houston but went on to win a fourth term by the narrowest of margins.)

Republican political activist Susan Weddington of San Antonio, a Williams supporter, placed a black wreath that read "Death to the Family" at the door of Ann Richards's campaign headquarters in Austin. At the 1990 state Republican convention, Weddington participated in a prayer rally and called upon the Almighty to "watch over the caucus rooms and the convention hall". Seven years later, she became the first woman to be named Republican state chairman in Texas.[5]

During the campaign, Williams publicly made a comment, which he later said was a joke, that likened the crime of rape to bad weather, having stated: "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it".[6] Also, during the campaign, allegations were made that as an undergraduate at Texas A&M, Williams had visited the Chicken Ranch, a brothel in La Grange, Texas, and Boy's Town, a Mexican red-light district near the border.[7][8] As a result of his reported comments, Williams was occasionally parodied, such as in the mock political ad, "Satan Williams," which appeared on Dallas/Fort Worth public television during the 1990 campaign season.[9]

Williams eventually lost the race despite leading Richards by 11 points as late as August[10] and outspending her by almost 2-to-1.[11] During his concession speech, Texas television stations showed Williams glibly telling supporters: "I've got some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we lost; the good news is that it is not the end of the world." When the crowd urged him to try again in four years, he told his supporters, "I may be an Aggie, but I am not crazy."[12]

In 2007, Mike Cochran, a former Associated Press correspondent, released Claytie: The Roller-Coaster Life of a Texas Wildcatter, Williams' authorized biography. The book chronicles Williams' brief political career and his long-term commitment to the oil and gas industry, cattle ranching, and the communications business.[citation needed]

Other political activitiesEdit

Clayton Williams raised over $300,000 for the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign. However, a fundraiser at Williams' home for June 16, 2008 was abruptly rescheduled and relocated[13] after Williams' controversial 1990 comments about rape were mentioned to the McCain campaign by ABC News. The campaign condemned the remarks, saying that they were "incredibly offensive".[14] The campaign said it would not return the money Williams had raised, as it was donated by other individuals.[15]

In 2012, Williams donated $1 million to American Crossroads.[16]


As a philanthropist, Williams was a founding member of the Presidents Endowed Scholarship for Gifted Students at Texas A&M University. He has made several significant monetary donations to Texas A&M, including underwriting half of the cost for an alumni center, which bears his name. He was also the founder and director of the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, which is dedicated to the study of desert animals and plants of southwest Texas and Mexico.

Personal lifeEdit

Williams has two daughters, Kelvie Cleverdon and Allyson Groner, from his first marriage to Betty Meriwether Williams. He has a daughter, Chicora Modesta "Chim" Welborn, and two sons, Clayton Wade Williams and Jefferson Wheat Gataga "Jeff" Williams, with his second wife Modesta Williams.


  1. ^ "Clayton Williams". Texas Monthly. October 1990. p. 122.
  2. ^ Wallace, Ernest. Williams, Clayton Wheat, Handbook of Texas Online
  3. ^
  4. ^ Calvert, Robert A. Texas Since World War II, Handbook of Texas Online
  5. ^ Karen Olsson (November 2002). "Mr. Right". Texas Monthly. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  6. ^ "Texas Candidate's Comment About Rape Causes a Furor". The New York Times. March 26, 1990.
  7. ^ Shannon, Kelly. "New book relates wild political, personal life of Clayton Williams" Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine,, August 14, 2007.
  8. ^ Pappalardo, Joe. "Trick Town", Dallas Observer, May 31, 2001.
  9. ^ "KERA 'Voters' Revenge' videos frightfully pointed". The Dallas Morning News. October 31, 1990.
  10. ^ Holmes, Michael (August 21, 1990). "Ann Richards, Trailing in Governor's Race, Is Hopeful". Associated Press.
  11. ^ Shogan, Robert (October 7, 1990). "Issues Are Lost Amid the Mudslinging in Texas". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Ratcliffe, R.G. (November 7, 1990). "It's Governor Richards/Women's support, Williams' gaffes key win". Houston Chronicle.
  13. ^ "McCain Texas Fundraiser Back On, Sans Oilman – The Trail". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on May 23, 2011.
  14. ^ "McCain Cancels Fundraiser Over Oilman's Rape Comments". June 14, 2008.[dead link]
  15. ^ McCain cancels fundraiser with controversial Texan
  16. ^ "The SuperPAC Superdonors". NPR. October 23, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2013.


External linksEdit