Jack Smyth Josey


February 28, 2003


Deceased Name: Jack Josey, oil engineer, businessman, war hero

Jack Smyth Josey, son of a Spindletop-era wildcatter who became a petroleum engineer, war hero, and oil and real estate entrepreneur, died of heart complications Thursday at his winter home in California. He was 86.

"He was a wonderful man who always took the high road and always did the right thing," said his wife, Donna.

During his career, he owned Josey Oil Co. in Houston and developed the land for the Lakeway community near Lake Travis in Austin. He also served on the boards of the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater; Rice University; and Hermann Hospital. And for many years he was chairman of the charitable Robert A. Welch Foundation.

Josey's family had deep roots in East Texas and the state. His great-grandfather signed the Texas Declaration of Independence.

Josey's father, Lenoir M. Josey, sold an ice company in Beaumont during the Spindletop era of the early 1900s to invest in drilling for oil. After succeeding in oil, Lenoir Josey moved the family into one of the first mansions in River Oaks.

Lenoir M. Josey II, Jack Josey's son, said people often mistakenly linked his father to the infamous stories of his grandfather's lifestyle as a flamboyant nightfly and gambler.

"My father was a businessman, war hero and a friend of education who many people admired," he said. "Whereas my grandfather was the wildcatter, my father went on to become a petroleum engineer, so he brought more technology to the oil field."

Jack Josey grew up in Houston. He graduated from San Jacinto High School in the 1930s in the same class as Walter Cronkite. The two remained lifelong friends.

Josey married his college sweetheart, Elva Johnson, and they had three children.

He worked for his father after graduation and volunteered to serve in the Navy after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

He served as a gunnery officer on a destroyer escort during many battles in the South Pacific. He earned a Bronze Star for saving people during the sinking of an aircraft carrier, and he shot down kamikaze pilots attempting to destroy another carrier.

Josey loved to travel and collect art and antiques. He also sponsored dozens of scholarships anonymously.

He is survived by his wife, Donna; daughter Carolyn Josey Young; sons Robert A. Josey and Lenoir M. Josey II; stepdaughters Laurel Page, Donna Kurka, Emily Neuhoff and Virginia Redican; and stepson Joe O. Neuhoff III.


Houston Chronicle (TX) - February 28, 2003