George Phydias Mitchell (1919 - 2013)

Obituary
  • "Interested in and capable of so much, he was a true..."
  • "A few months after parents have left, it seems more..."
  • "I had the opportunity to meet your father on several..."
  • "Our deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. George Mitchell...."
  • "We in Galveston appreciate what Mr. Mitchell has done for..."
    - Celia Strain

George Phydias Mitchell – The Father We Knew May 21, 1919 – July 26, 2013 Like the summer sunsets over Galveston Bay that George Phydias Mitchell loved, he slipped quietly, peacefully beyond the horizon of this living realm. His brilliant life leaves a legacy to guide our family and the communities he loved. He was born the third of four children to Greek immigrants, his father a hardscrabble entrepreneur and gambler, his mother a dedicated and inspiring beauty from Argos. Our father overcame poverty and the early loss of his mother to achieve outsized accomplishments while never forgetting his humble roots nor his mother's compassion. He led his life with a winning combination of confidence, risk, intellect, imagination, persistence, integrity and loyalty. He touched the lives of countless people and left the world a better place. Always resourceful, he spent his boyhood fishing along the Galveston ship channel jetties and working odd jobs for the operators of a fishing pier. His fishing prowess provided food for the family table. To support the family, young George also earned money selling his catch and handmade bamboo fishing poles to tourists. As a child, he dreamed of becoming an astronomer, and applied himself to the study of math, physics and chemistry. His mother wished for him to become a physician, but then his brother Johnny arranged a summer job in the oil patch where Dad became enthralled with the hunt for petroleum. During Dad's time at Texas A&M University, where he studied petroleum engineering and geology, he honed his entrepreneurial skills by selling gold embossed stationary to lovesick freshmen. Stationary profits kept him enrolled through graduation, but looking ahead he was inspired by Professor Vance who told him, "If you want to drive a Chevrolet, work for a big oil company, but if you want to drive a Cadillac be an independent." As an unflagging optimist, Dad never let a defeat trip him up. When his beloved Aggies had their 1941 national championship hopes shattered in a loss to the Texas Longhorns in the last game of the season, he rose above the gloom during the train ride back to Houston from College Station and introduced himself to beautiful identical twin sisters. One of them, Cynthia Loretta Woods, would become his lifelong partner. Her diary entry: "Met a cute soldier today." Dad's officer training at Texas A&M prepared him for the rank of Captain in the Army. When World War II broke out, he yearned to be deployed overseas with his two brothers and comrades from Texas A&M. Appreciating his work ethic and leadership, his commanding officer in the Corps of Engineers schemed to get Dad assigned to his division stationed in Galveston. Mom always teased him that he finally got his wish by being deployed, "Overseas, to Galveston!" After the war, he worked for a major oil company in the Louisiana swamps. But, recalling Professor Vance's lesson, he returned to Houston to establish an independent consulting business with his brother, Johnny. Soon, Dad's acute abilities earned him the reputation as a smart, young geologist and engineer with a knack for finding oil and gas. Uncle Johnny, for his part, was an exceptional promoter, and together they attracted investors, often over the lunch counter at the Esperson Drugstore. In time they invited their oldest brother Christie, who was living in Galveston, to join them in Houston. But Uncle Christie, the quintessential beachcomber and a clever journalist for the Galveston Daily News, turned down their invitation, declaring, "Any fool can make a million dollars in Houston but it takes a genius to make a living in Galveston." Through the 1950s and '60s, our father and Uncle Johnny built the independent company that became Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation. Two decades before his innovations in hydraulic fracturing achieved economically feasible production of natural gas from the tight Barnett Shale of North Texas, he envision
Published in Dallas Morning News from Aug. 1 to Aug. 11, 2013
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