Sunday, May 29, 2011  •  Austin, Texas  •  Press Release

“Anita and I are deeply saddened today as our state and nation have lost a true pioneer, and a larger-than-life entrepreneur, public servant and, most of all, a Texan. Gov. Clements was a mentor and someone I admired and respected greatly. As the father of the modern day Texas Republican Party, Gov. Clements is responsible for the growth, success and election of Texas Republicans in every corner of our state. Today, Texans and Americans have lost a leader whose leadership, service and patriotism were unparalleled. Anita and I send our deepest sympathy to Rita Crocker Clements and the Clements family during this difficult time.

Today, I have ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the life and service of former Texas Governor William P. Clements, Jr.”

Former Gov. Bill Clements, the first Republican governor in Texas since Reconstruction, has died at 94, according to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Dewhurst said he has been contacted by the Clements family that the former governor had died in a Dallas-area hospital.

Clements looked to completely change the face of Texas politics when he took office in 1979. The Texas oilman, who started out as an oil roughneck, believed state government should be operated as a big business.

“It is the largest business in Texas and yet we run it like it was a soda water stand — or a barbecue stand,” Clements said shortly before turning over the chief executive’s job to Democrat Mark White, who upset his re-election bid in 1982.

White, a lawyer, was part owner of a barbecue firm in the Central Texas town of Valley Mills.

Clements came back four years later to defeat White. He saw his first term in office as a major change in the way the state operated.

“I think that what happened in the last four years is without a doubt a new page in our Texas history in the management of our state government,” he said at the end of his first term.

William Perry Clements Jr. was born and reared in Dallas, attending Highland Park High School where he was an all-state football lineman. He turned down athletic scholarship offers from several colleges to work in South Texas oil fields when his father, a real estate man and farmer, found the Depression tough going.

After eight years as an oil roughneck and driller, he graduated from Southern Methodist University in 1939.

In 1947, he and I.P. Larue launched SEDCO Inc. with borrowed funds and two old drilling rigs. He bought out Larue in 1955 for $1.2 million.

SEDCO, an oil and gas drilling company, operated throughout the world with several subsidiaries. SEDCO merged with Schlumberger Limited in 1984 and Clements retired as chairman a year later.

The multimillionaire Dallas oilman turned back early attempts of Texas Republicans to recruit him for statewide political races but worked actively in the party.