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Radcliffe Killam
Born July 1, 1910(1910-07-01)
Grove in Delaware County, Oklahoma, USA
Died September 8, 2007 (aged 97)
Laredo in Webb County, Texas, USA
Occupation Oilman
Spouse(s) Sue Spivey Killam
Children David Killam
Adrian Kathleen Killam

Tracy Killam DiLeo

Terry Killam Wilber (deceased)

Radcliffe Killam (July 1, 1910 - September 8, 2007), was a wealthy oilman, rancher, businessman, and philanthropist in Laredo, the seat of Webb County in south Texas. He was a particular benefactor of various educational and medical institutions. In 1997, Worth cited the Killam family as one of the largest landowners in the United States, with 200,000 acres (810 km2).[1] Part of that includes the 125,000-acre (510 km2) Duval County Ranch west of Freer, which Killam purchased in 1994.[1]


Early years, education, military

The Winfield subdivision off Del Mar Boulevard in Laredo, Texas, is named for Oliver Winfield Killam, the father of developer Radcliffe Killam who served in the Oklahoma State Senate before he moved his familty to South Texas in 1920.

Killam was born in Grove in Delaware County in northeastern Oklahoma to Oliver Winfield "O. W." Killam and the former Harriett Smith. Killam's father was a member of the Oklahoma State Senate, who worked for statehood of the former Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory.[2]

Killam moved with his family to Laredo in 1920, when he was ten. His father had come to south Texas to prospect for petroleum and natural gas on mineral leases that he had acquired while in business in Oklahoma. The third Killam well brought about an oil boom in Mirando City, Texas, nearly a decade before the better known East Texas Oil Boom centered about Kilgore, Texas. Killam grew up in the oil fields and spent his summers on the rigs.[2] He graduated from Laredo High School in 1932. He played on the former Laredo polo team and was a consummate horseman, who never complained, even when being thrown from a horse.[3] Killam procured a bachelor's degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Harvard Law School.[4]

After Harvard, Killam returned to Laredo to work with his father. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served first in the Atlantic and then was the commanding officer of a PT boat in the Pacific. He left the Navy in 1945 with the rank of lieutenant commander.[4]


After the war, Killam returned once again to Laredo with his wife, the former Sue Spivey of Bonham, Texas. Killam resumed working in the oil business but found much time as well for his family and his community.[4]

He received many awards over the years that recognized his civic and business contributions. In 1952, Killam headed the Washington Birthday Celebration Association. He was "Mr. South Texas" in 1978; his father held the same title in 1956.[2]

Much of Killam's philanthropy was given privately. According to his banking colleague Gary Jacobs, "His charitable contributions were always anonymous. He never wanted publicity or recognition. He was a very loyal person to his friends and the institutions he supported."[5]

Killam was a strong supporter of a four-year university for Laredo, which was instituted in 1970 as Texas A&I University and thereafter renamed in 1977 as Laredo State University. He and his family donated 300 acres (1.2 km2) in the early 1990s for the new Texas A&M International University campus to replace the original campus. Killam was particularly supportive of the TAMIU Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade, of which he was the main private donor in the amount of $2 million. TAMIU conferred honorary doctorates to Radcliffe and Sue Killam for their generosity toward the institution and the community. The TAMU library jointly bears the names of both Radcliffe and Sue Killam.[3]

Killam also supported Laredo Medical Center, formerly the Roman Catholic-affiliated Mercy Hospital. He gave to the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The Killams gave some $500,000 to the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The Killams also gave to their common alma mater, UT Austin. They once gave a $50,000 matching grant to save the Laredo Philharmonic Orchestra from disbanding.[3][5]

In 1947, Oliver Killam purchased the 80,000-acre (320 km2) Ortiz Ranch, which Radcliffe continued to develop. He founded the Mil Ojos ("Thousand Eyes") Hunting Club on his ranch. He was one of the first landowners in Texas to implement a game management program. He was instrumental in the creation of Lake Casa Blanca as a reservoir for the City of Laredo and gave an easement for much of the land that it covers.[3] The lake is now a part of Lake Casa Blanca International Park run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.[6]

Killam was the director of several trade associations, including the Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, the Independent Petroleum Association of America, the All-American Wildcatters Association, and the Southwest Research Institute. He was a director of Alamo National Bank.[3]


Killam died at home.

Radcliffe and Sue Killam had a son, David Killam of Laredo, and two daughters, Adrian Kathleen Killam and Tracy Killam DiLeo, both of Austin. At the time of his death, Killam had four grandsons. There was also a deceased daughter, Terry Killam Wilber.[4]




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