John G. O'Brien


Fay took this video of John telling of his early life and the dustbowl to a woman's book club in 2011.    He had so much fun, he had a martini with them afterwards.

See the rest of the video.

John O'Brien Born on the Lucky 7/17/17, John moved to Amarillo from Hereford the week after he was born.   He weighed a little over three pounds and the doctor gave him no chance of living.   The nurse did not think it was worth naming him.

Dropping out of A&M during the depression, he started working with his dad, Will O'Brien, in the '30's, both in the oil fields and at the New Mexico ranch.   He said that he liked one of his teachers and was having beers with him and learned what he earned.   It was less that rough necks earned and O'Brien never much liked school anyway.  

But he liked A&M and his blood ran maroon the rest of his life.  He was honored with a Doctorage from WT A&M later in his life.
Katherine's rehearsal dinner  
  Johnny was a lifetime member of the Rover Boys Chowder and Marching Society

John married Mary Paul in 1939 after an extended courtship.   She passed away in 1985 after raising their three children, Bill, Jay and Fay.    John, who was a fun husband and good father, had never been overly domesticated, but was a devoted care giver during the last few years of her life.


Active in Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association, OBrien was well known for his taste in ties.  He was president 1956-58 and was awarded their Living Legend Award in 2008.

Johnny said that his dad didn't trust a man who smoked a pipe (even though Will did).  In 1937, Johnny obviously smoked a pipe at A&M.

In the fifties, he and a friend, Gene McCartt, put up the capital for a oil exploration company called Petroleum Exploration, Inc.   It later became Mesa Petroleum.    But before it did, Gene McCartt was owed money by PEI.    He was upset with Mesa management and called his note when it was due.   John O'Brien was in San Antonio at the time and talked to McCartt telling him that he would persnally guarantee the note.   McCartt would not do this because he felt that PEI would fail and it would stick O'Brien with the loss.   At the time, had McCartt filed suit for his money, it might have put PEI into bankruptcy, but for sure would have stopped the public offering to start Mesa.   O'Brien called his bank and had a good enough relationship that the bank provided the funds to PEI to pay McCartt on O'Brien's personal guarantee.

On a subsequent payment to McCartt, Mesa agreed to make the payment on January 2; so, McCartt would not have the income in the prior year causing tax problems.   On January 2, McCartt called O'Brien and told him that Boone Pickens had personally gone to the bank on December 31 and deposited the funds in McCartt's account.   O'Brien's son remembers how upset his father was and how incredulous he was.  He hung up the phone and called Pickens and ask him if it was true.  O'Brien's son remembers him saying, "But Boone, we agreed...   But we gave our word..."   There were more words and O'Brien hung up.   His relationship with Pickens was strained after that and he never fully trusted Pickens.

O'Brien ran the New Mexico ranch until his son Bill graduated from college in 1964.   He, his brother and sisters sold the ranch in 1972.  He managed Nabob Production, the family oil business until his death.

O'Brien gave both of his sons the ability to make mistakes when he was backing them.     In 1973, his sons were discussing the risk of buying cattle for wheat and whether they should continue.   O'Brien walked in and listened and then said, "You know, sometimes it is best to sit on the side lines."   He left and his sons discussed it some more and decided to go ahead.  

The market collapsed and both of O'Brien's sons would have had net worths in the red.   They kept working and recovered because of O'Brien's backing.   Years later, Jay said to his father, "You know, you warned us in 1973 not to buy cattle and we went ahead.   You really took the biggest hit, but you never reminded us that you didn't think we should take the risk." 

O'Brien said, "If you weren't smart enough to know that, it wouldn't have done any good for me to remind you."   He was an incredible father.



Bill, Mary, Johnny and Jay


Jane, Javier, Susie, Hamilton, Kam, Emily, Johnny and Jay at Jay's National Golden Spur Award ceremony in 2007


Johnny and two of his granddaughters at Kak's wedding


July 23, 2004, with his new great granddaughter Exie, named after his mother.

John with his granddaughter Mary and son Jay, November 22, 2007.


99 family reunion

Bobby Moore, Jay O'Brien and JGO '99

At the LIT

At the office at 82

Standing O'Briens: Alice, Blake, Raine, Shannan, John, Bill and Jay.

Sitting O'Briens: Pat and Susie