October 26, 1995
A recent edition of the Jenks Gazette, a colorful tabloid newspaper serving Jenks and South Tulsa, contained a fine profile of a Perry man who has pretty much reached the pinnacle in the petroleum industry. I'm speaking of Wayne Swearingen, 1942 graduate of Perry high school and son of the late Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Swearingen. It's a fairly lengthy article but I thought you would want to read all of it. Here it is:
"Wayne E. Swearingen, articulate and influential petroleum industry spokesman, is stuck with a special talent for being where news is made. Contrary to streetside speculation, he does not seek involvement in news events ... he is just there doing one of thousands of jobs when events come together to make headlines. He is available to newsmen, treats them respectfully.
"He was visiting officers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1973 in Vienna when the Arab oil embargo began. World news networks were amazed, but delighted, to find a U.S. independent oilman who could speak with authority about the world impact of the embargo. TV commentator Garrick Utley said Swearingen was the first oilman he had ever met who could speak clearly, wisely and well.
"No other energy spokesman has been on CBS-TV repeatedly as Swearingen has, including one give-take discussion on oil with presidential candidate Bill Clinton.
"Since his merging of LVO Corp., where he was chairman, into what is now General Electric, Swearingen has been a consultant on petroleum management. Ironically, the LVO Corp. he headed also owned LVO Cable, Inc., now absorbed into telecommunications, Inc., the largest cable television company in the world. He has played a major role in the continuing public education function of the Energy Advocates, often making their major speeches. His professional scope transcended oil into communications at the beginning of what is today's communication revolution.
"He loves the audio-visual work of his son, Scott, and has I helped write, direct, narrate and produce several films designed to educate the public on the vitality of the petroleum industry. How much of the popularity of the films is the message or the dynamic personality of Swearingen is anybody's guess. One makes the other, perhaps.
"Swearingen is a true Christian gentleman, an officer in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and an oilfield roughneck who worked his way up to chairman of a New York Stock Exchange listed oil company that expanded into a dozen other industries.
"At LVO Corp., he worked hard to bring unity to the management of the multi-divisional company, from oil to office furniture and supplies to printing and forms management. He would invite managers with spouses to meet for a long weekend at an Oklahoma resort, to talk about their individual roles in the company's growth to benefit stockholders -- and all LVO personnel.
"When LVO merged into another entity, managers of the non-oil segments were given opportunities to acquire their respective companies. Nearly all became financially independent. The LVO stock almost at once became profitable when translated into the buyer, Utah International, stock. The late Taft Welch, skilled investor in such as LVO, for a long time after LVO merged would show friends the big-number General Electric stock certificates that had been LVO.
"A friend recently asked Swearingen, 'You really put a fine company of people together at LVO and helped them do well. Have any ever thanked you?" Oh, a couple, I guess, but no thanks have ever been necessary,' he replied with a smile. 'It was a pleasure to be associated with them.' Analysts have said the LVO Corp., Tulsa-based, had one of the finest organizations of management and employees, talented and dedicated, ever assembled.
"Wayne and Dorothy, wife of 49 years, take vacations from his Tulsa office several times a year, and on every vacation he loads up a speech schedule to help add to the public's enlightenment about the petroleum industry. When he comes home, he will have piles of notes on another audio-visual tape he might make with son Scott.
"Education runs in the family, and with his University of Oklahoma degree, Wayne stopped for a few months at LVO and took the Harvard Advanced Management course. His brother, Eugene, was University of Tulsa president before becoming a banker and now heads the graduate school of business at Oral Roberts University.
"A snappy comeback to those shrinking violets who read about Wayne Swearingen, or see and hear him on the news, is that, 'He has the gumption to be available when newsmen and women want help in telling the public the story behind the news. He does not seek them. They seek him and can depend on him. When Wayne says it, you know it is true and unselfish, like the Christian gentleman he is.
"Often he has been asked to run for public office, but he always says the same: 'I might like it but I would not put my family through it.'
"He finds great satisfaction in being a consultant or director of energy companies where he can put his experience to work without being responsible for the daily soap opera details of running more than his suite of offices where his daughter, Lynne, happily married with children, is his secretary, assistant and office manager.
"He will probably write a management how-to book before he hangs it all up, undoubtedly in the far distance. ‘The only thing I have ever continued to fail at is retirement,' says Swearingen. 'I have really messed retirement up several times. It is downright embarrassing.'
"Most oilmen can't get to talk to the Wall Street Journal's legendary Jim Tanner, oil columnist and world-traveler. It is Tanner who says, 'Two Tulsans taught me the oil business; one is Wayne Swearingen.' (The other, Robert E. Thomas, founder of MAPCO, Inc.)
"The life-sized bronze bust by Barbara Henshaw is a true Swearingen likeness, presented to him by Energy Associates. It was richly and unselfishly earned by doing good for others.
"He is never satisfied with himself, works at constant improvement, seeks advice. Once before the New York City Rotary club, he assumed a whole new personality (for him) and gave a talk on petroleum that was done Will Rogers style. It worked, mixing homespun humor with common energy sense to a few hundred staid New Yorkers."
It's always exciting to hear about another Perry boy or girl making good, and Wayne has certainly done that. His wife is the former Dorothy Wilde of Perry. She had the great good looks of a movie star when they were dating in high school, and when I last saw her at Wayne's 50-year PHS graduating class reunion, she hadn't changed a bit. Thanks to Phyllis Wurtz for passing along this copy of the Jenks Gazette. The article was written by Dean Sims, chairman of Public Relations International and president of the International Society of Energy Advocates.