John A. Jackson, a native Texan who generously supported educational and other initiatives throughout the state, died this morning in his sleep at the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Jackson graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1940 with a degree in geology, and used his perceptive skills in this area to discover the great Boonsville field in Wise County, one of the largest natural gas fields in the United States.
This success allowed him to form his own company, which he named Katie Petroleum to honor his wife, Katherine G. Jackson.
The couple’s major philanthropic support in later years focused on higher education, and included the largest gift to a public university in the nation when Jackson chose in 2002 to give the balance of his and Katie’s estate to the Geology Foundation of The University of Texas at Austin. The gift was then estimated to be worth between $150 million and $200 million.
Born in Lufkin, Texas on Aug. 11, 1913, John Jackson moved to Dallas three years later when his mother relocated after the death of his father. He attended schools in Dallas and Temple, before moving to Hatch, New Mexico, to live with relatives, where he graduated from high school in 1932. After working in the oil fields of east Texas for several years, Jackson began classes in Austin, though he briefly attended Temple Junior College for a few years and met his future wife there.
He began his geology career at the Arkansas Fuel Oil Company in Shreveport, and served in the U.S. Geological Survey under a presidential war service appointment during World War II to mine the state’s bauxite fields for aluminum ore needed for the war effort.
Soon after, he moved to Dallas to work as an independent geological consultant, forming a partnership with Ellison Miles. Jackson applied the geologic deposition concept he developed in the bauxite fields in Arkansas to the study of Paleozoic rocks in Wise County. His discovery of the Boonsville field using this approach was featured in Time magazine’s business section on Dec. 17, 1956.
This discovery and his real estate investments allowed the Jacksons to support many cultural, health and educational efforts. The support included a $15 million gift in 2000 to expand the Geology Building at the University of Texas at Austin.
Katherine Jackson died in March 2001 after a long illness. In July 2001, Jackson provided an additional $25 million to the university to honor her and create an endowment that established the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson School of Geosciences. The school combines three units focused on Earth sciences: the Department of Geological Sciences, the Institute for Geophysics and the Bureau of Economic Geology.
That following year Mr. Jackson indicated his intent to leave the residual of his estate to the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson Endowment in the Geology Foundation, in support of the Jackson School of Geosciences. Mr. Jackson was an honorary life member of the Geology Foundation Advisory Council.
The Jackson’s additional support of Geology Foundation efforts included endowment of the Jackson Teaching Fellowship, the Jackson Fellowship in Geohydrology and the Jackson Fellowship in Exploration Geophysics.
In recognition of the couple’s support of Earth science research and education at the university and the College of Natural Sciences, a formal dedication will proceed as scheduled on April 25 to rename the Geology Building as the John A. and Katherine G. Jackson Geological Sciences Building.
The Jackson’s generosity also led them to fund many civic endeavors in Dallas, and to donate land and support construction projects for development of the Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. Their additional philanthropic efforts included providing scholarship programs and funding for an auditorium at Texas Lutheran College in Seguin, serving as major contributors to libraries in Decatur and Bridgeport, and giving substantial gifts to Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
At The University of Texas at Austin, Jackson was a Life Member of the Chancellor’s Council and a member of the College of Natural Sciences’ Hall of Honor. He was named a distinguished alumnus of the university in 2002. His professional honors included membership in the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the American Institute of Professional Geologists.
A funeral for John Jackson was held in Dallas on Wednesday, March 26 at 10 a.m, Christ Lutheran Church, 3001 Lovers Lane.