GETTY, GEORGE F.
Trained as a lawyer, by the turn of the century Getty had risen to the responsible position of chief legal counsel and director of the Northwestern National Life Insurance Company, headquartered in Minneapolis. A chance trip to the frontier oil town of Bartlesville, Oklahoma in 1903 in order to collect a debt owed the company, however, changed Getty's life forever. Immediately bitten by the oil "bug," he obtained an 1,100 acre tract and started drilling in October. By December, he had struck oil, and by May 1905 he had 5 more wells in operation. By mid-1906, when he moved his family to Los Angeles, Getty had become one of the largest and wealthiest independent oilmen in Oklahoma. From day one, his son, J. Paul, 11 years old when the family moved to Oklahoma, was fascinated with the west and with the oil business and with making money. Never a great student, young Getty bounced from college to college both here and in Europe, eventually getting a degree from Oxford c. 1913. His lifestyle, however - his spendthrift ways and "gaiety" - caused severe strains on his relationship with his parents, particularly with his father, at tea-totaling Christian Scientist. Eventually, the elder Getty, thoroughly disgusted with his son, seized what assets J. Paul had as reimbursement for having supported him over the years. This caused J. Paul to roundly denounce his father and accuse him of cheating him out of his birthright: "Many fathers in your position would have given their only son . . a nest egg. . . cheated out of my birthright." Returning to the U.S. in mid 1914, J. Paul entered into an uneasy truce with his father, the latter agreeing to advance his son living expenses and provide funds to buy low cost leases which the father considered promising. J. Paul's immediate success caused his father to soften somewhat, and accept him into the business, but it was very clear that he still did not trust his son as evidenced by a scolding he once gave his workers at a drilling rig: "I told you to keep that son-of-a-bitch out of here. He's not to have anything." During this time, George Getty continued to prosper, founding George F. Getty, Inc. in 1924 to manage and develop his California interests. By the end of 1926, father and son were again estranged, due more to the son's "gaiety" than to anything else, with George's removing J. Paul from all corporate positions and writing him out of his will. Over the next several years, there were several business transactions between the two, with J. Paul usually getting the best of the deal over his elderly and ill father. George, who suffered a stroke in the spring of 1930 and died in late May of that year, did not live to see the enormous wealth accumulated by his son. Perhaps that is just as well, since George was a man whose word was his bond, and he clearly did not approve of his son's business methods. At his death, George left a fortune of $15.5 million.