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Jerry McAfee

  • Born: November 3, 1916, Port Arthur, Texas
  • Died: October 14, 1995, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0114
Interview Date: July 26, 1993
Location: Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania
Interviewer: James J. Bohning
No. of pages: 79
Minutes: 300
Sponsor: Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation
Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

Jerry McAfee begins this interview by discussing his parents and his childhood in Port Arthur, Texas. He became interested in chemical engineering at an early age because of the influence of his father who worked for Texaco and Gulf. McAfee studied chemical engineering at the University of Texas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He worked for five years as a research and operating engineer for Universal Oil Products Company before accepting a position as technical specialist with Gulf Oil Corporation in Port Arthur. His career with Gulf took him to Pennsylvania, London, and Toronto. He served as Chairman of the Board and CEO of Gulf for six years before retiring in 1981. McAfee ends his interview by reflecting on his forty-year career in chemical engineering.


1937 B.S., Chemical Engineering, University of Texas
1940 Sc.D., Chemical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  Professional Experience

Universal Oil Products Company

1940 - 1943 Research Chemical Engineer

Universal Oil Products Company

1943 - 1945 Operating Engineer

Gulf Oil Corporation

1945 - 1950 Technical Specialist, Port Arthur, Texas

Gulf Research and Development Company, Hamarville, Pennsylvania

1950 - 1951 Director, Chemistry Division

Gulf Research and Development Company, Hamarville, Pennsylvania

1951 - 1954 Assistant Director of Research

Gulf Research and Development Company, Hamarville, Pennsylvania

1954 - 1955 Vice President and Associate Director of Research

Gulf Oil Corporation

1955 - 1960 Vice President, Engineering (Refinery Department)

Gulf Oil Corporation

1960 - 1964 Vice President and Executive Technical Advisor

Gulf Oil Corporation

1962 - 1964 Director of Planning and Economics

Gulf Oil Corporation

1964 - 1967 Senior Vice President, Gulf Eastern Company, London

Gulf Oil Corporation

1967 - 1969 Executive Vice President, British American Oil Company, Ltd., Toronto

Gulf Oil Corporation

1969 - 1975 President and CEO, Gulf Oil Canada, Ltd., Toronto

Gulf Oil Corporation

1975 - 1981 Chairman of the Board and CEO, Gulf Oil Corporation, Pittsburgh


1958 Distinguished Engineering Graduate, The University of Texas
1963 Certificate of Appreciation, American Petroleum Institute, Division of Refining
1967 Member, National Academy of Engineering
1969 Founders Award, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1971 Fellow, American Institute of Chemical Engineers
1981 Distinguished Service Award, Texas Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association
1984 Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement, American Petroleum Institute

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Parents and Family Background 1

Father works for the Texas Company and Gulf in Port Arthur, Texas. Father develops aluminun chloride process. Mother studies liberal arts.

Childhood and Early Education 6

Two oil refineries are biggest employer in Port Arthur. Effect of the Depression. Wants to become chemical engineer like father. Attends Port Arthur public schools.

University of Texas 8

Chemical Engineering Department. Laboratory facilities.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology 11

Receives Tau Beta Phi Fellowship. Studies chemical engineering with Warren Kendall Lewis. Thesis on nickel catalyst under Harold Walker.

Universal Oil Products Company 15

Marriage to Geraldine Smith. Development of catalytic cracking process. Cooperation between industry and government. Organizes group to design better catalytic cracking unit. Designs McAfee gauge.

Gulf Oil Company 26

Five years as technical specialist at Port Arthur refinery. Works on pilot plant for HDS process. Moves to Hamarville, Pennsylvania to become director of Gulf Research and Development Company. Pittsburgh management course. Becomes vice president of engineering in refining department. Reorganization of Gulf under W. K. Whiteford. Petroleum Research Fund.

London 41

Becomes Gulf representative on Kuwait Oil Board of Directors. Visits Iran every year. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Canada 45

Controversy over imported crude. Takes trip to the Arctic. Gulf uranium ventures. Syncrude Project. Reasons for excluding Canada from global reorganization. Canada Board of Directors.

Chairman of the Board 58

Selection process. Writes "Statement of Business Principles." Changes name of Chairman's Council. Extricates company from uranium business. Price controls.

Reflections on Career 66

Notes 73

Index 75

  About the Interviewer

James J. Bohning

James J. Bohning is professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he was a faculty member from 1959 to 1990. He served there as chemistry department chair from 1970 to 1986 and environmental science department chair from 1987 to 1990. Bohning was chair of the American Chemical Society’s Division of the History of Chemistry in 1986; he received the division’s Outstanding Paper Award in 1989 and has presented more than forty papers at national meetings of the society. Bohning was on the advisory committee of the society’s National Historic Chemical Landmarks Program from its inception in 1992 through 2001 and is currently a consultant to the committee. He developed the oral history program of the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and he was the foundation’s director of oral history from 1990 to 1995. From 1995 to 1998, Bohning was a science writer for the News Service group of the American Chemical Society. He is currently a visiting research scientist and CESAR Fellow at Lehigh University. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.

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