Jerry McAfee

Born: November 3, 1916 | Port Arthur, TX, US
Died: October 14, 1995 | Pittsburgh, PA, US

McAfee discusses his career in chemical engineering, having studied at the University of Texas and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and having worked 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. He served as Chairman of the Board and CEO of Gulf for six years before retiring in 1981. His career with Gulf took him to Pennsylvania, London, and Toronto. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0114
No. of pages: 79
Minutes: 290

Interview Sessions

James J. Bohning
26 July 1983
Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania

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. 

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1937 University of Texas at Austin BS Chemical Engineering
1940 Massachusetts Institute of Technology ScD Chemical Engineering

Professional Experience

Universal Oil Products Company

1940 to 1943
Research Chemical Engineer
1943 to 1945
Operating Engineer

Gulf Oil Corporation

1945 to 1950
Technical Specialist
1955 to 1960
Vice President, engineering (refinery department)
1960 to 1964
Vice President and Executive Technical Advisor
1962 to 1964
Director of planning and economics
1964 to 1967
Senior Vice President, Gulf Eastern Company, London
1967 to 1969
Executive Vice President, British American Oil Company, Ltd., Toronto
1969 to 1975
President and CEO, Gulf Oil Canada, Ltd., Toronto
1975 to 1981
Chairman of the Board and CEO, Gulf Oil Corporation, Pittsburgh

Gulf Research and Development Company

1950 to 1951
Director, Chemistry Division
1951 to 1954
Assistant Director of Research
1954 to 1955
Vice President and Associate Director of Research

Honors

Year(s) Award
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

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 was professor emeritus of chemistry at Wilkes University, where he had been 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 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 CHF’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. In May 2005, he received the Joseph Priestley Service Award from the Susquehanna Valley Section of the American Chemical Society.  Bohning passed away in September 2011.