Jack Sawtelle Blanton, a leader in the energy industry, philanthropy and higher education, died in Houston on Dec. 28 at the age of 86. The Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin was named in his honor in 1997.
“The university has lost a great friend,” said Bill Powers, president of The University of Texas at Austin. “Jack Blanton served UT in countless ways. He supported programs as varied as the law school, the Wildflower Center, British Studies, athletics, nursing and, of course, the Blanton Museum of Art. Moreover, for decades he contributed his time, energy and vision to UT. And he was a wonderful friend. I will miss him.”
Blanton’s campus involvement extended to scores of initiatives, including the Centennial Commission, the Commission of 125, the Development Board and serving as president of the Texas Exes alumni association. He received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1977.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Jack Blanton, a tremendous leader and dedicated supporter of The University of Texas System,” said Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D. “Jack always articulated his pride in serving on the UT Board of Regents, and the UT System thrived under his leadership as its chairman. He will be greatly missed.”
Blanton was appointed to the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System in 1985 and elected chairman of the board in 1987. At a time when educational budgets were severely challenged, he played an instrumental role in increasing state revenue, much of which supported higher education in Texas. He received the Santa Rita Award from the UT System in 1994.
“Jack Blanton built an enduring legacy at The University of Texas at Austin,” said Simone Wicha, director of the Blanton Museum of Art. “Since the Blanton Museum opened the doors of its new facility on campus in 2006, the museum has enabled more than one million visitors to experience and interact with great art. We are honored to carry on Mr. Blanton’s vision to serve the university, our city and the state.” The new facility benefited from a building gift from Houston Endowment Inc. made in honor of Blanton, its former chairman.
One of the foremost university art museums in the country, the Blanton is home to a robust schedule of exhibitions and public programs, as well as a collection of more than 17,000 objects.
Jack Blanton was born in Shreveport, La., in 1927. He earned a bachelor’s degree in history at The University of Texas at Austin in 1947 and a law degree in 1950. As an undergraduate, he played varsity tennis and in 1945 won the Southwest Conference championship in doubles. After graduation, he worked for the Scurlock Oil Company in Houston, where he would become president, chief executive and chairman. He also served as president of Eddy Refining Company.
Mr. Blanton and first wife, Laura Lee Scurlock, had three children, Elizabeth Blanton Wareing, Jack S. Blanton, Jr., and Eddy S. Blanton, all graduates of The University of Texas at Austin. He was later married to the late Lucinda Bailey Blanton and is survived by his wife, Virginia Nelson Blanton.
Mr. Blanton was active in many civic organizations and, in addition to higher education, he contributed his efforts to advancing health care and the arts. He served as chair of Houston Endowment Inc. and the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce and on the boards of Houston Methodist Hospital, the Texas Medical Center, the Houston Zoo and the Jesse H. Jones School of Management at Rice University. He also served on the boards of Ashland Oil, Texas Commerce Bancshares, Baker Hughes, Burlington Northern, Southwestern Bell and other companies.
Friends are invited to a visitation with the family from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 3, in the library and grand foyer of Geo. H. Lewis and Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston. A memorial service is to be conducted at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, in the sanctuary of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, 3471 Westheimer Road in Houston, where Dr. Tom Pace, senior pastor, is to officiate. Immediately following, all are invited to a reception in the fellowship hall. Prior to the service, the family will have gathered for a private entombment service in the Memorial Mission Mausoleum at Forest Park Westheimer Cemetery in Houston.