HOUSTON (AP) — Jack S. Blanton, a Houston oil magnate known for helping to transform one of the nation's largest philanthropic foundations into a billion-dollar operation, has died in Texas. He was 86.
Blanton, who also served on several hospital and university boards in the Houston area, died of natural causes on Saturday at his vacation home in Galveston, according to his son-in-law, Peter Wareing.
"He was the absolute best, most loving person. He was generous," Wareing told The Associated Press.
Blanton may be best known for his role as chairman of the board of the Houston Endowment Inc. He was elected in 1990, and along with H. Joe Nelson III, Blanton led the modernization of what at the time was Texas' largest philanthropic foundation.
During his tenure, the size of the endowment nearly doubled — to about $1 billion. When Blanton stepped down in 2003, the endowment funded more than $75 million in grants for the arts, community enhancement, health, education and medicine.
"Texas lost a monumental figure with the passing of Jack Blanton. Jack's vision, passion and philanthropic giving helped reshape the landscape for education and art in Texas," Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Born in Shreveport, La., Blanton received his undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Texas. He then started working at the Scurlock Oil Company in Houston, where he served as chairman from 1983, when the company was sold to Ashland Oil, until his retirement in 1988. He was also president of Eddy Refining Company.
Blanton was a big supporter of his alma mater: The university's Blanton Museum of Art was named after him following a $12 million gift that the Houston Endowment made in his honor. Blanton also served on the Board of Regents from 1985 and 1991, chairing the panel between 1987 and 1989.
Blanton was "a tremendous leader and dedicated supporter of the University of Texas System," said Francisco Cigarroa, the system's chancellor.
He had also served as chairman of the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce and served on the boards of the Houston Methodist Hospital, the Texas Medical Center, the Houston Zoo and the Jesse H. Jones School of Management at Rice University.
Blanton is survived by his three children, Elizabeth Blanton Wareing, Jack S. Blanton and Eddy S. Blanton, with whom he had with his first wife, Laura Lee Scurlock, who died in 1999. Blanton later married the late Lucinda Bailey Blanton.
He is survived by his wife, Virginia Nelson Blanton.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday in Houston.