An opportunity to give the best of himself to something he
Mary Clark Burchfield, 1935
CHANGE WAS THE HALL MARK OF THE 1930s for Dallas. The decade began with an event that catapulted the city’s solid, cottonbased economy to unprecedented prosperity, bringing relief from the Depression to many Dallas citizens and incredible personal wealth to a few. The man who triggered the transformation was an audacious wildcatter named Columbus Marion (“Dad”) Joiner. He would have an important impact on the life of Tom Clark.
Wildcatters—men who drilled for oil, often without supporting scientific data or adequate financial backing—were an unconventional bunch, and Dad Joiner was as colorful a character as any of those drawn to this wildly speculative enterprise. He had made and lost at least two fortunes by the time he came to Texas from Oklahoma in 1927. At seventy, Joiner was a cagey and charming dreamer whose voracious appetite for reading, though not obtained through formal education, had equipped him with a substantial assortment of biblical and Shakespearean quotations. Dad Joiner located his oil venture on the farm of Daisy Bradford, about a hundred miles east of Dallas in an area that most geologists had labeled a “hopeless case” for oil.1
By the end of the summer of 1930, after two previous drillings had ended in failure, Joiner was on his third well, the Daisy Bradford No. 3. At this point, Joiner’s money was running out, and to support his drillings, he had sold certificates of ownership to hundreds of people.2 The outlook was poor until September 1930, when signs appeared that a strike might be close at hand. The news spread quickly, and by the first of October, a