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The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  995 ratings  ·  162 reviews
"What's not to enjoy about a book full of monstrous egos, unimaginable sums of money, and the punishment of greed and shortsightedness?"

Phenomenal reviews and sales greeted the hardcover publication of The Big Rich, New York Times bestselling author Bryan Burrough's spellbinding chronicle of Texas oil. Weaving together the multigenerational sagas of the industry's four
Paperback, 480 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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Tony Daniel
This is a fun tour. It's particularly strong on the early years of H.L. Hunt, Roy Murchison and Sid Richardson (the Bass family founder). The book loses its way a bit with the big detour through the Glenn McCarthy story (which deserves its own book). The main problem with the book is Burrough's strident liberal political correctness. It's "ultra-conservative" this and "ultra-conservative" that over and over again. Burroughs can't fathom why any of these people, whom he otherwise admires, might n ...more
I’ve been on a Texas binge lately. I’ve always found the state, its history, and its people to be intriguing. And the politicians? Is there a state that can compare with Texas when one begins to list the people who have served as governor of that state? Well, maybe next-door neighbor Louisiana comes close.

I read one time (and I would give credit to the source, but I don’t remember who wrote it) that, paraphrasing now, Louisiana governors had three primary responsibilities. Listed in the order of
I found this a really interesting telling of the oil fortunes and misfortunes in Texas; however, I would have liked to be provided with some information on the steam (boiler) engines that were used in the drilling! Burrough often tells of the hazards that the boilers were when the gushers came in, but does not detail at all the use of the boilers.
My family enjoyed a stay in the Shamrock Hilton when we moved to that area in 1973, it had an amazing pool! Also, as a software representative for IBM
Intriguing stories about the men (unfortunately mainly men) that I grew up hearing about in Texas. These are the backgrounds of the men who made Texas famous for oil and big money. Really enjoyed the gossipy but true life adventures. Sadly,many of these families have devolved into the right-wing politicians and now have brought shame onto Texas. (Actually they were doing this for decades but not as openly.) Very detailed and researched. Now I know who owned some of those houses I used to walk my ...more
Very interesting on the history of oil in Texas. The first part of the book was fascinating: how oil was found using various combinations of money, luck, intelligence, and chutzpah. It's kind of technical, but Burroughs explains this key part of 20th c. Texas history in an engaging & clear way.

The stories of the families of the "big rich" were ok -- it was interesting to find out more about names I've heard of my whole life (as a Texan), but too sensationalistic for my taste.

I almost gave
Is it any wonder Texas oilmen inspired soap operas like "Dallas" and "Giant?" Here's a cursory list of their goings-on:

>Old-fashioned Jew-hatin';
>Sidewalk sleepin';
>$290,000 in silver dollars;
>Wrestling matches at the symphony;
>Armed robbery;
>Billion dollar debts;
>One lobotomy;
>Hazard pay just for working in Texas h
There are some areas of the country I find particularly interesting. Most I can attribute to a personal connection (VA, NC, CA), because of what happens there (LA, NYC) or some combination (DC). Others are just so peculiar that they make for fascinating reading. These tend to be on the geographical fringe; places like Alaska, Maine and Texas. Bryan Burroughs (co-author of Barbarians at the Gate) tackles some of the key creators of the modern Texas in the Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greate ...more
Excellent book about the big four oilmen (aka the Big Rich) and their families in Texas from the 1930s into the 1980s. These were powerful men/families that through their immense wealth influenced Texas and the country both socially and politically.

The Big Four were Roy Cullen (Houston), H. L. Hunt and Clint Murchison, Sr. (Dallas), and Sid Richardson (Fort Worth). Bryan Burrough follows the trials and triumphs of each man and family(ies) with great dedication. Several men were racists and anti
A very compelling and interesting "history" of the big four "wealthy beyond your wildest dreams" Texans. Burroughs discusses Roy Cullen, HL Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson. A few others are thrown in as other illustrations of the swaggering, egotistical, ill educated and small minded men who were lucky, ruthless and tenacious at a time when there was little in Texas beyond some sagebrush and skinny, malnourished cattle grazing on thousands of acres of brush and mesquite trees. A clever ...more
A well-written and eye opening history of 20th-Century Texas. Did you know that Big Oil was behind McCarthyism, two Presidents Bush, and a million other hypocrisies? You did? Well, I think there's still new stuff to be discovered in here. You can be entertained and horrified at the same time...
Chris Phillips
Got this book as a gift from my in-laws. Couldn't put it down! Fascinating story that follows four Texas oil families from early days on through to (most of) their demise. Highly recommend!
Spoiler alert: Conservatives are racist, corrupt, and evil. The big rich were ultra-conservatives; ultra-racist, ultra-corrupt, and ultra-evil. Oh yeah, and a bunch of Texans got extremely wealthy during the oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s, then had a bunch of family problems because of the fame and fortune. And they were ignorant hillbillies. And ultra-conservatives.
Interesting stories, but poorly told and infused throughout with the authors political biases. About a third of the book is his ul
A native Texan once told me that, per-capita, downtown Dallas has more square-feet of glass than any other city in the world, ensuring that on the mirrored surfaces, residents have countless opportunities to glimpse their own captivating image. I cannot confirm the statistic but Texans certainly do love to reflect on their identity and unique cultural heritage. This 175-year tradition is dutifully maintained by Bryan Burrough in his multi-generational history of Texas oil, The Big Rich.

After the
The Big Rich is a fascinating story about four Texas families who became fabulously wealthy by striking oil.
Of these four, perhaps the most interesting was that of the Hunts. H.L. Hunt the family patriarch, was the real scoundrel of the bunch. He was a philanderer who had three wives! He made his fortune by, among other actions, taking advantage of inside information.

Sid Richardson and Clint Murchison were boyhood friends. Richardson parlayed a modest loan from Murchison's banker father into hu
Annick Rodriguez
Fantastic read about how the Texas Oil industry become as powerful as it is. Fascintating character studies on the Big Four oil dynasties, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, Roy Cullen, and all their legacies, triumphs and tragedies. ALso analyzes the great impact these Oilmen had on the economy, global politics, the Middle East, World War II, the Presidency (Lyndon Johnson was one political ally of many). This reads like any episode of Dallas you've ever seen, only MORE over the top. S ...more
Loved this book. However, in thinking about how I would rate it, I confronted whether I was more in love with the content or the actual work of the author. so with that said...

content: this book tells the story of the "Mount Rushmore" of Texas oil -- Hunt, Murchison, Richardson & Cullen. the stories of discovery are fascinating. However, the tales of opulence, political involvement and familial evolution over time are just as enthralling. Quite frankly, I can't think of any other subject mat
Much meatier than Texas Big Rich: Exploits, Eccentricities, and Fabulous Fortunes Won and Lost. Thorough/satisfying description the four Big Rich families and their significant business deals. (So, we have Roy Cullen to thank for Houston's lax zoning). Burrough also describes Big Rich influence and maturation in national politics. He stops short, however, of drawing conclusions, unlike Sandy Sheehy in Texas Big Rich. (For example, what does he think of Houston's zoning - or lack thereof??) And t ...more
Living in Houston I wanted to find out what Texas millionaries had done to build up and otherwise influence the city and surroundings and what their continuing influences were today.
This is a very ambitious prying into the lives of the four Texas major guys, Clint Murchison, Sid Richardson, H L Hunt, and Roy Cullen. Mostly they were out to make lots of money, and were lucky to begin with. They also managed to create a body of influence in order to keep things benefitting them, and use their hold
A wonderful tale of the bygone era when giants strode the Texas oil fields. What a collection of rascals and scoundrels!

They were the ultimate gamblers and plungers. A story about Glenn McCarthy is a perfect example of the type of men they were. McCarthy and his wife were down to $2 plus change – all the money they had in the world. So McCarthy bet $2 at the race track and won big. That pretty well describes the whole early history of the oil business in Texas.
Tracie Hall
Listened to the 19 CD's while driving--I find this the best way to get through some of these drier, lengthy tomes. The primary focus is on the lives and families of prominent Texas oil men, known in their day as the "Big Four", Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, and Sid Richardson. The author is a little heavy on politics, but this it was fun learning about what seems to be a broad reaching and nation shaping bit of history I was completely unaware of.
Joe Perrone Jr
Oct 07, 2009 Joe Perrone Jr rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in political and economic history
Recommended to Joe by: Joyce, the librarian at Etowah Branch Library, Etowah, NC
Originally, I went in to the library to find a non-fiction book in large print. Whenever I am engaged in writing a mystery novel (my favorite read, also) I refrain from reading other such books for fear that I might subconsciously purloin an idea or two. Because the librarian is a friend of my wife's, I felt obliged to accept her suggestion of this book. Little did I realize how absorbed in it I would become over the next few weeks. It is a huge book, and since I have difficulty reading (due to ...more
The book recounts the beginning of the Texas oil boom beginning with Spindletop outside of Beaumont, Texas. The discussion of how the Big Four (Roy Cullen, H. L. Hunt—bigamist, Sid Richardson, and Clint Murchison) independently wrestled their fortunes from the ground or from others was the most intriguing aspect of the book. I was surprised with how little I could tolerate the discussion of politics. Bryan Burroughs dropped several notches in my estimation. When reading this book because he seem ...more
Meh. The most interesting part was all the racial animus that underlay the oil men's involvement in the Republican party and the beginning of the ultra conservative take over. Crazy stuff. I was both surprised and totally expecting the way that they all pissed their money away.

I listened to this one while working on the shed foundation too.
This was a fascinating book. I would never have read it were it not for my sister-in-law Claire who had a copy of it for her book club. It's the story of several generations of four Texas families who rose to affluence and influence in Texas and in DC after The Big Four (basically gamblers with oil) discovered oil in Texas. The book follows the four families from the 1920s to the present against the backdrop of 20th century Texas and US history, Presidential politics (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnso ...more
Bonnie M. Benson

Fascinating read about Texas oil from Spindletop until the 70s.

Was amazed at the incredible persistent of the Big Four to just keep going, in some cases after endless dry wells. No wonder they had a sense of entitlement. It also explains their embrace of conservative, right wing politics. I don't necessarily agree but I feel like I understand where they're coming from.

As someone who recently moved to Texas, I was surprised that the Texans I met were nothing like the stereotypes I grew up with o
There is no doubt this book is fascinating and filled with some of the biggest characters that have only appeared, for the most part, in the footnotes of history books Anyone who has grown up in Texas will automatically recognize the hundreds of names mentioned throughout the book, whether it is general knowledge or the names on every other building surrounding them. The only issue I had with it was the author's inability to stick to one type of prose. There are times it reads like a text book o ...more
This will be the third Burroughs book I've read and I must say his writing is quick, readable and direct. I'm a sucker for good books on Texas personalities given my connection to the place, and I think he was spot on in the introduction when he said that Texas is th only state with a real sense of identity that is hard to describe to those who haven't experienced it. The personalities in the book were foolhardy, brilliant, hard charging, opportunistic and ultimately hubristic - that said, they ...more
A thoroughly enjoyable history of the four big early Texas oil fortunes and the varying paths the first generation took and what happened when the second generation came in. Burrough co-wrote Barbarians at the Gate and brought that level of detail and well-paced writing to this book. It bounced between four families (Cullens, Hunts, Murchisons, and the Richardsons/Basses) with ease, though I would have like family trees (especially of the Hunt mess) and a map of Texas listing all the counties. H ...more
Nick Bomersbach
Entertaining look at recent Texas history, under the influence of oil money. Enjoyed reading about so many people and places that I heard of growing up in South Texas but lacked context to appreciate.
There was a section on one of the oilmen's sons trying to get an all-American football team going, and finally convinced the NFL commissioner and other owners to found the Dallas cowboys. This makes me want to look into reading on the subject of the rise of the AFL. Then there was Glen MacCarthy and his hosting of celebs in the 50s at the height of Texas oil fame, at his Shamrock hotel and J. Edgar Hoover and his extended stay, his tab covered by the oilmen.
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Bryan Burrough joined Vanity Fair in August 1992 and has been a special correspondent for the magazine since January 1995. He has reported on a wide range of topics, including the events that led to the war in Iraq, the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, and the Anthony Pellicano case. His profile subjects have included Sumner Redstone, Larry Ellison, Mike Ovitz, and Ivan Boesky.

Prior to joining
More about Bryan Burrough...
Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34 Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the First Age of Terror Vendetta: American Express and the Smearing of Edmond Safra

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