Abstract

George H. Roth, an extraordinary California oil and gas finder, creative geologist, Olympic gold medalist, successful businessman, loving husband to my mother for 68 years, and a lifelong professional inspiration to me passed away peacefully on October 31, 1997. He was a remarkable person for all of his 86 years. George, a third-generation Californian, was born in Los Angeles on April 25, 1911. He was the second son of a mining engineer father and mineral prospector mother. He grew up loving rocks and geology. He went to high school in Hollywood, where he excelled as a student and as an athlete. He was particularly good in gymnastics and began competing on a national level. Immediately after graduation, he married "Bebe," his high school sweetheart and lifelong companion. Following high school, George began his college education at the University of California at Berkeley. However, his university training was interrupted by the Great Depression, after only one and a half years. He moved the family back to southern California, where he finally got a job with the WPA. During this trying time he began competing again in gymnastics and training for the 1932 Olympic Games, which were to be held in Los Angeles. His efforts were well rewarded when he was selected for the U.S. team and won a coveted gold medal in his event. In 1935 George was hired by Shell Oil as a geological draftsman in their Long Beach office. It was not long before he was promoted to chief draftsman and decided he should finish school. Thereafter, he began a grueling eight-year period of working days and attending night school at the University of Southern California. Again, his hard-nosed work ethic paid off when he graduated magna cum laude in 1942 with a Bachelor of Science degree in geology and petroleum engineering. Shell at first was unwilling to offer George a job as a geologist. Shell had promoted him during those night school years to scout/landman and had just transferred him to their Ventura office. However, the company finally relented and in 1944 promoted him to the position of geologist and transferred him to Shell's Bakersfield office. In 1948, after only four short years as a working geologist, George concluded he knew it all and quit Shell. After all, his years as a geological draftsman, then as a scout and a landman, and finally as a petroleum geologist were all the training he needed to become his own boss and begin looking for oil for his own account. He moved his family to North Hollywood, where at first he joined the consulting firm of William Ross Cabeen and Associates. During this period he worked alongside Harold "Sully" Sullwold, a geologist who a few years later was to become one of his business partners and a close lifelong friend. In 1952 George once again decided he knew everything there was to know about the consulting business and struck out to form his own firm of George H. Roth and Associates. I can remember those early years vividly, when he was working day and night generating his first few prospects and trying to find investors. It was not long before he had his first discovery. In 1954 the Cascade field overlooking the San Fernando Valley was discovered (and it is still producing today). Not long afterward, George sold McCulloch Oil Corporation a prospect that was to become the Los Medanos gas discovery. This led to a long-term relationship with McCulloch and the expansion of the firm. In 1960, Sully, Gil Gaines, and several others become his partners in the firm. Over the next 20 years they created one of the most successful petroleum prospect generating teams in California. The hallmark of their association was sound geology and creative thinking. A partial list of their successes includes the Santa Clara Avenue, Brentwood, Los Medanos, Cascade, Rice Creek, Livermore, West Edison Deep, Millar Winters, Zamora, and Freeport oil and gas fields. In 1980 George sold his consulting business to Dow/Apache and retired. He never cared much for retirement and continued to occupy a part of his old office space. He kept going to "the office" to follow his overriding royalty interests until shortly before he died. He may be remembered by many of his business acquaintances and fellow professionals as a hard-drinking, tight, hard-nosed deal maker. Perhaps he will also be remembered by his closest friends as a guy who truly came up the hard way, always providing for his family and achieving success at every station of his extraordinary life. My mother and sisters, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren will miss him. For my part, I must say I loved him very much, and it has been a privilege and challenge to follow in his footsteps as a petroleum geologist, though one who will never fill his boots.

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