George Mitchell, one of the greatest Texans of his time, has died at the age of 94. He had been in failing health for several months. In addition to the contributions he made to Texas, Mitchell was a generous benefactor to Texas A&M and to his (and my) hometown of Galveston, where he is irreplaceable. Mitchell was responsible for the revitalization of Galveston; he brought Mardi Gras back to the Island; built several first-class hotels; established a trolley system; upgraded the Strand tourist district; and created millions of dollars of property wealth in his Pirates Beach and Pirates Cove subdivisions on West Beach.
He liked nothing more than to sit around the coffee shop at Gaido’s and shoot the breeze with old-time Galvestonians; I occasionally joined the group when I was in town. Mitchell conceived the idea of The Woodlands, an upscale suburb that immediately became a magnet for upwardly mobile families north of Houston. It became the model for similar large-scale developments around the state, which, taken together, created a new lifestyle that included office parks and research facilities.
But … I have buried the lead. As an oilman, George Mitchell changed the world. He conceived the idea of injecting water under great pressure to break up solid formations of rock and make deposits of oil and gas accessible and easily recoverable through new drilling techniques. In other words, he invented fracking, with the result that not only Texas, but areas as remote as North Dakota, saw their economies transformed by the process Mitchell invented. Few Texans have done more for their state, for their hometown, and for America, than George Mitchell, a true visionary and devoted BOI: a Galveston phrase denoting those who were “Born on the Island.”