Lee Lawyer

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Lee Lawyer
L. C. Lawyer headshot.jpg
President year 1987

L. C. (Lee) Lawyer is a geophysicist known for his leadership in industry, and his service to SEG. He served as the 1987-1988 SEG President. Lee is known widely among the geophysical community for his popular column "From the Other Side" which appears in "The Leading Edge".

SEG Presidential Award

In a special award recognition, Bob Hardage presented the Presidential Award to Lee Lawyer for writing the initial version of the SEG Council Procedures and for implementing the nomination and election of the first Chair of the Council.[1]

Special Commendation 2006

SEG is honoring a group of individuals—L. C. (Lee) Lawyer, Rhonda Boone, Michael Golding, Thomas Fulton, and D. G. (Gene) Womack— with Special Commendation for their service to our profession, our Society, and the public in their roles as volunteers in development of programs associated with SEG’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 2005. This award is made in recognition of the efforts of a committee chaired by Lee Lawyer, which undertook the design and execution of a one-year celebration that included section involvement, a luncheon on 11 March in Houston at a site near where SEG was founded exactly 75 years earlier, a special publication containing articles emphasizing the history of exploration geophysics and SEG, articles in TLE detailing the history of the profession decade by decade, and a DVD portraying the history of the profession and of SEG.

The individuals accepting this award represent the leaders of the efforts, but they do not stand alone. They symbolize the hard work of a large number of very dedicated SEG members and other volunteers who have provided a living collection of our history, accomplishments, and character.

Citation for SEG Special Commendation

SEG’s 75th Anniversary in 2005 was marked by numerous events, publications, and parties. A global celebration of this magnitude does not just happen; it must be designed, promoted, and executed. This very successful year-long celebration was led by the 75th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

Lee Lawyer chaired the committee for the 75th Anniversary for both SEG and the 2005 Annual Meeting. He assembled a committee of Gary Servos, John Sumner, Tom Fulton, David Yarnell, Shane Coperude,Asra Tutuncu, Peter Duncan, Scott Singleton, Matt Ross, Roy Clark, and Fred Aminzadeh to support the effort. The SEG Business Office staff provided assistance for this worthy cause.

The committee strove to engage all SEG constituencies in order to make the year special. Exploration and production companies, service companies, and member sections around the world were encouraged to find a way to recognize SEG throughout the year. Some posted congratulatory notes in their advertisements; others wore colorful pins noting the 75th Anniversary. Celebrations around the globe included guest lectures and birthday cakes throughout the year, often highlighted with pictures and stories in subsequent issues of THE LEADING EDGE. One remarkable celebration, a recreation of the founding meeting, was held in Houston on March 11, SEG’s birthday. The event was sponsored by the Geophysical Society of Houston.

Dean Clark and the TLE staff supported the celebration with a series of articles in successive TLE issues, each covering a decade of the growth and development of SEG. Complementing this series, a special publication appeared before the 2005 convention containing articles and a graphic time line emphasizing the history of exploration geophysics and SEG.

Further, a DVD, titled “Reflections in the Field,” was distributed at the 2005 Annual Meeting. Commissioned by SEG as a part of the 75th Anniversary celebration, the video portrays the history and development of the profession. Extensive interviews with prominent geophysicists and energy experts from around the world showed the global influence of geophysics. The DVD also included a copy of a previous SEG video “Seeing the Unseen” and all profiles published in THE LEADING EDGE.

At the 2005 Annual Meeting in November, in Houston, celebrations were brought to a fitting climax. The exhibit floor included a 900 square foot exhibit with artifacts and exhibits provided by the Geophysical Society of Houston and the SEG Foundation GeoScience Center in Tulsa. Geophysical instrumentation from the 1920s through today was displayed at the exhibit, which was staffed by a large group of volunteers, many of whom are retired and had not been to a recent annual meeting. Kiosks prominently placed around the exhibit floor showed pictures and equipment for each decade of SEG’s past. Many exhibitors added to the spirit by displaying historical artifacts in their booths. The festivities culminated in a birthday celebration at the Wednesday night gala.

The year’s festivities were a large success. This commendation serves to recognize the following individuals for their service to our profession, our Society, and the public in their roles as volunteers in development of programs associated with the SEG 75th Anniversary: Lee Lawyer for his leadership, Tom Fulton and Gene Womack for organizing the special historical displays at the convention, and Rhonda Boone and Michael Golding for successfully shepherding the DVD production.

Biography Citation for SEG Honorary Membership

Lee Lawyer is unanimously recommended for Honorary Membership, due to his distinguished contributions to the advancement of the profession through service to the Society.[2] Lee has served SEG in many capacities, including three terms on the Executive Committee-as Second Vice President (1980-81), as the first President-Elect (1986-87), and as President (1987-88). He served for many years on the SEG Foundation Board of Directors, is a longtime Trustee Associate, and was the driving force behind the fundraising for the Doodlebugger statue. Lee also chaired SEG's 75th Anniversary Committee in 2005, and he writes the always entertaining, often provocative, "From the Other Side" column in TLE.

Honorary Membership for L.C. (Lee) Lawyer

Contributed by Dean Clark

In 1992, when Lee Lawyer went over to the other side, SEG's membership was less than half (slightly under 14,000) of the current total (30,000 plus), and well over 60% of those 1992 members were residents of the United States, a percentage that is now reversed. It's reasonable to extrapolate from that data that the large majority of current members know Lee Lawyer only via his monthly musings in The Leading Edge, and it is, therefore, appropriate to begin by stating that, prior to his journalistic incarnation, he was a working geophysicist and of more than routine accomplishment.

That began when, after a degree in geological engineering at the University of Oklahoma and three years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, he joined Standard Oil Company of Texas (an ancestor of Chevron) in 1954. He would remain with that company until retirement 38 years (and 25 moves) later. Th at time frame meant a front-row seat as seismic technology transformed from analog paper records interpreted primarily in the field (often on the hood of the party chief's pickup) to computer-massaged 3D digital data interpreted on ultrasophisticated workstations. Lee was intimately involved at all levels, from field practitioner through various supervisory positions to executive suite rococo as Chevron's chief geophysicist. Most of this involved seismic but he did spend one year in a gravity section (memorable because he was personally tutored by L.L. Nettleton, a most important pioneer in the field).

Among his biggest challenges was being a one-man geophysical department in Amarillo where his job was to coordinate "trade data" from the Texas Panhandle. Th ese were, almost exclusively, difficult-to-read copies of 100% records (definitely not sections, then a rarity) of various vintages and generated by different shooting techniques (this was well before vibroseis). He spent five years mapping several counties and was rewarded with the discovery of two major fields, one of which (Mills Ranch) held the record for deepest productive field (25,000 ft or so) for several years.

Lee's volunteer work with SEG, virtually nonstop for more than 40 years, began in 1967 when he was on the Arrangements Committee for the Annual Meeting in Oklahoma City. He has served in many key positions over the years, and there is space to list only a few: Chairman of the Arrangements Committee for the 1975 Annual Meeting; General Chairman of the 1978 Annual Meeting in San Francisco (the first in that city and featuring a convention-wide luncheon); Chairman of SEG's 75th Anniversary Committee in 2005 (and prime mover behind creation of the DVD Reflections in the Field ); and many, many leadership roles with the SEG Foundation (where he was notably instrumental in raising funds to support creation of the Doodlebugger statue). Along the way, he served on three executive committees:

  • President (1987-88 where he had to deal with a major downturn in the industry).
  • SEG's first President-Elect (1986-87)
  • Second Vice President (1980-81 where, ironically, he helped launch TLE)

Shortly after retiring from Chevron (and no longer being invited to lunch at posh restaurants by geophysical contractors), Lee volunteered to write a column for TLE which would describe life on the other side of the retirement divide. It has proved remarkably popular from the start, and Lee has proved a remarkably reliable correspondent from the start. An anecdote relayed by the TLE editor (Clark, personal communication, 2008) emphasizes just how popular and how reliable. In the 16 years since From the Other Side was inaugurated, it has appeared in every issue of TLE with one exception. That was some years ago when the TLE editor, due to budgetary constraints, delayed publication of several items, including "FTOS," for a month. He was, in the same week that issue was printed, informed by the then SEG President to never, under any circumstances, do that again.

Biography for Candidacy as SEG President Elect (1986)

L. C. (Lee) Lawyer, candidate for President-elect, has been an Active Member of SEG for 29 years. He served the Society as Scond Vice-President and as Chairman of the SEG Education Foundation Endowment Committe. He also was General Chairman of the 48th Annual SEG Meeting in San Francisco and subsequently served as Chairman of the Society's Annual Meeing Advisory Committee. He is a member of AAPG and EAEG as well as an active member of the Geophysical Society of Houston. he has held active membership in the Panhandle Geophysical Society in Amarillo, Oklahoma City Geophysical Society, Denver Geophysical Society, and the Bay Area Geophysical Society in San Francisco.

Lawyer received his geological engineering degree from Oklahoma University and joined Stanford Oil Co. of Texas in 1955. Various assignments with Sotex(now Chevron, U.S.A.) included gravity and seismic data acquisition and interpretation in midcontinent areas of Texas and Oklahoma. He has been division geophysicist for Chevron in Oklahoma city, Denver, and San Francisco (Alaskan Division). He was chief geophysicist of Chevron Overseas and most recently vice-president of Chevron Geoscience Co. in Houston. He is currently chief geophysicist of Chevron Corp. and resides in Houston. 


  1. Graul, M. (2013). ”President's Page.” President's Page, 32(1), 8-8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/tle32010008.1
  2. The Leading Edge, April 2009, Vol. 28, No. 4

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Lee Lawyer
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