L. Decker Dawson was a geophysicist noted for his competence and leadership in industry. He served as the 1989-1990 SEG President. In 1997 he received the SEG Enterprise Award for his success with Dawson Geophysical.
Biography Citation for the SEG Enterprise Award 1997
Contributed by Ken Larner
How fitting that the SEG's 1997 Enterprise JtAward go to "Mr. Enduring Enterprise." Decker Dawson has been president of Dawson Geophysical since 1952 when he founded this highly respected seismic acquisition and processing company, one that has had an excellent start, judging by its recent growth. The outstanding reputation of Dawson Geophysical is clearly attributable to the uniformly high esteem in which Decker is held by all who have known him.
Decker's start in geophysics was as a geophysical helper with Magnolia Petroleum after having received a B.S. in civil engineering (1941) from Oklahoma State University. Following four years active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve, he worked for Republic Exploration from 1946-5 2 as party chief and seismic supervisor in Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas.
In 1952, at the age of 32, Decker founded Dawson Geophysical in Midland, Texas for the primary purpose of practicing exploration seismology. Starting as owner/part chief with one 24-trace crew in the Permian Basin, he was interpreter, supervisor, marketer, and investor. His wife Lou, according to Decker, "may have been the industry's first pregnant computer," as the term once referred to people, rather than machines, who performed computations. Early efforts enabled the company to help discover several major oil fields, allowing expansion to five crews in 1955, despite the down cycle in industry crew count at the time.
Firmly established, Dawson Geophysical incorporated in 1957, with key people given equity in the company, and in 1981 the corporation went public. By prudently refraining from overexpansion during peaks of this cyclic business, the firm has not only negotiated the troughs but also kept up with technological advances. Today all six of Dawson's land seismic crews are state of the art in 3D acquisition.
After 45 years in business, Dawson Geophysical, under Decker's hands-on leadership, enjoys the same high regard as its founder and president. One of the firms's directors, Calvin Clements, describes Decker in terms such as "highest integrity, fairness, and compassipn, as well as his deep sense of responsibility to the company's employees."
For his part, Decker never fails to point to others when speaking about the company's success. He says, "I am indebted to literally thousands of people and hundreds of companies for the joy I have derived from geophysics. It's been a love affair, but I'm not sure which I love more - the geophysics or the geophysicists - or which love sparked the other." Surely this attitude has earned Decker the title of "gentleman of gentlemen," as Ron Genter calls him, adding, "I could always feel comfortable with Decker for his uprightness and honesty."
Decker Dawson's service to the geophysical community extends to full participation in our professional associations. associations. With customary distinction, ) Decker served as SEG President in 1989-90 and as president of the Permian Basin Geophysical Society of which he is an honorary life member. As a result of his dedicated service, currently as a member of the University of Texas-Austin's Geology Foundation Advisory Council and as a director of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, Decker has been given Life Membership in IAGC and has been inducted into the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum's Hall of Fame.
(His value to the geophysical community may well be matched by his value to the community of Midland, Texas. Here he has served as president of the city's chamber of commerce, country club, community theater, and petroleum club. A deacon and elder of the First Presbyterian Church, Decker has also served as director of the county hospital district, a life insurance company, and three financial institutions.)
Throughout his professional life, he has given fully of himself to his company, the geophysical community, and the city of Midland, Texas, and in the process earned unequivocal trust and confidence. The SEG Enterprise Award truly fits Decker Dawson like a glove. With customary distinction,
Biography for SEG President Elect Candidacy
L. Decker Dawson, candidate for President, has been an Active Member of SEG since 1948. He has served as a member of the SEG Professional Affairs and Public Relations Committees and was the SEG Secretary-Treasurer during the 1984-85 term. He is Past-President and Honorary Life Member of Permian Basin Geophysical Society. He currently serves as a Director of International Association of Geophysical Contractors and is Past Chairman of the Board and an Honorary Life Member of that organization.
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, he graduated in civil engineering from Oklahoma State University in 1941. His geophysical career began that year with Magnolia Petroleum Co. Geophysics was interrupted by World War II during which he served one year with the U.S. Corps of Engineers and three years of active duty with the U.S. Naval Reserve as Ensign and Lieutenant(jg).
From 1946 until 1952 Dawson was employed by Republic Exploration Co., serving progressively as seismic computer, party chief, and supervisor. In 1952 he founded Dawson Geophysical Co. in Midland Texas. He currently serves as President of that firm.
Dawson is an active member of EAEG and an associate member of AAPG. He has been a member of the Geology Foundation Advisory Council at the University of Texas at Austin since 1977.
Decker Dawson, beloved husband and father, left this world on February 6, 2018 to be reunited with the dearly departed love of his life Louise (Lou) Loper in the presence of his Lord and Savior. Deck, as Lou referred to him, was born to Louis Decker Dawson and Suzie Cramer on July 28, 1920 in Tulsa, Ok. Decker was born at home in Tulsa and passed in the comfort of his home in Midland surrounded by his loving family and caregivers.
Following his love of music, Decker was a clarinet player in the marching band at Tulsa Central High School. He continued to play the clarinet in various bands to help fund his early years in the School of Engineering at the University of Tulsa from 1937-1939. Coming to the realization that his love of music (or lack of talent, as he often quipped in jest) was not going to provide an adequate living, he transferred to Oklahoma A&M (State) in 1939 and completed his degree in Civil Engineering in 1941. Unable to find an engineering job, he took a doodlebugger job as a geophysical helper (juggie) with Magnolia Petroleum Company (ExxonMobil) working in Oklahoma and Texas.
After one year in the oil patch, Decker served the country in the United States Naval Reserves as a Civil Engineer. He was stationed on the island of Guam during World War II preparing for the invasion of Japan. He left the Navy having served as an Ensign and Lieutenant (jg) in 1946. After his time in the Navy, Decker took a job with Republic Exploration Company as a seismic party chief in Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.
In 1950, Republic moved him to Midland as a seismic supervisor. When Decker arrived in Midland so many years ago, he had no idea he had found Paradise. Here, he found the love of his life Lou. Lou and Decker were married in 1950 until her passing in 2011. Lou and Decker have one daughter, Mary. Decker's love for his beloved wife and daughter were clearly exhibited right up until his final days.
In 1952, after Republic had declined to field another crew, Decker approached Forest Oil concerning the possibility of him fielding a crew for the account of Forest. Upon a positive response, Decker and Lou founded Dawson Geophysical Company and Lou became the first pregnant seismic computer known to the industry. Dawson Geophysical became an industry leader in the adaptation of technology and currently is the largest provider of geophysical services in North America and the longest standing name in the industry. The success of the company is simply the adherence to the simple value set in place by Decker himself, "Do It Right."
Decker has served his profession as Past President and honorary life member of the Permian Basin Geophysical Society. From 1989-1990 he served as President of the Society of Geophysicists after Secretary-Treasurer from 1984-1985. He was a member of the SEG since 1948, awarded the Enterprise award in 1997 and Honorary Life Member in 2002. He was a past director, Chairman of the Board and honorary life member of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors.
With a true love of Midland, Decker and Lou served the Midland Community with love and support beyond his professional contributions. While their service contributions are too numerous to name including past president of the Midland Community Theater, Midland Country Club and the Petroleum Club, several were near to their hearts. Since 1979 Decker was a Member, Board of Governors for the Midland Memorial Hospital Foundation. He served his church as both a Deacon and an Elder. Outside of Midland, Decker was a member, past Chairman and Honorary Life Member of the Geology Foundation Advisory Council of the Jackson School of Geological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Later in life Decker was the recipient of multiple awards. In 1997 he was inducted into the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum Hall of Fame. In that same year he received the "Top Hand" Award from the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. Five years later Decker received the Hearst Energy Award for Lifetime Achievement and in 2005 the Top Pioneer Award from the Permian Basin Petroleum Pioneers. The AFP Permian Basin Chapter presented Lou and Decker as Outstanding Philanthropist in 2010. Decker was also the recipient of the T. Boone Pickens Boot Strap Award from Oklahoma State as well a member of the OSU Hall of Fame, School of Engineering both OSU & University of Tulsa.
Decker leaves behind his beloved daughter Mary as well as many longtime friends, colleagues and co-workers. Decker was known for his honesty, integrity and compassion. He was often referred to as a "Gentleman's Gentleman." He loved people, life and those around him. Decker and Lou's wonderful caregivers made tough days easier to endure. We are grateful to longtime household and family cornerstone Maria Hernandez Martinez, her husband Adolfo, and caregiver Marina Galdamez. Heartfelt thanks go out to Dr. Summer Merritt, Visiting Angels and Hospice of Midland for their wonderful support and care.
- Decker Dawson. http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mrt/obituary.aspx?n=decker-dawson&pid=188114738
- Whaley, J., 2017, Oil in the Heart of South America, https://www.geoexpro.com/articles/2017/10/oil-in-the-heart-of-south-america], accessed November 15, 2021.
- Wiens, F., 1995, Phanerozoic Tectonics and Sedimentation of The Chaco Basin, Paraguay. Its Hydrocarbon Potential: Geoconsultores, 2-27, accessed November 15, 2021; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281348744_Phanerozoic_tectonics_and_sedimentation_in_the_Chaco_Basin_of_Paraguay_with_comments_on_hydrocarbon_potential
- Alfredo, Carlos, and Clebsch Kuhn. “The Geological Evolution of the Paraguayan Chaco.” TTU DSpace Home. Texas Tech University, August 1, 1991. https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/handle/2346/9214?show=full.