1979: Swift Energy Company Founded by A. Earl Swift

Swift Energy Company was founded on October 11, 1979, in Houston, Texas, by Aubrey Earl Swift, who served as the company’s chairman until his death in 2006. He also served as president of the company from October 1979 to November 1997 and chief executive officer from October 1979 to May 2001.

Earl Swift began working in the oil and gas industry in 1955. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a petroleum engineering degree and completing service in the U.S. Army, he joined Humble Oil Company, where he developed an expertise in reservoir engineering. In 1962, he moved to Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Company, an affiliate of American Natural Resources Company (ANR). By 1970, he had initiated a renewed exploration program for the company in which 730 gross wells were drilled. When he resigned in 1979, he was vice president of exploration and production both of Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Company and of American Natural Gas Production Company, another ANR affiliate. In the meantime, he had earned his juris doctor degree in 1968 by attending night classes at South Texas College of Law.

In forming his own company, Earl was acting on plans made many years earlier. He had a vision of how a natural resource company should be operated to the mutual benefit of its investors and employees, creating jobs and helping to improve the communities in which the company operated. At the same time, the company would be making a vital contribution toward meeting the energy needs of an increasing worldwide population.

Following Family Traditions. Earl also had a vision of upholding the tradition of successive generations of the Swift family working together in the oil and gas industry, primarily in Oklahoma. For many years his father, Virgil Swift, and uncles had trained their sons in the field, as their own father, George Sherman Swift, had before them. The gauntlet now rested with his—the third—generation.

This 1920s picture shows Bert and George Swift (at far left), uncles of A. Earl and Virgil N. Swift, at a drilling rig in Oklahoma.


Virgil Swift, 1903-1990, father of Virgil N. and A. Earl Swift and patriarch of Swift Energy Company.

This second vision began to be fulfilled when Earl’s brother, Virgil Neil Swift, joined the company in February 1981, only 15 months after Swift Energy had been organized. To join Swift, Virgil resigned from Gulf Oil Company, where he had worked in various engineering and managerial positions for 28 years. He, too, had a petroleum engineering degree (from the University of Tulsa) and had served in the military as a U.S. Marine. While with Gulf Oil, he managed fields in the western United States, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Canadian Arctic. He also represented Gulf Oil at many other fields throughout the world.

Later in the year, in September 1981, Earl’s son, Terry Earl Swift, joined the company. As a fourth-generation member of the oil and gas family, he had also received early training in the fields. After obtaining a chemical engineering degree from the University of Houston in 1979, he worked as a petroleum engineer at H. J. Gruy and Company, where he specialized in reservoir simulation and formation evaluation.

Virgil N. was named vice president of drilling and production upon joining the company, and became executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1982, a position he held until 1991, at which time he was named executive vice president for business development. He also served as vice chairman of the board from its inception until he retired from the company in 2005. Since 2005, he has continued his affiliation with the company as a consultant.


Earl Swift, center, with his son Terry, left, and brother Virgil on a drilling rig floor in 1992.


Terry was named assistant vice president of engineering in 1986, vice president of exploration and joint ventures in 1988, senior vice president in 1990, and executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1991. In November 1997, Terry succeeded his father as president of the company and in May 2001, he succeeded him as chief executive officer. In 2006, upon the death of his father, Terry was named chairman of the board.

Expanding the Company. While these three members of the Swift family served as the initial core group of Swift Energy Company, they took great pride in expanding the company through the selection of highly competent management teams and expert staff members who shared their visions and their conservative and participatory management philosophy. The result was the mature organization of today that consists of people with a broad technical background—including, in addition to reservoir and production engineering, the disciplines of geology and geophysics (which together comprise the discipline of geoscience). In addition they have added staff experienced in land management and oil and gas marketing, as well as staff trained in the legal, mapping, accounting, and financial aspects of the industry, all with the support of state-of-the-art computer systems and the latest field technology. As the company has developed, those with many years of experience, often in foreign countries, have been joined by talented younger people with innovative ideas. Working together, sharing common values and goals, they all have great confidence that Swift Energy Company will continue to be successful and grow, that it will make significant contributions to the energy needs of the world, and that it will always strive for the betterment of the communities in which it operates. (See also, The Swifts of Swift Energy, December 1988.)

Terry E. Swift (center) first followed his uncle, Virgil N. Swift (left) as chief operating officer in 1991 and then his father A. Earl Swift (right) as chief executive officer in 2001. He was named chairman in 2006. (2003 photo)


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