Legendary New Mexico wildcatter John A. Yates dies at 93

Legendary New Mexico wildcatter John A. Yates dies at 93

John A. Yates, described by Albuquerque Business First as the man “who helped put New Mexico oil and gas on the map,” died Monday, Nov. 21, at age 93.

The Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, where Yates is a member of the Hall of Fame, recently paid tribute in announced his passing. Terpening & Son Mortuary of Artesia, where Yates resided, published an obituary here.

Yates began working in the oil field at age 12 for the company run by his father Martin Yates Jr., who was New Mexico’s leading oil and gas pioneer, according to the obituary. He graduated from Artesia High, studied economics at Darmouth College, then returned to Artesia to work in the oil patch in 1951 to continue his passion for exploring oil and natural gas. Yates would encourage his brothers to operate as Yates Petroleum, founded in 1960, which is the largest lease holder in New Mexico, according to a biography published by the Petroleum Museum.

The brothers “developed some of New Mexico’s largest, most significant fields and built a solid reputation for leadership in the petroleum industry,” according to the Museum. “Their search for oil and gas has taken them into Texas, the Rocky Mountain states, offshore and overseas.”

“In all of his endeavors John was a respected leader. He led with a strong and quiet confidence and was a mentor and friend to many.”

Yates’ determination was credited for the finding and developing of Pecos Slope Abo Field, initially overlooked by log experts who believed it devoid of natural gas, according to his obituary. The hundreds of producing wells that followed marked his success as a wildcatter.

That said, Yates was conscious of protecting the environment, the Museum noted.

Yates also loved and was heavily active in the cattle and ranching industry, and he served a number of associations and organizations in both the oil and gas and cattle and ranching industries.

Five U.S. Presidents starting with President Ronald Reagan appointed Yates to serve on the National Petroleum Council advisory committee.

Yates was named Chief Roughneck of the Year (1996), which the Independent Petroleum Association of America awards to only one person per year in the U.S. In 1998, he earned the Energy Award for Lifetime Achievement in Developing the New Mexico Oil and Gas Industry (1998).

He was inducted into the Petroleum Hall of Fame in Midland in 2005, and into the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States’ Rocky Mountain Oil and Gas Hall of Fame in 2009.

Of course, what Yates’ surviving family, friends and colleagues will remember most was his personality. He was described as a mentor to many who was “caring, upright and just a good ol’ boy.”

“In all of his endeavors John was a respected leader,” his obituary states.”He led with a strong and quiet confidence and was a mentor and friend to many.”