Born in Tennessee in 1902, this recipient of the AAPG Sidney Powers Award and University of Texas distinguished alumnus was known for his exceptional career with the Humble Oil & Refining Company, whose numerous successes laid the foundation for the rise of Exxon. Over the course of a solid 36-year career, Carsey solidified the Humble tradition of excellence begun by such explorers as Wallace Pratt and Slim Barrow, the latter of whom was a personal mentor for Carsey.
Starting in 1927, Carsey served as the first district geologist for Humble in Texas (later being promoted to division geologist and finally chief geologist), consistently acquiring new leases for the company: Carsey was instrumental in the acquisition of Yates field,which he notes was once the most prolific field in West Texas, comprising 403 oil wells. Such breakthroughs provided the inspiration for future generations of geologists to discover and extract valuable geologic hydrocarbons. By his own admission, Carsey’s career was full of peaks, including among them the establishment of numerous other Humble division offices and preliminary exploration in Alaska. With such accomplishments behind him, Carsey became a sought-after geologic consultant after his official retirement. His collaboration with the AAPG has, in the words of Bernold “Bruno” Hanson, “enriched geologists and strengthened our profession.”
Carsey’s early 15 years in West Texas formed a good portion of this enriching and strengthening process. Carsey’s leadership there provided the minerals necessary for Humble to continue functioning until more leases could be obtained. Writings on his findings (see especially his entries in various AAPG bulletins scattered throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and his contribution to the AAPG publication Geology of Natural Gas) have helped to confirm his role during this period. Carsey’s reputation soon spread beyond Texas and into Louisiana,where his work on the Louisiana-Mississippi division in the early 1940s would lead to the discovery of numerous oil and gas fields (prior to Carsey’s involvement, Humble had only a handful of prospects in the area.) This success repeated itself in California, where the Castaic Junction oil field was discovered.
In addition to his work in the field, Carsey held a number of high offices within the AAPG: he served as chairman of the AAPG Research Committee from 1958-1960, and chaired the Committee on Statistics of Exploratory Drilling before ultimately becoming president in 1967-68. As a Distinguished Lecturer for the organization, he also spoke to dozens of different universities and geological societies within the North American continent. Carsey’s son, Ben Jr., also carried the torch of geological study inherited from his father while assisting him with his consultation business. A memorial to Carsey’s first wife Dorothy, who passed away in 1969, was erected at the University of Texas.
Carsey had met Dorothy Ogden in the University of Texas Geology Department in the 1920’s, and subsequently, married. Dorothy graduated from the University of Texas with a B. S. Degree in Paleontology, and her graduate thesis, Foraminifera of the Cretaceous of Central Texas, was published by the University of Texas in 1926. As husband and wife, Ben and Dorothy shared 40 years of interest in geology. When Dorothy passed away in 1969, Carsey established the Dorothy Ogden Carsey Memorial Scholarship Fund, now in the UT-Jackson School of Geosciences, in her honor. After Carsey died in 1988, the family set up the J. Ben Carsey, Sr. Special Maintenance Fund at the University of Texas, and J. Ben Carsey, Jr. established the first AAPG Foundation memorial to Carsey, the J. Ben Carsey Distinguished Lecture Fund.
The J. Ben Carsey, Sr. Memorial Grant is awarded annually to a deserving geoscience graduate student through the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid Program, and is endowed by the AAPG Foundation with a generous contribution from his daughter, Dorothy Carsey Sumner.