Dow Hamm was born in Bentonville, Arkansas, on September 2, 1900, and died in Dallas, Texas, on August 16, 1983. In 1976, he received the AAPG’s highest award – the Sidney Powers Memorial Medal. His citation for the award reads:
“A distinguished scientist and international explorationist of true pioneer family background; uncommonly successful in finding new petroleum reserves in many parts of the world; a man of faultless character and the recipient of many richly deserved honors; a trainer of men; a fine administrator; a man of courage and determination; and above all, a warm friend.”
When he was six years old, his family moved to Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he went to high school and subsequently enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a degree in geology, distinguishing himself both in the classroom and on the football field during his college years – he played every minute of every game, for four years, as center on offense and linebacker on defense.
Soon after graduation, he married Helen Berry and they had two sons – William Dow Hamm, Jr. and Richard B. Hamm – who contributed the funds to establish this grant-in-aid honoring their father.
Dow Hamm’s petroleum geology career began in 1922 with a small natural gas company but, sensing that they weren’t committed to utilizing geologists, he left to go to work for Roxana, predecessor of Shell Oil. He spent the next twenty years with Shell, including a two-year stint at The Hague where he was exposed to international exploration. He ultimately became Shell’s Manager of Exploration, based in Houston.
In 1942, he was approached by Atlantic Refining Co. with an offer to lead their exploration effort. The challenge was irresistible and he accepted. He led his new company in successful exploration programs, both domestically and internationally, including its pioneer efforts on the North Slope of Alaska. Under his leadership, the company – which by then had become Atlantic Richfield – and its partners were responsible for the discovery of Prudhoe Bay.
Dow Hamm rose to become ARCO’s Executive Vice-President and a member of its Board of Directors. At his retirement in 1967, Robert O. Anderson, the company’s chairman said, “I know of no man who has made a greater or more significant contribution to the growth and success of Atlantic Richfield Company.”
He was one of the original Trustees of the AAPG Foundation and served for several years as Chairman.
The William Dow Hamm Memorial Grant is awarded through the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation Grants-in-Aid program and is endowed by the AAPG Foundation through generous contributions from W. Dow Hamm, Jr. and Richard B. Hamm. The William Dow Hamm Memorial Grant is awarded annually to a deserving graduate student from the University of Texas at Austin.