William T. Burton was a businessman and philanthropist who spent much of his life in the Lake Charles, La. area.
He was born on Sept. 25, 1884 in Orange, Texas and spent his formative years there, attending school through the 7th grade. At the age of 17, he moved to the town of Sulphur near Lake Charles and worked for his uncle, a railroad agent and postmaster. By 1914, Burton had reportedly become involved in the oil and mercantile industries.
Burton would develop additional interests in a wide range of businesses over the coming decades, including land speculation, farming, cattle, road construction and general contracting. "He bought the struggling Calcasieu National Bank during the Great Depression, restructured it, paid its debts and formed the Calcasieu Marine National Bank," reads an online account of Burton's life by his family.
In January 1936, Gov. James A. Noe assigned State Lease 340 to Burton. For an initial cost of $75,000, Burton had won the right to manage half a million acres of oil- and gas-rich water bottom off south-central Louisiana. He would reassign part of the lease to the Texas Company, later renamed Texaco, just a few days later, and was paid $95,000 for that. About a month later, he sold yet more interest in State Lease 340 to the Win or Lose Corporation, founded by Gov. Noe and his political partner, Huey P. Long.
Burton was widely appreciated for his support for education. "Every year he gave a financial gift to each graduating senior of Sulphur High School," reads his biography in the McNeese State University Encyclopedia. He established the William T. and Ethel Lewis Burton scholarship program for college students in western Louisiana, and in 1968 donated $65,000 to found McNeese's computer center.
Burton died in 1974.