Claiborne Deming: Arkansas Business Hall of Fame


Claiborne P. Deming

Murphy Oil Corporation


Claiborne P. Deming was born in 1954 in Alexandria, Louisiana, to a doctor and a homemaker- John and Bertie Murphy Deming. His mother was the sister of Charles H. Murphy Jr., the long-time president and chairman of Murphy Oil Corporation. Their father Charles H. Murphy Sr., a South Arkansas banker, timberland owner and oilman, started Murphy Oil.

Deming graduated with honors from Tulane University in New Orleans in 1976 and earned a law degree from Tulane Law School in 1979. During his second year of law school, Claiborne met Elaine Robinson through a friend. They married and raised four children- Claiborne Jr., Katherine, Wilson and Jefferson.

After law school, it was natural for Deming to go to work at Murphy Oil, the family-owned company before its public stock offering in 1956, as a staff attorney. The scale of the business and the risk-taking in oil exploration also attracted him. From his first boss, Jerry Watkins, who was Murphy Oil's longtime general counsel, he learned a lot about law and business.

Deming served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer at Murphy Oil before becoming president and chief executive officer in October 1994. Restructuring the company in 1996, its Deltic Farm & Timber subsidiary was spun off to concentrate on its oil and gas assets. A business relationship was also begun with Walmart whereby Murphy built and owned gasoline stations and small convenience stores on Supercenter parking lots. The business grew quickly and is now a separate, publicly-traded company with over 1,400 sites across the South and Midwest.

Deming expanded the company internationally, acquiring three oil concessions off the coast of Malaysia. In 2002, the 500 million barrel Kikeh field off the coast of the island of Borneo in Malaysian waters was discovered. It resulted in the single largest reserve-add and source of production in the history of the company. During Deming's tenure as CEO, the company tripled its production and oil and gas reserves. With five additional offices worldwide-Houston, Texas; Calgary, Alberta, Canada; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Perth, Western Australia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam-Murphy Oil Corporation has retained its headquarters in El Dorado, Arkansas.

On August 23, 2005, disaster struck when Hurricane Katrina swept into the Gulf Coast, displacing 1.5 million people. The storm trapped more than 80 people in Murphy Oil's New Orleans office when levees broke, the city flooded and emergency services were suspended. Deming had Murphy Oil immediately set up call centers to check on employees, hired a security firm to rescue its trapped employees and their families and secured a facility to serve as a temporary shelter. On the Friday after the Tuesday storm, the company rescued 83 people out of its flooded office. Murphy's nearby refinery provided free fuel for emergency response vehicles in St. Bernard Parish, donated $5 million to the St. Bernard Parish community and gave bonuses-an extra month's salary-to employees recovering from the storm.

On December 31, 2008, Deming retired and became chairman of the board and the executive committee for Murphy Oil Corporation.

An educated man, Deming's legacy won't be his own academic pursuits, but those of students in the town of El Dorado, Arkansas, through a program he envisioned- The El Dorado Promise. His idea would transform the South Arkansas city.

In December 2006, he approached Murphy Oil's board of directors with a $50 million proposal to create an educational scholarship for students graduating from El Dorado High School and a foundation to support and improve academics. The board quickly approved the proposal and announced the program in January 2007. The El Dorado Promise awards all graduates of El Dorado High School-provided they have attended El Dorado schools since ninth grade-a scholarship equal to in-state tuition and mandatory fees for bachelor or associate college degrees.

The Promise scholarship has changed the academic culture of El Dorado, shifting conversations from if graduates are going to college to where graduates are going to college. After students, teachers and parents requested more Advanced Placement classes, offerings were increased from three classes to 19, and annual participation increased from 100 to 400 students. In 2016, 84 percent of Promise-eligible students attended college. The Promise scholarship has provided funding to 2,025 students. It has improved college enrollment rates, revitalized the schools and contributed to the economic development of El Dorado.

Deming serves on the Murphy Oil Corporation and Murphy USA boards. He is also on the boards of several private companies including Laurel Mountain Energy, an oil and gas company located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Elaine support El Dorado Festivals & Events, Arkansas Art Center Foundation Board, Vanderbilt University and historic Stratford Hall in Virginia.


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