E. H. "Ted" and Melody Lyonn

Lyon Foundation - History of Giving

Since its beginning 38 years ago in April 1978 through the end of 2015, the Lyon Foundation has grown from an initial $7.5 million to assets that exceed $43 million. The foundation has funded grants over that time span in excess of $33.9 million to 171 organizations in Washington County and the surrounding area.
Excerpted from the Examiner-Enterprise, December 4, 1988​

     The Lyons were native Texans. Lyon’s career sent them to many places in America and they wound up long-time citizens of Bartlesville. But friends say they never lost that Texas drawl and always stood when the “The Eyes of Texas” was played.
     Lyon was born March 26, 1906, in Elmo, Texas. He attended various Texas schools including high school in Hearne from which he graduated in 1923. He then attended Texas A&M College at College Station for a year. The most noteworthy event of this year was getting a new name which stuck with him all his life.
     E.H. stood for Emile Hubert. To teammates on the freshman football squad he’d joined Emile just didn’t fit the tough, line-bucking guard he’d become. So they called him “Ted,” after Ted Lyons, the Chicago White Sox pitcher. It was Ted Lyon from then on.
     Lyon left college in 1924 and began his long career in the petroleum industry as a tank car inspector for Pierce Petroleum Co. of Dallas.
     Not too long afterwards Lyon met and began going with Melody Simmons. She was born Sept. 2, 1909 in Sweetwater, Texas, and received her schooling in that town. The couple began a marriage on Dec. 19, 1928, which endured nearly 50 years. Just about a month later, on Jan. 29, 1929, Lyon began what was to be a 37-year career with Phillips Petroleum Co.
     Lyon joined Phillips as a district salesman in the Amarillo, Texas, division. Phillips had diversified into petroleum product sales only about two years earlier, so Lyon got in near beginning of the company’s product sales effort.
     He worked his way up through various sales managerial positions in several cities until he hit the top – vice president of sales in 1959. He was named to the company’s board of directors in 1962. Lyon took early retirement from the company Feb. 1, 1965. Except for a couple of years in Utah, the Lyons always lived in Bartlesville beginning in 1944.
     Lyon was a member of several petroleum industry organizations and was a 32 degree Mason, a Shriner, and member of the Royal Order of Jesters.
     Ted Lyon died April 15, 1978, and Melody followed him in death in less than two weeks on April 27, 1978.
     What kind of people were Ted and Melody Lyon?
     “Melody was most supportive and close to Ted. Also, she was a generous person and cared about other people. I feel sure she influenced Ted in his decision to help others,” said Charles Selby, a good friend of the Lyons’ and a director of the Foundation since its birth.
     “In addition to being a hard worker, competitive, and well liked by his employees, Ted Lyon had imagination, foresight, and boldness to take risks,” Selby said. “These extra qualities – and what Ted himself would call some ’Irish luck’ made him a fortune.” A 1956 National Petroleum News article pointed out that Lyon considered a 700-acre ranch he’d acquired outside of Bartlesville far from just a hobby.
     “If anybody doesn’t believe me and wants to buy a few white faced cattle, have them call me collect,” Lyon said.
     In time Lyon extended his interest beyond selling cattle. He foresaw some special promise in a Midwestern refining company called Bell Oil and Gas. He became the major owner of this firm, which turned out to be a real bonanza for him when Bell Oil and Gas made good profits on its own and was purchased by Swift Meat Packing Co., which later became part of Esmark. Lyon continued to plow funds into other profitable investments such as real estate and resorts. A resort he developed which is known to many in this area was the Bird Island Resort on Grand Lake, now known as “The Coves.”
     By the early 1970’s Lyon had made a considerable fortune. He had a strong belief that what people made should go partly to take care of those close to them and partly to do good in selected ways in communities they cared for rather than to be mostly taxed and spent by bureaucrats. In 1972 he took steps to carry out this belief. 
     The Lyons had no children, but they did have a number of close relatives. To achieve the aim of making sure they were taken care of, Lyon arranged for establishment of a trust fund. To become operative after his and Melody’s death, this Unitrust would receive 40 percent of the Lyons’ estate after taxes. Of this amount, a percentage is paid annually to the beneficiaries with the rest staying in the Unitrust. If a beneficiary should die, his or her annual distribution is paid to the Foundation. When all beneficiaries are gone, all assets of the Unitrust will be transferred to the private charitable foundation Lyon established. 
     By 1972, Lyon had already shown evidence of his generous nature and his philosophy of giving. In 1967 he personally conducted the fundraising drive to build a coronary care center in what is now Jane Phillips Episcopal-Memorial Medical Center. He himself contributed $9,000 to the project. A few years later he donated $55,000 to help construct this hospital’s intensive care unit. But helping young people, civic projects, and educational facilities was also part of his philosophy of giving.
     The E.H. Lyon and Melody Lyon Foundation, Inc., was officially incorporated as a tax exempt, private, charitable corporation in October 1972. The main purpose of the Foundation was stated in the Articles of Incorporation as follows:
     “To aid public religious organizations, charitable organizations, preparatory, vocational and technical schools, institutions of higher learning, and scientific research; to establish, maintain, conduct, assist and endow public charitable, religious, literary, educational, and scientific activities, agencies and institutions, hospitals and other public agencies.”
     Among other matters, the articles provided that the Foundation be managed by five directors, that it endure, and that outside funds could be contributed to it.
     Both the Foundation and Unitrust became operative following the deaths of both Ted and Melody Lyon in April 1978.
     Lyon Foundation guidelines for giving are about the same as for most private, charitable foundations. Proposals for grants generally need to include: objectives; the program for pursuing objectives; qualifications for persons engaged in work on the objectives; a budget; present means of support and other funding sources; and Internal Revenue Classification.​