First-ever Propane Hall of Fame class chosen

January 6, 2012 By    

Nine men whose dedicated work made them pioneering leaders within the propane industry will be honored as the inaugural class of the Propane Hall of Fame at a black-tie recognition dinner and awards ceremony April 13 in Atlanta, immediately preceding the 2012 NPGA Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo.

Mark Anton, Suburban Propane
Because his New Jersey home was beyond the range of gas lines, Anton found that he could obtain propane from a nearby Phillips Petroleum Co. plant that considered the gas a useless byproduct of the oil-refining process. He formed Suburban Propane Gas Co. in 1928 to market propane to other New Jersey homeowners who wanted gas for cooking and heating. Anton worked with H. Emerson Thomas and George Oberfell to launch the first propane industry trade group, the National Bottled Gas Association, in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1931. He was honored with the National Propane Gas Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

John Blossman, Blossman Gas
Son of company founder Woodrow Blossman, he grew the Mississippi-based family business into the nation’s largest independent marketer. The former NPGA president was instrumental in developing many educational materials and the implementation of the nationwide Gas Check safety program. He died in 2009.

James Ferrell, Ferrellgas
When his father became ill in 1965, Ferrell received a hardship discharge from the Air Force, took over the reins of the struggling Kansas company and turned it into a national powerhouse serving more than 1 million customers in all 50 states. It also operates a supply, transportation and trading office in Houston. At Ferrell’s direction, Ferrellgas was among the first propane companies to go public in 1984. He also served two terms as president of the World LP Gas Association.

Sam McTier, McTier Supply Co.
The iconic propane equipment company owner has packed 50-plus years of industry knowledge into an encyclopedic memory that aids the numerous committees on which he still serves at age 85. An outspoken stalwart of industry safety initiatives, the former NPGA chairman received the association’s Distinguished Service Award in 2002. McTier remains an active industry consultant and also serves as a member of the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).

Robert Myers, Petrolane Inc.
Myers’ 25-year track record at Petrolane helped launch a continuing career developing the engine fuel market nationally and abroad. At Petrolane, he led a company initiative to run 20 autogas conversion and service centers across the country. He left Petrolane in 1990 to form the LP Gas Clean Fuels Coalition, which worked to get propane recognized in the landmark Clean Air Act of 1990 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Recognized as an expert in propane engine fuel, he has served as an adviser for the California Air Resources Board, the California Energy Commission and the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC). He also served as technical director with the World LP Gas Association.

Walter Snelling, American Gasol Co.
Often referred to as the founder of the LPG industry, Snelling was a chemist and explosives expert who first identified propane as a volatile element in gasoline in 1910. He distilled the liquid from gaseous components and then created ways to extract the LPGs during the gasoline refining process. In 1912, Dr. Snelling and colleagues established the American Gasol Co. as the first commercial marketer of propane. One year later, he sold his propane patent for $50,000 to Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum Co. He died in 1965.

Milford Therrell, Squibb-Taylor Inc.
Recognized as the father of PERC, Therrell initiated and helped organize the lobbying campaign to pass legislation for a national check-off program to raise money for industry market promotion, education and training in 1996. Therrell joined equipment distributor Squibb-Taylor as a salesman after college and rose through the ranks to become its president. He served as president of PERC as well as NPGA, which honored him with its Distinguished Service Award. He died in 2008.

H. Emerson Thomas, Continental Tank Car Co.
One of the industry pioneers who, as an employee of Phillips Petroleum Co., guided the formation and growth of the domestic propane industry. He helped launch and served as president of the first propane industry trade group, the National Bottled Gas Association, and was awarded NPGA’s Distinguished Service Award. As a member of the board of the Compressed Gas Association, he chaired the committee that wrote the first LP gas safety standard, which was adopted by the National Fire Protection Association in 1932 as its Pamphlet 58. He died in 2001 as the industry’s eldest statesman at age 98.

John Wallace, Petrolane Inc.
As president, Wallace directed the California-based company’s growth to become the largest U.S. propane marketer in the 1980s. Known as a business innovator, he established the industry’s first foreign trading office in London to secure propane suppliers to the United States. His work with truck manufacturer Casey Jarvis led to the development of the current bobtail design. He also established a company safety and training program that eventually became the Gas Check program, which was used throughout the industry through NPGA. Wallace retired in 1984.

The Hall of Fame is being launched by the staff at LP Gas Magazine in conjunction with the year-long celebration of the propane industry’s 100th anniversary. The magazine intends to make the event a yearly tradition that recognizes the pioneers, icons and leaders – past and present – and creates a permanent legacy for their contributions to the industry.

An 11-member Selection Committee representing retailers, wholesalers and providers of equipment and services reviewed all 44 nominees submitted before voting on this year’s most deserving individuals. Detailed biographies of each will be included in the March issue of LP Gas Magazine and on its website.

About the Author:

Kevin Yanik was a senior editor at LP Gas Magazine.

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