In 1987, Dr. Barbara S. Griffith, head of the Center’s Office of Oral History, launched a multi-year project to document the legal fight between Pennzoil and Texaco over the purchase of the Getty Oil Company. The controversy began when Pennzoil filed suit against Texaco, charging that Texaco had enticed Getty to break a contract it had signed for a merger with Pennzoil, in favor of an outright sale of Getty to Texaco at a higher price per share. The case was tried before a Houston jury, which awarded Pennzoil $10.4 billion, the largest civil judgment in American history. Beyond the size of the judgment, this conflict and its historical implications proved to be a rich source for oral history research.
Among those Dr. Griffith interviewed were Joe Jamail, one of the country’s most successful personal injury lawyers and a lead figure on Pennzoil’s trial team; Gordon Getty, an heir to the Getty fortune and a major shareholder of Getty Oil Company; and the Texaco executive who oversaw the transition at Getty’s California headquarters after the company’s sale to Texaco. Her interviews, available for research, led to Pennzoil donating two collections—Pennzoil Company v. Texaco Inc. Case Records