On January 18, 2023, William Wallace Britain passed away peacefully at home surrounded by friends and family. Bill was born on December 24, 1948, which he was certain was planned as a cost cutting measure by his parents. He graduated from West Point in 1972 and outside of his time there and five years in the military, he lived his entire life in Amarillo, a place that he was very proud of and gave back to when he could.
Bill met his wife, Mary, while he was home on leave from West Point. They have been an absolute pair since that day. Their long-distance courtship included a call to Mary from an AT&T investigator about the unauthorized use of Sammy Davis Jr’s (Yes, the actor/singer) calling card number which had been published New York City Village Voice newspaper. Bill saw it as his only shot as being able to afford the calls to Mary and used it frequently. To keep the calls coming and Bill out of jail, Mary collected cans to pay the charges. They married June 17, 1972, right after graduation and spent the next five years going from post to post in the Army – none were glamorous, and some were terrible. Their marriage of 51 years was a fantastic journey and Bill passed with Mary at his side.
Bill was a focused husband and father, and his family was his first priority. His children, Lane and Lulu, brought him incredible joy and pride with the occasional giant headache (mainly Lane). He made sure they had every advantage that he did not. As a father, he made the hard decisions and stuck to them even when they were not popular with the rest of the family and those decisions were critical in shaping Lane and Lulu into who they are today. The most important lessons were to never take yourself too seriously, don’t spend too much time worrying about the rules and take care of the people around you.
When his grandchildren started arriving, he relished in not having to make any of the hard decisions and all the time he spent with Hatch, Lillie and Wallace was focused on fun. They learned a lot from him in a short period of time and loved him very much.
Bill’s time at West Point was mainly spent trying to get out of trouble. The shared sacrifice and training resonated with him and taught him how to be a servant leader, a skill that he would use the rest of his life. He made many lifelong friends there and this past May returned for his 50th reunion where he served as the Head of Class of 1972 Gift Campaign. The amount of joy he felt from giving back to the Cadets could not be measured.
After an honorable discharge in 1977, Bill and Mary returned to Amarillo where he went to work for Buddy Wells and Jimmy Whittenburg. Through these mentors, Bill learned the oil and gas business and how to make sure you end up on the better side of a deal. Bill was an entrepreneur at heart and was determined to start his own business. After a couple tries including a drilling rig and a four-plex apartment building, Bill found his long-term business partner. He and Jim J. Brewer started J-Brex in 1987. Together they built a very successful oil and gas exploration business and had a lot of fun in the process.
In 1998, after using eBay for the first time, Bill began working on his next idea. In 1999, Bill co-founded EnergyNet and began trying to convince companies, individuals, and really anyone that would listen, to sell Oil and Gas properties on the internet. It took a while, but EnergyNet held the first ever, real-time, online oil and gas property auction in February 2000 and has since sold over 300,000 oil and gas properties across the United State totaling over $9 billion in total transactions. EnergyNet is the most active oil and gas property marketplace in the world. Bill loved EnergyNet and all the people involved like his children. He could see ability and promise in people that others did not and his EnergyNet family always knew that they had his full support 24/7 both in their work and personal lives.
Bill’s favorite places were Palo Duro Canyon or somewhere far away on an adventure. He traveled extensively across the world typically hunting or fishing. Mary and his kids were often there with him. Our favorite memories happened on these trips and often included Bill breaking down international communication barriers by loudly speaking broken English with a Scottish accent. These adventures were often made possible by Sean Kelly or Ignacio Navasques, both of whom he considered adopted sons. While their business cards say professional hunter, they often spent more time being amateur psychologists when he missed a shot.
Survivors include his wife, Mary, son, Lane and his wife Kate, daughter, Lulu and her husband John, and grandchildren: William Hatcher Britain, Lillian Elizabeth Britain, and Wallace Hughes Britain. Bill insisted on a party instead of a funeral and the family is busy planning that for a later date. Bill has had the greatest care anyone could hope for, and it is a testament to the high quality of the people in the Texas Panhandle. The family would like to thank: Maggie Scales, Joe Coffman, Dr. Robert Gottlieb, Dr. Rajesh Nambiar, Dr. Kyle Molen, Dr. Christopher Gulley, Wendy Rutledge, Paula Hubert, Rose Mary Hernandez, Diana Davis, Quinton Mungia, Mike Hughes and the teams at Good Care, BSA Compassion Care, BSA Palliative Care and BSA Hospice of the Southwest.
In lieu of flowers and if so inclined, the family asks that you do something to help an organization or someone in need. Bill’s favorites are the Amarillo Area Foundation, West Texas A&M University Buffalo Council and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.