Callon Petroleum co-founder dies

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NATCHEZ — Sim Callon, the last of a powerful family generation of Natchez businessmen, died Sunday, but his name and his legacy won’t be leaving Natchez any time soon, friends and family said.

Callon, 93, and his brother John founded Callon Oil & Gas Company in the early 1950s. Today the company, now Callon Petroleum Company, is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange and employs 57 people at its Natchez headquarters and many more elsewhere.

“John and Sim were icons to independent oil and gas producers,” Mississippi Sen. Bob Dearing said. “They’ve provided so many nice paying jobs through the years, and a lot of people have come to Natchez and settled in Natchez because of them.”

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Sim was one of four brothers — all were active in the local business community — and it was a family decision to keep the growing company based in Natchez, his son and current Callon CEO Fred Callon said.

“They felt like Natchez offered a quality of life for employees and that was more important,” he said.

But Sim Callon’s community contributions reached far beyond oil and gas exploration, friend Carolyn Vance Smith said.

“He was one of the quiet, strong leaders in Natchez,” she said. “He went to the top leadership role in every organization and company he touched. He was generous and kind and therefore very popular.”

Smith got to know Callon when she founded the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, and Callon led the line to help.

“The first year he was one of the first to open his checkbook and help with funding,” Smith said. “Then his ticket order came in immediately.”

Smith and Callon went on to research, write, illustrate and publish two books together, “Natchez: An Illustrated History,” and “The Goat Castle Murder: A True Natchez Story that Shocked the World.”

History — specifically that of Natchez — was a passion for Callon, his son said, and he reached out to help preservation efforts whenever he could.

Historic Natchez Foundation Director Mimi Miller said without Callon, the foundation wouldn’t be what it is today.

“He was one of the most important persons in the early years of the foundation,” she said. “Sim was committed from the very beginning. He was just always there, very concerned about Natchez. He recognized it was a unique place and thought that uniqueness would have a great impact.”

Callon contributed financially to the formation of the foundation, but also took care of details like office supplies and loaning his camera to the preservation efforts, Miller said.

Callon was on the foundation’s board of directors for many years and received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Callon retired as chairman and chief executive officer of Callon Petroleum in 1981.

Callon Petroleum now has properties in Louisiana, Alabama and offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. It also has an office in Houston, Texas.

Sim Callon’s funeral is at 3 p.m. today at First Presbyterian Church in Natchez.

He is survived by his wife Vera and two sons, Fred and Sim Chase Callon Jr. Sim Callon’s brothers preceded him in death.