Cecil L. O'Brate
Cecil L. O’Brate was born in Enid, Oklahoma, in November 1928. As a child growing up during the
Great Depression, O’Brate experienced and recognized poverty, determining to change his fortunes and
the fortunes of others. To provide for his family, he worked many jobs from ages 10 to 16, including
newspaper delivery boy, grocery store stocker, and gas station attendant. Prior to his senior year of high
school, O’Brate moved with his grandparents to Syracuse, Kansas, to custom farm 3,000 acres. By a
year’s end, O’Brate saved earnings for college and made two important discoveries: a passion for farming and a love for his future wife, Frances Cole.
In 1946, O’Brate returned to his native state to begin engineering studies at Oklahoma State University,
working jobs to pay his tuition and other bills. Soon, an offer and plea for help from his Kansas
grandfather, who leased an additional 3,000 acres, enticed him to leave OSU and return to farming.
O’Brate’s permanent move back to Kansas in 1948 began his legacy in business building. Putting his
earnings back into land purchases beginning in 1953, O’Brate’s current farm and grassland holdings
number over 35,000 acres.
In 1965, with Garden City, Kansas, as his home and business center, O’Brate purchased the Palmer Manufacturing and Tank Company, which produces fiberglass and steel tanks for the oil and gas industry. Palmer Manufacturing, having grown from two to over two hundred employees with over $70 million dollars in annual sales, was sold to Worthington Industries in 2013, but repurchased by O’Brate in 2018 with a pledge to invest $16 million back into the plant for facility upgrades and to grow jobs.
During the late 1960s through the early 1980s, O’Brate purchased regional banks and opened farm
equipment dealerships. While making sales to the oil industry through Palmer Manufacturing, he
recognized money making opportunities in oil and gas drilling and production and heavily invested assets in the industry just months before the 1985 oil market crash. O’Brate persevered through the steep drop in oil prices, over seventy percent, and today owns several successful independent oil and gas companies,t he two largest being Palmer Oil, Inc., and American Warrior, Inc., with 3,000 producing wells in 35 Kansas counties.
At age 91, O’Brate’s resume currently lists part to full ownership in a 3D seismic oil and gas survey
company, a sorghum-based food production company, ethanol production companies, a Garden City
industrial park, and residential and commercial real estate development companies. Throughout his
prosperous career, not forgetting his years in poverty, O’Brate has donated millions of dollars to nonprofit charitable and other organizations, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Boy and Girl Scouts,
Youthville, Garden City USD 457, and Garden City Community College. In 2013, Carl and Frances
O’Brate established the O’Brate Foundation, which provides emergency funds and college scholarships
for students living below the poverty level and who are moving out of the foster care system.
O’Brate recently gifted his alma mater, Oklahoma State University, $35 million toward construction of
the school’s new baseball stadium. The sports facility, which is scheduled to open in 2020, has been
named O’Brate Stadium. OSU conferred an honorary doctorate on its former student and benefactor in
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