James M. Bird, Sr.
2008 Outstanding Entrepreneur
James McKenna Bird, Sr. - known as Jim to his loved ones and the community - passed away at the age of 90 on July 14, 2007, just a few short months before he was originally scheduled to be honored with this distinctive TU award.
Bird was a dedicated Tulsa citizen who made his mark in the business community as an innovator in oil exploration and seismic vibration equipment.
Born in Bradford, Pennsylvania, an oil boom town, it was no surprise that Bird became a recognized leader in the petroleum business. He revealed his innovative spirit as a student at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. There he invented an alarm that warned him of unwanted visitors, such as dorm supervisors and other uninvited, watchful eyes. This invention foreshadowed a future effort that, ultimately, helped the military in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
After graduation, Bird's pioneering nature took him to Yale University where he earned a degree in economics in 1939. He then worked as an assistant manager at Hanley Co., a brick plant, before joining the Navy during Wold War II.
As night fighter director for the USS Bataan, Bird reconstituted his prep school invention and expanded it to help develop a radar technique that detected kamikaze planes before they could attack allied forces.
After the war, Bird founded Birdwell, an oil-well logging company that would soon have 26 offices extending from West Texas to Michigan. He later sold the company and briefly retired to travel around the world, play Bach and Beethoven on the piano, and read. However, his hard work ethic and love for the industry led him to found Industrial Vehicles International, a worldwide distributor of geophysical vibrators.
Bird also managed Hanley and Bird, a natural gas production company owned by his grandfather. In spring 2007, he retired as chairman of the board and assumed the title of Chairman Emeritus of the company.
During his lifetime, Bird was active in the Tulsa community as an entrepreneur, a dedicated businessman, and a quietly generous philanthropist. His largesse extended to nonprofit organizations such as the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, the Philbrook Museum Board of Trustees and The University of Tulsa. Bird was particularly fond of the TU Women's Rowing Team. His support helped build a boathouse on the Arkansas River for the team and earned him the title of "Admiral of the TU Fleet."
Bird is survived by his wife Margery; son"Jay" Bird, Jr.; daughters Susan Singh, Ann Seaberg and Karen Hill; nine loving grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.