Charles Rather

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Charles Pratt Rather Senior
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Charles P. Rather Sr.
Charles Pratt Rather

(1902-10-06)October 6, 1902
Little Rock, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedMarch 31, 1988(1988-03-31) (aged 85)
Birmingham, Alabama
Burial placeElmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Alabama
CitizenshipUnited States Of America
OccupationBusiness Executive and Engineer
Known forFounding and leading Southern Natural Gas
Political partyRepublican Party (United States)
Spouse(s)Jeanette Kathleen Rather
ChildrenCharles Pratt Rather Jr
  • John Daniel Rather
  • Nola Mae Rather
RelativesRather Family

Charles Pratt Rather Sr. (October 10, 1902 – March 31, 1988) was an American business executive and engineer. He was the founding father of the Southern Natural Gas Company and it's first President, retaining the title and running the corporation up until his retirement.

Pratt was adopted into a middle class southern family in Little Rock, Arkansas and remained in Arkansas for much of his childhood and left the house and Little Rock at age 18. He attended the University of Alabama and received a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. Pratt began his business career as soon as he graduated in 1927. He would excel rapidly in his field of work. Some of his accomplishments include appointments as an engineer with the Alabama Water Service Company and Case Construction Company, Chief Engineer, Vice President and President of Alabama Water Service Company, Vice President and General Manager, and President of Southern Natural Gas, all of which occurred by the time he was 35. During his years of service, he was elected to the Board of Directors of the Alabama Gas Company, Alabama Natural Gas Corporation, Birmingham Gas Company, First National Bank of Birmingham, the Offshore Company, Air Reduction Company, and Southern Natural Gas.

Natural gas was used throughout the country as a means of heating and cooling buildings and tools in the residential sector, and as a fuel to generate electricity later in the 1930s. Furthermore, due to Pratt's experience and reputation, he subsequently gained moderate influence over the natural gas industry below the Mason Dixon Line and predominantly in the Deep South which transported natural gas around the country. Southern Natural Gas was one of the youngest natural gas corporate entities to be created during the 1900s in the United States.

Pratt was also the trustee of the Gorgas Foundation, Southern Research Institute and and Appeal Chairman and President of Jefferson County, Alabama Community Chest. Past associations he was involved with include the Independent Natural Gas Association of America, of which he served as president, National Petroleum Council (US), and American Gas Association. During the Korean War, Pratt spent approximately one year in Washington serving as Assistant Deputy Administrator of the Petroleum Administration for Defense.

Early life

Pratt was the first child adopted into the Rather Family in Little Rock, Arkansas, to German-American father and mother John D. Rather and Nona P. Rather. He had one sibling, who was his older brother, named after his father, John D. Rather. His father was of English and Germanic descent, while his mother was of German-Irish descent.

Little is known of his parents among living family members and uncovered memories, although it is known that they had been immigrants to the United States of America in the late 1890s.

When Pratt was a boy, his family had lived in Little Rock, Arkansas and would live an average and peaceful life for their time, still having to endure the reforms and rapid changes in their society following the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Period, he would take up any and all jobs he could come upon for a boy of his age around the streets of Little Rock, learning the value of money from his father and how to manage it at a young age. It is unknown where he had attended grammar school and high school. Although he did attend the University of Alabama and the Georgia Institute of Technology later in his life.


University of Alabama and Georgia Institute of Technology

During the early 1920s, Charles would begin his studies in the University of Alabama with the sole interest of pursuing a greater education and what was to be considered a rare opportunity during that era. Several years later, he would attend the Georgia Institute of Technology where he would receive a bachelor's degree in civil engineering upon graduation in 1927. Thus enabling him to pursue his later found careers in the engineering and petroleum industries, ultimately leading up to the creation of Southern Natural Gas later in his life. He was regarded by his fellow classmates, teachers, and friends as a well-behaved, pragmatic, and devoted individual to his studies. His contemporaries described him as a determined, earnest, religious, and progressive individual. He was excellent in civil debates and had no troubles with expressing himself and his own interests. His daughter-in-law Susan Rather of Mountain Brook, Alabama recalls Charles Pratt Rather having also been an active member of the Georgia Tech Track Team.

Southern Natural Gas

Founding and early growth

Pratt, after numerous careers under other individuals in the petroleum and engineering fields, would go onto found Southern Natural Gas in Birmingham, Alabama in 1928. As it expanded, it would begin to undertake contracts with state governments and several federal contracts to construct pipelines in the Deep South, in particular throughout Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and several other states below the Mason-Dixon Line. This would bring about a boom to the Southeastern markets of the United States and into the coffers of the Southern Natural Gas Company. As Pratt had ultimately forged the company into the natural gas corporation that fueled the Southeastern markets of the states the pipelines constructed by the company would run through. Following El Paso Gas's purchase of the company, Southern Natural Gas while now a subsidiary of a greater corporation would retain its influence in the petroleum and natural gas markets in the South, after having been sold to the Kinder Morgan Corporation following a vote organized by the presiding President of the Company long after President Pratt's retirement and his Board of Directors and was also later incorporated into the Kinder Morgan Company when it purchased El Paso Gas and its subsidiaries.[1][2] [3][4][5][6]


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