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Philanthropist Michael Late Benedum (July 16, 1869-July 30, 1959) was born in Bridgeport. He made a fortune in the oil and gas business, starting in his native state but expanding his operations to Illinois, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, and eventually to Canada, Mexico, and overseas. In 1896, he married Sarah Lantz, and the following year they had their only child, Claude Worthington Benedum. With the outbreak of World War I, Claude joined the army and was sent to Camp Meade in Maryland, where he was stricken by influenza. His parents were notified and were at their son’s bedside when he died in 1918 at age 20.

Today, Michael Benedum is remembered not so much for his successful exploits as an oil man but for his generosity. In 1944, he established the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, which remains a major philanthropic organization a half-century later.

Himself mostly self-educated, Benedum underwrote hundreds of college scholarships at dozens of colleges. Though he had been a resident of Pittsburgh for many years, he maintained close ties with his hometown and in 1953 spent $1.5 million to build the handsome Bridgeport Methodist Church. In 1957, he built the Bridgeport Civic Center.

When Benedum died he left half of his fortune, said to total $100 million or more, to family members and the other half to the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. Today, the Pittsburgh-based charity continues his generosity and, honoring his wishes, directs much of its philanthropy to West Virginia.

This Article was written by James E. Casto

Last Revised on September 25, 2012


Mallison, Sam T. The Great Wildcatter. Charleston: Education Foundation, 1953.

Cite This Article

Casto, James E. "Michael L. Benedum." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 25 September 2012. Web. 16 April 2014.

User Comments


ROGER MCINTYRE March 10, 2012 at 03:19 AM

It should be noted that Michael Benedum was not formally educated in business; he started his oil and gas career under the mentorship of the Hornor family of Harrison County. Among many ventures, the Hornors founded the town of Lumberport where Benedum would walk daily to work for cousins James Davis Hornor and James Y. Hornor, as well as cousins James Hood Hornor and Vance L. Hornor. Here he learned the basics and fundamentals of the oil business: exploration, production, and operations. One of the original companies was the Lumberport Gas Company, which was incorporated in 1907, although the first well was drilled by the company in 1894. Lumberport Gas Company still operates today. Other family-owned companies still operating include Lumberport Shinnston Gas and Blacksville Oil and Gas. Did Michael Benedum influence the Hornors as he grew in his job, or did they influence him? Today the companies are guided under the eye of Lorna Hill Howard, widow of James Hornor Hill, and president, CEO, COO, and chairman of the board of the remaining companies. Her son, Roger McIntyre, runs the production companies and is best known for secondary recovery and developing the Marcellus Shale. Roger McIntyre lives on Worthington Drive, named for Benedum’s only son; at the end of the street is Benedum’s former place of residence, a brilliant three-story gold brick home, and across the street is the lavish United Methodist Church constructed by him at a price of $1.5 million. Comment by Roger W. McIntyre II, Bridgeport High School, class of 2012.

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