Colonel Edwin L. Drake Legendary Oilman Award

“Honoring a lifetime of achievement within the oil and gas industry”

Willard M. “Bill” Cline

Willard M. “Bill” Cline

Willard M. “Bill” Cline: is a native of Bradford, Pennsylvania, and has been an oil producer in the Bradford Field since 1946. A member of the class of 1943 at Bradford High School, Bill’s career in the oil business was interrupted in March of the next year when he was drafted to serve in World War II. He chose the U.S. Navy and served until April 1946 in the Pacific Theater aboard the USS Hamul—a destroyer tender, eventually achieving the rank of Boatswains Mate 2nd class. He was honorably discharged at the end of the war and described by his superiors as “a natural leader”.

After the war, Bill returned to Bradford and worked for a short time for the bank that held receivership of the oil properties his father had lost while he was at sea. To keep his dream of having his own company afloat, Bill also serviced and plugged wells as a contractor and sold pipe from the wells he plugged. He was eventually able to reach an agreement with the bank and gained ownership of his first 22 wells in McKean County. He then successfully drilled many oil wells on “town lots” in the city of Bradford in the 1950s through the 1980s. In the 1960s and ‘70s he acquired and operated numerous properties previously owned by South Penn Oil Company—a Pennzoil predecessor.

Bill operated for 60+ years as “Willard M. Cline, Sole Proprietor”. But in 2013, at the age of 87, he finally relented and incorporated, assuming the position of president of Cline Oil, Inc. He has two sons, Willard L. and Mark, Sr., who are employed by Cline Oil and have worked with their dad since they were young boys. His wife, Joyce, came on board fulltime in the 1980s when bookkeeping became complicated due the imposition of the Windfall Profits Tax. A grandson, Mark Jr., joined the family business in 2006. Today the company has ten fulltime employs.

From the oil price lows in the early years and the mid-1980s and 1990s to the high prices in 2008 through today, Bill’s life work has always been to fight for the survival of the small “mom and pop” oil producers, like himself, against government over-regulation. He organized producers in the Bradford area when the city attempted to ban drilling and severely restrict oil producing activities within the city limits and was able to influence the much more acceptable laws that were eventually enacted. He served as president of Bradford District Pennsylvania Oil Producers Association and remained an active board member of its successor organization, Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Association (POGAM), until the 1980’s when he was asked to serve on the board of directors of the newly-formed Pennsylvania Independent Petroleum Producers Association (PIPP).

PIPP was formed as a result of the Oil and Gas Act of 1984 which caught most small producer’s off-guard, imposing unaffordable and unreasonable regulations, brought on by the influx of “outsiders” who came to the Bradford Field during that decade’s oil boom. PIPP has been successful in reducing many of the burdens imposed on small producers and Bill has been a leader in that group for nearly 30 years now. He is a respected voice among his peers within the industry and a voice to be reckoned with among those in state government that write and enforce the laws and regulations. He is also the “go-to” man of experience among his fellow producers whenever they need an expert to help solve a problem they are having “down-hole”.

Also of note, Bill—

  • Was a charter member in 1974 of Pennsylvania Oil and Gas, the successor to Northwestern Oil Producers Association and Bradford District Pennsylvania Oil Producers Association;
  • Served as chairman of the Bradford City Planning Commission for many years;
  • Organized the Fifth Ward Taxpayers Association which successfully changed the final plans for the Route 219 bypass through the city of Bradford, saving the home where he had lived most of his life;
  • Was instrumental in forming the Petroleum Production Training Class at Bradford Area High School in the 1970s, also serving on the committee that wrote the curriculum for the course;
  • Was awarded an “Administrator’s Award for Excellence” from the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2005;
  • Received a commendation in 2008 from the Bradford City Fire Department for the many years he helped the department whenever and however needed;
  • Was recognized by PIPP in 2012, along with his wife, Joyce, for their “dedicated service to small independent oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania”;
  • Long-time member of Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and the National Stripper Well Association.