Sam Rice Bethea

Published 1:16 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sam Rice Bethea, 91, of Baytown, Texas, died at his home on Aug. 31, 2010, with his family at his side.

He was born on Sept. 14, 1918, at his parents’ home in Faunsdale. His family soon moved to Tulsa, Okla., where he lived until his high school graduation. He was the son of Henry Croom Bethea and Mary Chadwick Vaiden Bethea. He graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1935, and then continued his education at Rice Institute (now Rice University).

At Rice, he majored in chemical engineering and served on the Honor Council. He received a bachelor of science degree in 1939 and a master of science degree in 1941. His honor achievements included Sigma Xi and Phi Lambda Upsilon. As a Rice alumnus, he was a member of Rice Associates and the Rice Alumni Association.

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He started working at Humble Oil in September 1941 and retired from Exxon in December 1982, with more than 41 years of service. At his retirement, he was a senior research associate and directed the Exxon Research and Engineering’s Baytown Specialties Project. As a chemical engineer, he was a member for more than 50 years of the American Chemical Society and a member of Exxon’s Worldwide Planning Group for Lube and Specialties Research.

He was preceded in death by his parents and his granddaughter, Leeah Bethea McCulloch.

Survivors include his wife of 68 years, Frances Flanagan Bethea, of Baytown; three daughters, Mary Virginia Bethea (Dan) Zehr of Raleigh, N.C., Frances Bethea (Richard) Day of Tyler, Texas, and Joyce Bethea (Micky) McCulloch of Dallas, Texas; two sons, Henry Lawrence (Louise) Bethea of The Woodlands, Texas, and Sam Rice (Frances) Bethea III of Kountze, Texas; his sister, Reba Dodd of Kerrville, Texas; 10 grandchildren, Robert Zehr, Peter Zehr, Jeremy Zehr, Jonathan Zehr, Mary Frances Bethea, Sam Rice Bethea, Sarah Bethea, Kevin Day, Tracy Day and Caroline McCulloch; and three great-grandchildren, Tristan, Evan and Kaitlyn Zehr.

A celebration of life will be held on Sunday, Sept. 5, at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Baytown with the Rev. Gena Davis officiating. Burial will be at a later date at St. Michael’s Holy Cross Episcopal Church in Uniontown, Ala. Crespo and Jirrels Funeral and Cremation Services of Baytown is directing the services. To view the obituary or post a tribute to the family, visit the Web site

Memorial donations may be made to: St. Michael;s Holy Cross Episcopal Church, c/o Mrs. Shep Sims, 515 County Road 54, Faunsdale, AL 36738; Rice University, Class of 1939 Scholarship Fund, MS 80, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892; or  a charity of your choice.