George P. Mitchell, The Visionary Behind The Woodlands
A good teacher in a good book once said, ‘He who has seen the Son, has seen the Father.’ As we commemorate the third year anniversary of George P. Mitchell’s passing this coming July 26, we would do well to take a look at his blessed life, starting from his father.
Savvas Paraskevopoulos hailed from the community known as Nestani in the Peloponnesian region of Arcadia. At a young and ambitious age, he chose to join the huge waves of immigrants moving to the United States at the dawn of the 20th century. From goat-herding in his native land of Greece, he found himself working for a railroad company.
His name may have sounded perfectly normal to him, but the man in charge of his wages certainly did not appreciate how long his name was. So, under threat of losing his job, Savvas Paraskevopoulos took the name of his paymaster as his own, and from then on out, became known as Mike Mitchell.
The Greek Mike Mitchell eventually chose to settle in Galveston, Texas, where he started shops for pressing and shining shoes. He took quite a gamble when it came to finding the lady who would eventually become his wife. He took the risk of going all the way to Florida to find her, only to find out she was engaged. Nevertheless, he persisted, and it didn’t take long before they got married. On May 21, 1919, George Phydias Mitchell was born.
One could easily imagine how George was such a bright person, even at his early days. Though he faced tragedy at the age of 13 in the form of his mother’s death, he persevered, finishing secondary school at 16. At the time, he was considered too young to go to college… but George never thought of slacking off. He went to another high school for one more school year and further enhanced his proficiency in mathematics.
George P. Mitchell eventually came out as the top of his class, graduating with a degree in petroleum engineering from Texas A&M University. He began gaining experience from working in oil fields for private firms, and having a hand in construction projects during his time with the Army Corps of Engineers. He eventually began an oil company of his own with his brother and other partners.
One day a shady character walked into the doors of the Mitchell brothers’ office. This bookie from Chicago offered them land just north of Fort Worth, which had an equally risky reputation, being called a ‘wildcatter’s graveyard.’ There was all the reason for any average investor to laugh and refuse, but it could be said that the adventurous and daring attitude which ran in the family caused George and his brother to make something out of this land… and the rest, as they say, is history.
The wells they built in the area they invested in were a definite success, and after a good period of time, George P. Mitchell was looking at having holdings over a vast 300,000 acres of land, hitting gas and oil from approximately 1 in 3 of the thousands of wells they drilled. George was eventually blessed enough to afford to diversify, and it was in the 1960’s when he began to invest in real estate, on a very large scale. He bought more than 60,000 acres of land close to the Houston area.
A little less than half of this vast amount of real estate was dedicated to a master-planned community, which would eventually be known as The Woodlands. The positive development of The Woodlands since its birth in the mid-1970’s has never stopped… Today, this strong neighborhood is home to approximately 100,000 people, and this number is expected to grow even higher in the coming years. It is truly a community established with the meticulous and thoughtful plans of a true master – in this case, the master was George P. Mitchell.
In an article on George P. Mitchell in The Economist, it is stated that “few businesspeople have done as much to change the world as George Mitchell.”
The stories of Savvas Paraskevopoulos and his son can continue to serve as an inspiration for all of us to take on the adventures life has to offer, without fear and with the hope to change communities, states, and literal nations.