Gregory left record of service

Oil Show honoree ‘one of the quiet guys’ who worked for community as well as industry

Like many oilfield entrepreneurs, Truman Laro “Woody” Gregory started with little and became successful with ingenuity and hard work.

Gregory was named the Permian Basin International Oil Show’s 2020 honoree last year, but he died Nov. 6 at age 87 after the pandemic had forced the show’s postponement.

Now the Wichita Falls native is being recognized during the Oct. 19-21 exhibition not only for co-founding and making a big success of Gregory Rig Service, which had three locations and 200 employees, but also for community service.

“Dad was a friend to a lot of people around here,” said his son Don, president of Metal Fab Products. “He was one of (Oil Show President) Tommy Pipes’ mentors and he did that for a lot of people.

“He was always there to help somebody. Like me, he was a pretty quiet guy. He didn’t brag or put himself out there. He was one of the quiet guys that you see a lot in the oilfield.” A winner of the Heritage Foundation of Odessa’s Award for Excellence in Community Service for Business, Woody was president of the Oil Show in 1986 and served on the Odessa Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee and the boards of the PBIOS, the Odessa Country Club, the Petroleum Museum, the Bank of the West and the Ector County Utility District.

Asked how he got his nickname, his son said he disliked “Truman” and was having people call him “Laro,” which his 4-year-old sister couldn’t pronounce. “She was saying ‘Rody,’ a family friend called him ‘Woody’ and it stuck,” Don said.

“Dad felt like this town had done a great deal for him and he needed to give some of that back. He and my Uncle Don moved here in late 1960 or early ‘61 with their cars and tools and that was about it. We sold Gregory Rig Service in 1998 to National Oilwell Varco.”

Gregory said his father “was a smart guy who would have made a great engineer, but he never had the opportunity to go to college.

“He was very mechanical coming out of high school.”

Woody volunteered for four years in the Air Force and was a technical instructor at his hometown Sheppard Air Force Base and a crew chief, teaching aircraft mechanics, in Japan. He worked for Wilson Manufacturing in Houston before coming to Odessa.

In a statement for this year’s show, the PBIOS said Gregory “was a gentleman, a friend and an icon for the energy industry in the Permian Basin.”

Show Executive Director Tony Fry knew him for 44 years and confirmed that the man was of a quiet demeanor, although not shy about business.

“In 1986, when he was president, our business activities were pretty slim,” Fry said. “When Woody said something at a board meeting, you’d better take him seriously because he was worth listening to.

“He had dry sense of humor that took me a while to get used to. He’d challenge me and I finally figured out that he just wanted to make sure I had thought all the angles through.”

Don Gregory said he and Bro Hill, who’d been the 1996 PBIOS president, “went to his house to tell him who the 2020 honoree was and he asked, ‘Who is it?’

“We said, ‘It’s you,’” Don said. “And he said, ‘No, that can’t be!’ He kept trying to tell us to give it to somebody else. It was one of the biggest honors he had ever gotten and he was very grateful.”