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King Kirchner was co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Tulsa-based Unit Corporation from 1963-2001. Following retirement, he continued to serve as a director of Unit Corporation, the fourth largest onshore drilling contractor in the United States. Kirchner grew up in Perry and graduated from Perry High School in 1945. At age sixteen, he began working as a roughneck in the oilfields. Kirchner received his degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Oklahoma State University (1950) and in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Oklahoma. He served in Germany during the Korean Conflict and, between 1954 and 1963, was an engineer and then vice president of the Unit Drilling Division of Woolaroc Oil Company in Bristow, OK. Kirchner and his partner invested $10,000 each, and then borrowed $140,000 to buy three rotary drilling rigs, along with the Unit Drilling name in 1963, thus founding Unit Drilling Company which later became Unit Corporation.

Full Interview Transcript

Production Notes

Interview with King Kirchner

Program Credits:
King Kirchner — Interviewee
John Erling — Interviewer
Mel Myers — Announcer

Honest Media
Mel Myers — Audio Editor

Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Douglas Miller — Art Director
Mark DeMoss — Webmaster
Laura Hyde — Upload Coordinator

Date Created: November 1, 2017

Date Published: January 22, 2019

Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.

Tags: T. Boone Pickens, Will Rogers, Dust Bowl, Ditch Witch, Rationing, Hitler, Franklin Delano, Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Deere, Senator Robert Kerr, R.O.T.C., Oral Roberts, Frank Phillips, Wall Street, Unit Rig

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Cite This Work

Kirchner, King. "King Kirchner: OK Oilman and Unit Corporation Founder" Interview by John Erling. Voices of Oklahoma, November 1, 2017,, Accessed March 26, 2023