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CHICAGO -- John E. Swearingen, a former president of Standard Oil, also known as Amoco, passed away late last week at 89, The New York Times reported. Swearingen, an advocate for the industry during the 1970s energy crisis, died in Birmingham, Ala., but resided here, the report stated.
Swearingen's death was confirmed by John Bryan, a friend and former chief executive of Sara Lee, the report stated.
For 20 years, Swearingen led Standard Oil of Indiana, a Midwest energy conglomerate founded after the government broke up the Rockefeller oil trust. When Swearingen took the reigns at 41 in 1960, Standard Oil suffered from low oil and gas reserves, the newspaper reported.
"In many respects," Swearingen said in an interview at the time, "this is a second-rate company."
By aggressively expanding fuel exploration through the lease of offshore drilling rights in the United States, Africa and the Middle East, the company grew. And to cut costs, Swearingen installed labor-saving technology in its refineries, consolidated 26 regional offices into eight and cut its workforce by thousands, according to the report.
Swearingen also pursued ventures through subsidiaries like roadside restaurants and car insurance, the report stated.
Success found Standard Oil, and by 1980, the total value of its company’s stock was exceeded by only five other companies -- Exxon, I.B.M., General Motors, General Electric and Eastman Kodak, the Times reported.
"He took this ragtag group of oil companies and built them into a major American oil company," Bryan told the paper.
Swearingen retired from Standard Oil in 1983. Later, the company, which became widely known as Amoco, merged with British Petroleum in late 1998 to form the successor company, BP Amoco, which acquired ARCO in 2000, the report stated.
Swearingen gained the status of a household name in the '70s, when the nation was suffering from fuel shortages, and he led the American Petroleum Institute (API), which opposed the implementation of federal regulations on gasoline production and costs, the report stated.
Then, when President Carter supported energy legislation, including windfall profits tax on oil companies, Swearingen launched a campaign, appearing on television programs and news conferences to defend oil companies, the report stated. At one such appearance, he criticized the president's plans, telling reporters, "I think we have a bunch of amateurs running the government."
Swearingen was born Sept. 7, 1918, in Columbia, S.C. He attended the University of South Carolina at 16, graduated in 1938 and earned a master's degree at the Carnegie Institute of Technology the following year, the newspaper reported.
Swearingen is survived by his wife; two daughters from a previous marriage, Marcia Pfleeger and Linda Arnold; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.