James Thaydas (J.T.) Rollins, Ed.D., P.E., aged 95, died on December 27, 2019, in Sulphur Springs, Texas, where he had lived for the past two years. Dr. Rollins was born on November 4, 1924, in Corsicana, Texas, to James L. and Mae B. Rollins. He grew up in the oil company camps of the East Texas Field, along with his younger brother Vichael G. Rollins and cousin Shirley Harris.
After graduating from Gaston High School in 1942, he attended Texas A&M University where he served as executive officer of the 2nd Battalion of cavalry and as a member of the Ross Volunteers. He graduated in 1946 with degrees in mechanical engineering and management engineering. He went on to earn his doctorate in educational administration from Texas Tech in 1984. He was a member of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and was a Registered Professional Engineer in Texas for 66 years.
He and Winnifred Merrill of Pilot Point, Texas, were married on December 26, 1946, at her parents’ home. They lived for more than 30 years in the Permian Basin area of West Texas, mostly in Monahans, where he worked as a petroleum engineer for various big companies and later owned several well service companies. He was honored as a Permian Basin Pioneer for his contributions prior to 1955, and he held several U.S. patents for inventions in drilling and production.
After retiring from the oil field, he became a math teacher in Monahans, then a professor of petroleum engineering first at Texas Tech University and later at Texas A&M University. While at A&M, he was the faculty liaison overseeing construction of the new Joe C. Richardson Petroleum Engineering Building. His own hard hat and steel-toed boots were incorporated into the life-size bronze statue named The Roughneck adjacent to the building. He also led a team of petroleum engineering students in drilling the Aggie Well No. 1 that is still pumping and still used in drilling and pressure transient analysis courses. He was instrumental in attracting large donations of money and equipment to support students, fund research programs, and endow academic chairs. He retired from A&M in 1990 and was subsequently named Professor Emeritus in 1992.
After Winnifred’s death, he married Kathleen Gray of Tyler, Texas, in 1994. They lived in Tyler and in Henderson, Texas, until her death in 2008.
Dr. Rollins is survived by his four children James (Linda) Rollins, John (Rebecca) Rollins, Ellen (Glen) Russell, and Joel (Denise) Rollins, 10 grandchildren, 7 great-grandchildren, cousin Shirley Cox and her daughters, and nephew James R. Rollins and his family.