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L. "Lowry" Mays '57 September 20, 2022 11:55 AM updated: September 20, 2022 12:04 PM

L. Lowry Mays
July 24, 1935 - September 12, 2022

On September 12, 2022, L. Lowry Mays (87), loving husband, father of four, grandfather of sixteen and great-grandfather of three, passed away peacefully to be reunited with his devoted wife, Peggy.

“Chief”, as he was known to those close to him, was raised in Dallas, Texas where his father, Lester, was killed in a traffic accident when Lowry was only 10 years old. This event prompted the forming of a very close union with his sister, JoAnn, and an even closer relationship with his mother, Ginny, who taught him lessons of strength, initiative, and resourcefulness.

Lowry graduated from Highland Park High School where he was a member of the ROTC. At age 16 and charmed by the thought of becoming a larger-than-life Texas wildcatter, Lowry enrolled in the petroleum engineering program at Texas A&M University where he joined the Corps of Cadets. While in the Corps, he distinguished himself as commander of his squadron that went on to win awards for best drill unit and most outstanding company overall. Lowry credits the Corps for developing the discipline, confidence, wisdom, and leadership skills which characterized him for the rest of his life.

Upon graduating from Texas A&M in 1957, Lowry spent eight months working at Core Laboratories in Midland, Texas, before being called up for duty at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio where he served as a second lieutenant and the base’s petroleum officer.

The following year, he was re-assigned to Taiwan on a military exchange program to build a 250 mile long jet fuel pipeline that connected ports across the entire island. At the young age of 24, Lowry supervised 10,000 laborers digging the pipeline by hand and reported to the chief of the Chinese Nationalist Air Force. A few months prior to arriving in Taiwan, Lowry met Peggy Pitman, a lifelong resident of San Antonio and daughter of Benjamin Franklin Pitman Jr. and Bonnie Gunstream. They married on July 31, 1959, while Lowry was on a special 10 day leave, and moved to Taiwan 2 days later. Peggy once recalled “when we are together, things just make sense - we have developed an uncommon bond.”

After completing his military service, Lowry enrolled at the Harvard Business School with hopes of pursuing a career in the oil industry. However, after graduation, his career took an unexpected twist when he began working for Russ and Company, a San Antonio investment banking firm.

Lowry always believed that successful people were not afraid to strike out into unfamiliar territory even when their ultimate destinations were unknown. With this innate comfort level with risk, Lowry started his own investment banking company in 1970. Two years later, several former clients approached Lowry to invest in a FM radio station (a form of radio broadcast that could not even be received in most automobiles at the time). His guaranty of a note to fund the purchase of this station ultimately lead to his unintentional ownership of what is now known as “KJ 97” in San Antonio and earned him the moniker “The Accidental Broadcaster” from Forbes Magazine. In 1975, he teamed with Red McCombs to purchase a second San Antonio station, WOAI, which was considered a "clear channel” because no other station nationwide could operate on its frequency. WOAI’s 50,000-watt signal could be heard hundreds or even thousands of miles away on a clear night.

Lowry was a pioneer in the broadcasting industry. Anticipating the future direction of radio industry ownership, he spent over a decade working on the deregulation of radio ownership rules which occurred when Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Building a solid foundation during that time and becoming a student of the broadcasting industry, Lowry capitalized on the opportunities deregulation offered. He started with one small radio station in San Antonio and developed it into Clear Channel Communications that would eventually own and operate over 1,200 radio stations, numerous television stations, the largest outdoor advertising company in the world and start what is now Live Nation Entertainment.

At its peak, Clear Channel Communications managed 55,000 employees in 84 countries with over $9 billion in revenue and was the best performing stock on the New York Stock Exchange for a decade. Lowry had an amazing work ethic but also knew that life was precious and meant to be enjoyed. One of his most-enduring sayings was “if it ain’t fun, don’t do it.”

Among Lowry’s most admirable qualities was the humbleness with which he approached life. He truly felt that no person is better than any other person, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Lowry always had time for you and could make you feel like you were the most important person in the room and the center of his attention.

He also believed that successful people must serve their communities and give some of their resources to help those in need. Lowry served in countless volunteer roles throughout his career including leading the Bexar County United Way and San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Not only was Lowry generous with his time, but he was also extremely unselfish with the money he made, and he devoted most of his resources to helping others.

One of his proudest legacies is the Mays Family Foundation which he created with Peggy in 1994. Since its inception, the Mays Family Foundation has made thousands of grants totaling hundreds of millions of dollars to local charities. Lowry and Peggy were both deeply committed to the fight against cancer and were proud to have helped build the Lowry and Peggy Mays Clinic at MD Anderson in Houston as well as the Mays Cancer Center at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson.

Another beneficiary of Lowry’s generosity was Texas A&M University for the positive influence that it had on him during his formative years. Lowry was passionate about being an Aggie and served on Texas A&M’s Board of Regents twice and once as Chairman. In 2010, Lowry received the Sterling C. Evans Medal which recognizes individuals who make outstanding contributions to the reputation and strength of Texas A&M University and the Aggie community. In recognition of his lifetime of service and support, the business school at Texas A&M bears his name -- the Mays Business School.

Lowry loved the outdoors. Whether it was on safaris in Africa, wing-shooting adventures in South America or fly-fishing expeditions in Alaska, Lowry loved spending time in nature with his wife, kids and grandkids. He especially enjoyed spending time on the ranch near Spring Branch, Texas where, on most weekends, you could find him and Peggy driving the old Willy’s jeep amongst herds of zebras, kudus, oryx and other exotic species. Nothing was more satisfying than feeding Saltine crackers to his pet bongos who Peggy named Big Boy, Amazing and Belle. The ranch was not only a preserve for animals to roam free, but also a sanctuary where his kids and grandkids could congregate and celebrate life and family.

Lowry’s death was preceded by the deaths of his beloved wife of 61 years, Peggy Pitman Mays, his parents, Virginia and Lester Mays, his stepfather, Ralph Maddox, and his sister, JoAnn Mays Roth. He is survived by his daughters Kathryn Mays Johnson and her husband, Bill, and Linda Mays McCaul and her husband, Michael, and his sons Mark Mays and his wife, Patricia, and Randall Mays as well as 16 wonderful grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.

A private memorial service for family was on Saturday, September 17, 2022. Those who wish to watch the recording of his service can do so by going to Lowry's obituary at www.porterloring.com

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations be sent to the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840. Please designate gifts “In Memory of Mr. Lowry Mays ‘57” in the memo line of the check.

 



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