Houston philanthropist Lester Smith dies at 76

By Aaron Barker - Senior Digital Editor

Houston philanthropist Lester Smith died Thursday at 76 years old.

According to a statement from the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation, the Wharton native and second-generation Texas oilman died peacefully at his home.

Following in his father's footsteps, he became a tremendously successful wildcatter -- someone who drills wells and is not usually known to be in the oil fields. 

In 1986, at the age of 44, Smith started his own oil and gas company and it is still going strong today. 

The legendary oilman learned early on the importance of giving and he did it in a big way. 

"My daddy taught me when I was a young child that we all have three things we can give away -- our time, our talent and our resources," Smith said.

Smith appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in October 2011 to talk about the Lester and Sue Smith Foundation's gift of $1 million to small cancer charities across the country. 

He and his wife whom he married in 1995 first established the foundation to help fund medical research after Smith was diagnosed with bladder and prostate cancer.   

Throughout the years, the Smith's have reportedly donated $100 million to the various institutions that make up the Texas Medical Center. 

PHOTOS: Lester Smith through the years

Numerous facilities there bear their name including the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine, and the Lester and Sue Smith Clinic at Texas Children's Cancer Center. 

They've given bicycles to area school children as part of HISD's Bikes for Excellence Program.

Last June, the Smith's donated $15 million to Holocaust Museum Houston to help with expansion plans. 

In honor of their gift, the new building will be named Holocaust Museum Houston, Lester and Sue Smith Campus.

"His core philosophy, 'to whom much is given, much is expected,' drove his life-long passion for giving, touching millions of lives, leaving an indelible mark on our city and world," the statement from the foundation read.

Smith had an ongoing battle with cancer and received a double lung transplant in 2016.

He is survived by his wife, Sue Smith, two children and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service has been scheduled for noon Monday at the Sanctuary of Congregation Beth Israel at 5600 North Braeswood Blvd.

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