The McLane Name
The McLane College of Business is named for the family of Elizabeth and Drayton McLane Jr., who are well known for their successful businesses, commitment to community organizations, and generous philanthropic activities. The McLane family’s success is based on their commitment to high standards, innovation, and customer service. Their dedication to strong Christian values, handed down from generation to generation, is reflected in the honesty and integrity that are the hallmarks of the family’s businesses.
The family story begins in the early 1890s when Drayton’s grandfather Robert McLane was the oldest of seven children on a cotton farm in Abbeville, South Carolina. Times were hard, so Robert decided to strike out on his own. He moved to Central Texas and went to work on a farm near Cameron, a town of about 5,000 people.
Around 1894, Robert moved from the farm into Cameron and opened a wholesale grocery. Because transportation in Central Texas was limited to slow trips on dirt roads, he also opened distribution centers in Rockdale, Caldwell, and Rosebud. As roads and transportation modes developed and improved, he closed those other centers and operated only out of Cameron. This was the beginning of McLane Company, Inc.
When Robert’s son, Drayton Sr., graduated from college in 1921, he joined the growing family business where he worked for more than 60 years. Under his watch, the company grew into a large grocery distribution network that served small town grocery stores in a fifty-mile radius of Cameron, Texas.
When Drayton Sr.’s young son, Drayton Jr., turned nine years old, he began spending his Saturdays and summers working at the McLane Company warehouse, stacking inventory and sweeping floors. During his teenage years, he worked in many other areas of the business. Though Drayton Jr. was somewhat shy as a boy, he later looked back at these early experiences as times when he learned how to work with people, how to observe people, and the many benefits of being disciplined.
Drayton Jr. officially joined the family business after earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Baylor University and a master’s degree in business administration from Michigan State University. In the early years, Drayton Jr. assisted his father in broadening their grocery distribution network to include convenience stores and fast food stores as well. He urged his father to utilize computer technology (then in its infancy) to streamline their supply chain operations. As a result, the company was one of the first to computerize its distribution system, a key move in McLane Company’s success.
Drayton Jr. became president and CEO of McLane Company in 1964 and held this position until 1994. During his tenure, he moved the company from Cameron to Temple to take advantage of the central location for distribution. Over the years, eighteen distribution centers were built around the United States.
It was during these years that Drayton met and fell in love with Elizabeth Cockrell. A native of Salado, Texas, Elizabeth graduated from Salado High School, attended Temple College, and worked for Scott & White Hospital. Elizabeth and Drayton were married on February 2, 1972, and decided to make their home in Temple, Texas. Their family grew with the birth of their sons, Drayton III (1974) and Denton (1977). Both boys began working summers in the company warehouses at the age of nine. Denton and Drayton III both are graduates of Baylor University, and as is the family policy, both worked five years with other companies prior to returning to work in the family business. And when they, in turn, fell in love and married, their wives (both named Amy) and eventually 5 grandsons (Drayton IV, Brooks, Walker, Jeff, and Jake) were added to the family circle. Today both Denton and Drayton III have several companies they are each responsible for as well as being active in civic activities.
Through the years, McLane Company accomplished average sales growth of 30% or more annually for over thirty years and became one of the largest distributors in the world. In 1991, the McLane family and McLane Company shareholders sold the company to Sam Walton and Walmart. Drayton Jr. remained president/CEO of McLane Company and served as vice chairman of Walmart.
Ready for a new challenge, Drayton and Elizabeth purchased the Houston Astros baseball club in 1993. Under Drayton’s leadership, the Astros won five division titles, played in the team’s first World Series, and built a new stadium. One of the first retractable-roof ballparks in the country, Minute Maid Park breathed new life into the downtown of Houston and brought fresh vitality into its surrounding neighborhoods.
The McLane family sold the Astros in 2011, and today Drayton McLane Jr. spends much of his time serving as the chairman of the McLane Group. He also is chairman of Texas Central Partners, a group seeking to build a privately funded, high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas.
Drayton McLane Jr. has always devoted a great deal of time to charitable concerns. He has provided support and leadership for a wide range of community groups and non-profit organizations in Central Texas and the Houston area, most notably his many years of service on the Baylor University Board of Trustees for thirty years, serving as chairman of the board two of those years, and serving on the executive board of the Boy Scouts of America. Drayton also served on the board of Scott & White Health Systems for over thirty years and was chairman fourteen of those years. He led the charge to merge Scott & White with Baylor Healthcare of Dallas, to form Baylor Scott & White Health, and he served as chairman of that board for the first two years after the merger.
Drayton and Elizabeth are major benefactors for Baylor Scott & White Health, which named its new children’s medical center in their honor in 2011. They are also generous supporters of both Baylor University, where the McLane Student Life Center, the McLane carillons, and McLane Stadium are named in their honor, and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (UMHB), where the College of Business, a men’s residence hall, and the great hall of the student union are named in their honor. The McLanes made the largest gift in the history of UMHB in 2012 to assist with the construction of Crusader Stadium. They are longtime sponsors of the McLane Lectures at UMHB, bringing to campus such notables as former President George H.W. Bush, former first lady Barbara Bush, and former president George W. Bush, as well as a fascinating array of business, sports, and military leaders who have made an impact on our world.
The McLane name is synonymous with a strong commitment to honesty, integrity, and high Christian principles. Today Drayton and Elizabeth’s sons carry on these family traditions. Drayton McLane III serves on the board of the McLane Group and is chairman of McLane Classic Foods and Sports in Action. Denton McLane also serves on the board of the McLane Group and is chairman of McLane Global, a global food logistics company.
Page last updated October 27, 2020