Mr. Pickens’s five marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by four children from his first marriage, to Lynn O’Brien: Deborah Pickens Stovall, Pam Pickens Grace and Michael and Tom Pickens; another daughter, Liz Pickens Cordia; 11 grandchildren, and a number of great-grandchildren.
Late in life, Mr. Pickens gained renown as a philanthropist, giving away almost $1 billion to charity, with half going to his alma mater, Oklahoma State University.
But even his philanthropy stirred controversy. According to The Times, a $165 million gift to Oklahoma State University on Dec. 30, 2005, “spent less than an hour on December 30 in the account of the university’s charity, O.S. Cowboy Golf Inc., before it was invested in a hedge fund controlled by Mr. Pickens, BP Capital Management.”
The university had previously placed $277 million in the fund, though Mr. Pickens asserted that he had waived any management fees for the university’s investments.
Mr. Pickens maintained that embarrassment had never deterred his multiple attempts to recast his image. “I have always believed that it’s important to show a new look periodically,” he told Forbes in 1994. “Predictability can lead to failure.”
Despite his boundless energy well into later years, toward the end of his life, after a series of strokes, he became more accepting of his mortality, writing on the job-networking website LinkedIn in July 2017:
“Just a year ago I felt immortal, wearing my age with pride, even joking about it. Last year I opened a speech with this: ‘The other day I turned 88 and realized my life was half over.’ I refused to call my 2008 autobiography ‘Life in the Fourth Quarter’ because, well, hell, I wasn’t in the fourth quarter. But things have changed for me since the strokes. I clearly am in the fourth quarter, and the clock is ticking.”
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