Oil and gas and real estate developer Don Slawson dies of Alzheimer’s complications

WICHITA — Longtime Wichita businessman Don Slawson has died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

“My father passed away early this morning,” says Todd Slawson, the youngest of three Slawson sons and Denver-based president of his family’s oil company.

Mr. Slawson was a fixture in the Wichita business community for decades.

“He was very much an entrepreneur,” says Jerry Jones, a commercial broker at Slawson Cos.

“He had a very strong passion for business,” Todd Slawson says.

After graduating from the University of Kansas with a political science degree and a minor in geology, Mr. Slawson worked briefly for a drilling company before starting his own oil and gas business in 1957.

“His love … initially was oil and gas,” Todd Slawson says. “He was one of the most active drillers in the state of Kansas for many years.”

Then, in the 1970s, Mr. Slawson began buying land in Wichita.

“As he would tell it, he saw … that he wanted to diversify his business,” Jones says.

Todd Slawson says his father invested in real estate only in Wichita and that real estate became his passion. One of Mr. Slawson’s first real estate deals was to partner with the Ritchie family to develop Tallgrass on the east side of Wichita. He later purchased it from the Ritchies.

Jones said Mr. Slawson would pick strategic properties to buy around the city.

“He would just kind of figure out if the town expanded, this is where it would grow,” Todd Slawson says.

“The term for that that he would use is the ‘path of growth,’” Jones says.

“We still have a lot of work to do to develop those in a way that he would want,” Jones says. “In a way that would further the community – better the community. … With Don, it wasn’t just about the bottom line economically.”

Mr. Slawson was on a number of boards through the years, including at Intrust Bank and Cessna Aircraft Co. He was also on the Kansas Board of Regents.

“He had such a love for his community,” Todd Slawson says. “It showed through a lot of things that he did. … When I say community, he was involved.”

Mr. Slawson is survived by his wife, Judy, and sons Craig and Steve in addition to Todd Slawson.

Look for more information on Mr. Slawson’s life and businesses later today.