Jackson County native contender for cabinet

Indianapolis Business Journal

Oil executive Forrest Lucas, who lived as a child for a while in Columbus, is considered a “top contender” to become U.S. Secretary of the Interior when president-elect Donald Trump selects his cabinet, Politico reported Wednesday.

Lucas founded California-based Lucas Oil Products Inc. in 1989 and is a former trucker known in his home state because of the 20-year naming rights deal for Lucas Oil Stadium he made in 2006 for $121.5 million.

The oil man was born at Shady Springs in Jackson County and lived in Brown County and Columbus as a child with his family at various times.

The Secretary of the Interior is in charge of the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

Politico first reported Trump’s interest in Lucas as a candidate for the job in September.

When reached by phone by Indianapolis Business Journal on Wednesday afternoon, Lucas, 74, said he didn’t know if he was on Trump’s short list for the job. He indicated that he would be interested in such a position but that he’s made no commitment.

“It’s a very important position, and you need to have someone in there who knows what they’re doing,” Lucas told IBJ from California.

When asked further about the possibility, after a brief pause, Lucas said his wife told him he wasn’t supposed to be talking about the topic. Lucas said he’s never met Trump before in person.

Politico mentioned several other candidates for the job, including Donald Trump Jr.; Sarah Palin; venture capitalist Robert Grady; former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer; Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin; and Oklahoma oilman Harold Hamm.

Trump is interested in Lucas because he wants a “more business-friendly and business experience-heavy cabinet,” Politico reported, citing a person briefed by the campaign.

Appointing an oil executive as interior secretary is sure to cause controversy, especially with environmentalists, Politico said. Lucas also founded Protect the Harvest, an organization that promotes farming, hunting and ranching, and advocates against many animal-rights groups.

Lucas Oil Products is based in Corona, California, but Lucas stays involved in Indiana.

Lucas, who didn’t go to college, told IBJ a year ago that one of his business philosophies is to “work yourself to death.”

His life was profiled in a film, “American Real: The Forrest Lucas Story,” shown last year at YES Cinema in Columbus.

The 68-minute documentary Lucas’ modest beginnings, including his mother’s work for 65 cents an hour in a sewing factory and the family growing up in poverty.

During the film, Lucas travels back through painful childhood memories, including an alcoholic, absentee father.