1999 Trailblazer Award Recipient: Drayton McLane

1999: Entrepreneur and philanthropist Drayton McLane, Jr., is Chairman and CEO of the Houston Astros Baseball Club. McLane purchased the team in 1993 and enthusiastically remind his staff that, "We have two missions: to be a champion, and to make a positive difference in the community!" He has made a strong commitment to putting a solid, competitive team on the field. The Astros reached the postseason National League Central Division titles in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

His passion for baseball and the Houston Astros franchise is shared by the citizens of Houston. McLane and the Astros are visible civic and community partners. He was inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame. He is leaving an indelible mark on the city of Houston with the construction of Minute Maid Park, which will welcome its first fans in 2000 and is expected to energize downtown Houston.   

Born and raised in Cameron, Texas, McLane earned an undergraduate degree from Baylor University in 1958 and his MBA from Michigan State in 1959 and planned to take a job in the food industry in San Francisco. During one last visit home, he changed his mind and decided to stay and work for his father at McLane Company.

Drayton Jr. expected that with two college degrees, his first job would be in management. His father believed differently though. He believed that despite Drayton Jr.’s education, he would never become an effective leader without earning the respect of all employees. So in 1959, Drayton Jr.’s first job was an entry level job loading trucks on the night shift. Over the next three years, he advanced, holding a variety of warehouse jobs until moving into management as vice president of purchasing.

He advanced to GM of operations, a post that he held for the next 14 years. In 1978, Drayton Jr. was named President and CEO of McLane Company, Inc., a grocery and food service warehouse, supply, and logistics firm, which he grew into an international holding company with 18 divisions before merging the business with Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in 1991. 

He has served as a director of the Greater Houston Partnership and South Texas College of Law trustee. For his service, he has received several of the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honors. McLane has been a trustee and regent of Baylor University and trustee for the Baylor College of Medicine.