Black Financier Says Oil Giant ConocoPhillips Ignored His Ancestor’s Claim to Land They Purchased In 1889, Robbing Them of ‘Riches from Oil-Soaked Land’; Files $900M Lawsuit

A Black financier filed a $900 million lawsuit against the oil company ConocoPhillips. Kneeland Youngblood claims that the oil company profited by ignoring his family’s claim to the land bought by his ancestors in 1889.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the 67-year-old filed the lawsuit on behalf of the descendants of his ancestors for royalty payouts against the white family who claim they are the owners of the Eagle Ford shale ranch land in Karnes County, Texas.

Youngblood is a Princeton graduate and the founding partner of Pharos Capital Group, an investment firm with over $1 billion of assets under management.

Kneeland Youngblood
Co-founder of the private equity firm Pharos Capital Group Kneeland Youngblood. (Photo: Pharos Capital Group screenshot /

Youngblood told the outlet that his great-great-grandfather, Louis Eckford, bought the ranch land after he and his wife Eliza were freed from slavery. After Eckford died in 1896, half of the 147.5-acre tract of land was left to his wife, and the other half passed on to his nine children.

When Eliza passed away, a white money lender from a nearby ranch, Fritz Korth, secured a deed trust on the land as payment for a $300 loan Eliza had taken from Korth before her death. After none of her children claimed the land following her passing, the land passed to the Korths, who now claim that the Eckford children’s shares were also bought by Korth. Korth paid $735.50 for part-ownership of the land in 1939.

In 2008, ConocoPhillips signed a lease with the Korths as well as some of the Eckford descendants and began drilling for oil on the land. There are at least 200 descendants of the Eckford family. It was at this time that the Korth family claimed they owned the land outright, and ConocoPhillips sided with them out of convenience, WSJ reports.

However, a Texas jury confirmed over the summer that the Eckford family co-owns the land, and Youngblood decided to sue to ensure his family receives the oil royalty payouts that they deserve.

“If it goes to a verdict, I think we can get a lot more,” said the former emergency room doctor. “This is about legacy. We’re not here to relitigate the Civil War. Regardless of the judgment, it’s not going to change my life. But for many of my relatives, it could be transformative.”

Korth’s great-grandson Chico Korth claims that because his family paid taxes on the land and their name is on the deed, the land belongs to his family.

“It seems very straightforward that if you pay taxes, and you’re operating the land and you have a deed that stipulates that you are the owner of the land, then it’s yours.”

Youngblood who left his career as a practicing physician to launch his investment firm in 1998 and is a member of President Biden’s Intelligence Advisory Board — says winning the lawsuit would honor the achievements of his ancestors after being freed from slavery.

Youngblood is seeking $900 million in damages, unpaid royalties as well as punitive damages.

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