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An American Story

by Jay Nordlinger

The rise of Harold Hamm, Algeresque oilman

Oklahoma City, Okla. — Harold Hamm is a major oilman, the biggest in the United States. He’s also a significant contributor to our national debate over energy policy. But beyond those things, he’s an amazing story. Horatio Alger would blush to include him in one of his novels. Hamm was born the 13th and last child of sharecroppers in Oklahoma. Today, according to Forbes magazine, he’s the 90th-richest person in the world. (Remember, there are more than 7 billion of us.) Even foes of oil, and of capitalism generally, must smile a little, if only inwardly.

Hamm is the chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, a company that evolved from one he started in 1967. Continental is now in 20 states, and on the New York Stock Exchange. Hamm is an Oklahoman through and through, and his company is based here in Oklahoma City. Yet he is probably best known as the major player in North Dakota — a state that has experienced an oil boom for the last few years. With Montana and a couple of Canadian provinces, North Dakota is home to the Bakken formation, a fount of oil. In a conversation with me, Hamm says that a particular section of the Bakken “turned out to be a very, very nice field.”

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