Remembering Charlie Milam

by Patrick Flanagan

Charlie Milam was a trailblazing businessman with a nose for making companies profitable; he also knew the value of having a good time. Milam died early Monday morning; he would have turned 85 in July.

Charles R. Milam
(July 27, 1930 - April 13, 2015)

Charlie Milam was a trailblazing businessman with a nose for making companies profitable; he also knew the value of having a good time. Milam died early Monday morning; he would have turned 85 in July.

Milam was also a humble man, leaving instructions that his obituary not be filled up with a long list of accolades and achievements, just this farewell:

To all my relatives, I will miss you dearly. God has been extremely good to me during my lifetime for which I thank Him very much. You all know my life story, so I won’t bore you with two or three pages of things that is of no interest to most people. It has been a wonderful life and I leave behind a beautiful family.

But according to those who knew Charlie Milam, all those accolades and accomplishments missing from his obituary are indeed a story worth telling.

“Charlie will be remembered by all for his full love of life and devotion to family," recalls local attorney Richard Broussard, a longtime friend of Milam's."Truly a larger than life guy who generously shared his great humor and fortune with all of us who were blessed to know him. Our hearts are with Vicki and his family.”

Milam was born in New Roads in 1930, but it was the Hub City where he'd make his home, first arriving in 1947 to attend what at the time was SLI (now UL Lafayette), where he graduated with a degree in business administration in 1951. But the world of business would have to wait as Milam joined the service and headed overseas to Japan with the U.S. Army during the Korean War.

Two years later, Milam returned home. After brief stints working for the Ethyl Corporation and a small Lafayette-based oilfield services company, Milam set off on his own, starting his first company, Reamco Inc., in 1963. Ten years later, Milam sold Reamco, making enough of a profit to allow for an early retirement. It wouldn't last long before Milam was back at it, starting his next venture into the oil and gas business in 1977 with the founding of Petro-Drive — a company that would find great success through its patented Pile Driving Rig. And it wouldn't stop there as Milam would help launch a handful of other business ventures throughout the '80s, 90s and 2000s, companies like Vector Drilling, Tetra Communications, Discovery Drilling of Texas, Gritkote Inc., Mud Technical Corp., Southern Associates and Petro-Steel. The Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition (LAGCOE) bestowed its highest honor on Milam at the 1993 installment of the biennial energy expo with its symbolic golden hardhat, making him the 25th LAGCOE Looey for his dedication to both the industry and his community.

According to those who knew him, in addition to his savvy for business, Milam also knew the art of a good time. He was an aviation enthusiast who had a taste for restoring the type of airplanes that his friend and fellow pilot Broussard describes as being "unique" sorts of aircraft, some of which he'd use for aerobatic flying, including, among others, a North American P-51 Mustang — an American fighter plane used during World War II and the Korean War.

And here's Broussard recalling what it was like being friends with the former businessman and pilot :

For me personally he was a mentor – in how to do business while enjoying life. I met Charlie while fueling one of his aircraft –an antique Stearman biplane – while working at the airport during college. When our families were young we spent weekends together usually at air shows or waterskiing as Charlie’s guests. I can recall being one of about 15 skiers who Charlie pulled up in his Ski Nautique or Correct Craft simultaneously. He generously allowed me to fly most of his magnificent airplanes and we owned several together – two of which I still fly for the memories of our shared experiences. His passing will certainly leave an empty space in the lives of all who shared his friendship.

Click here for more information on Milam's funeral arrangements and to view his obituary.