The ‘Hutton’ Legacy: Love, Oil, Philanthropy


It’s billed as an action-packed, true-love, rags-to-riches story of a couple who helped shape Orange County, Chapman University and the transpacific oil trading industry.

“The Hutton Story” (Chapman University Press; $24.95) chronicles the lives of the late Harold and Betty Hutton of Villa Park, who founded a Long Beach-based international oil company known as Refining Associates and later served on Chapman University’s board of trustees.

After her husband died in 1975, Betty Hutton became an entrepreneur in her own right, founding a development and property management company--the Hutton Center in Santa Ana was one of her early projects--and becoming an innovative Orange County philanthropist.

The 438-page book, the inaugural publication of the Chapman University Press, was written by Sir Eldon Griffiths, director of Chapman University’s Schmid Center for International Business and Chapman professors Roberta Lessor and Myron Yeager.


Harold Hutton, for whom the university’s Hutton Sports Center is named, served on the university’s board of trustees from 1971 until his death four years later at age 71. Betty then assumed his seat on the board and served until her death at 82 in 1995.

Yeager, an associate professor of English, says that more than just a biography of a “fascinating and bright couple,” the book provides a history of Orange County since the early 1900s and depicts a pioneer family of the region.

That would be Betty’s family, which settled in Orange when Redlands-born Betty was 2.

“Betty comes from a family that was very involved in the developing Orange County citrus industry that really took off in the early part of this century,” said Lessor, a professor of sociology who did the research and writing for the portion of the book dealing with Betty Hutton.


Betty was studying business at UCLA in 1933 when she came down with tuberculosis and was sent to Palm Springs to recuperate. It was there that 20-year-old Betty met the Illinois-born Harold Hutton, 29, divorced and pumping gas for a living.

Married three years later, the couple gambled their savings by buying shares in a small refinery on Signal Hill. Within a few years they had taken over the refinery. Lessor said the Huttons were equal partners in their quickly expanding oil business.

“While Harold did more traveling than Betty did, Betty was very much involved, and we have photos of Betty in the rain forests of Indonesia right along with Harold,” said Lessor.

Refining Associates no longer exists, but two other companies do: the Hutton Foundation and the Betty L. Hutton Title Holding Co., which owns and manages commercial properties in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.


Lessor said that with her foundation, Betty Hutton went on to “innovate in philanthropy, to develop some new approaches to make nonprofit organizations more self-sufficient and enduring, so in that way she’s a pioneer in her philanthropic efforts as well.”

The $25 book, distributed by Seven Locks Press in Santa Ana, will be available in bookstores throughout Southern California and at the campus bookstore.

The authors will sign copies of their book at a reception and presentation at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in Pankey Lounge in Argyros Forum at Chapman University, 333 N. Glassell St., Orange.

Also This Week


* Brad Johnson, author of “The Bird That Flies the Highest,” will sign at 2 p.m. today at Barnes & Noble in Fashion Island, 953 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach.

* Ellen McGrath, author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Beating the Blues,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Monday at Barnes & Noble in Fashion Island, 953 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach.

* Peggy Phillips will discuss her new book about her 1984 nine-day excursion of the Red Sea, “Two Women Under Water,” at a celebration of National Jewish Book Season at 11 a.m. today at the Jewish Community Center of Orange County, 250 E. Baker St., Costa Mesa. Cost, which includes brunch: $6 for JCC members; $9 for nonmembers. (714) 755-0340.

* Diana L. James, author of “Bounce Back Too,” will sign at 2 p.m. today at Barnes & Noble, 13712 Jamboree Road, Irvine. James also will sign at 4 p.m. Thursday Barnes & Noble in the Irvine Spectrum, 31 Fortune Drive, Irvine; and at 7 p.m. Thursday at Borders Books and Music, 25222 El Paseo, Mission Viejo.


* John Y. Cole, director for the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress, will speak at at the Laguna Beach Friends of the Library Foundation luncheon at noon Tuesday at The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa. Cost: $25. For reservations, call (949) 497-7053.

* Dirk Eldredge, author of “Ending the War on Drugs: A Solution for America,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Barnes and Noble in Metro Pointe, 901 S. Coast Drive, Costa Mesa.

* Cartoonist Mark O’Hare will sign his collection “Citizen Dog” and do a drawing demonstration at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble in Triangle Square, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa.

* Jo Giese, author of “A Woman’s Path,” will speak and sign at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble in Fashion Island, 953 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach.


* Author John Reitano and illustrator William Haines will read from “What if the Zebras Lost Their Stripes?” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble in Metro Pointe, 901 S. Coast Drive, Costa Mesa.

* “Drabble” cartoonist Kevin Fagan will speak and sign copies of his new collection, “Mall Cops, Ducks and Fenderheads,” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 13712 Jamboree Road, Irvine.

* Lillian Roberts, author of “Emergency Vet,” and Janice Steinberg, author of “Death in a City of Mystics,” will sign at 3 p.m. Saturday at Coffee, Tea & Mystery, 13232 Springdale St., Westminster.

Send information about book-related events at least 10 days before event to Dennis McLellan, O.C. Books & Authors, Life & Style, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.