James Perry “JP” Bryan has sought to achieve a balance in life of building a successful business enterprise as well as dedicating his time and resources to historical preservation and restoration.
He was born in Houston, but raised in the small coastal town of Freeport. He truly believes that it was a great environment in which to learn about values, people and community. At age 12, JP entered a co-educational Boarding School, St. Stephen’s Episcopal, in Austin. Such an abrupt departure from family and friends was both bittersweet and terrifying, but it proved an environment in which to learn and develop a measure of independence that served as a foundation throughout his life.
At the University of Texas; he majored in art history. There were two events in college that had a profound effect on JP’s future. First, he developed an appreciation for art. Secondly, with a close friend, he started a rare book business and a book publishing company, The Pimberton Press. From their store on 910 Congress Avenue, they dealt with a steady flow of buyers of rare and out-of-print Texana material. It was in this environment that JP first developed his interest in collecting Texas historical material. The Torch Collection was born out of his love for rare books and his original book acquisitions are the cornerstone for the Collection.
Post graduate education included The University of Texas Law School and Thunderbird Graduate School. He said that he chose law school because he did not know how he was going to support a family and himself with only a history degree. During his law school years, he excelled--JP was elected Class President of his senior class, was a member of the Honor Council, a Founder of the International Law Journal and a member of the International Moot Court Team.
His career path began in New York with JP Morgan. For 14 years he was a banker, an investment banker, and mortgage banker, with a specialty in oil and gas finance. His fascination with that business propelled the formation of Torch Energy in 1981. From then to the present, Torch has purchased more than $3 billion in producing oil and gas properties, sponsored six public companies, and numerous private enterprises. For his efforts in creating and building Torch, JP was recognized as Entrepreneur of Year in 1995.
Throughout the greater part of his life, he had a love for restoring things, and he achieved no greater business satisfaction than restoring the fortunes of Gulf Canada. When he took the reins at Gulf, formerly the second largest oil producer in Canada, it had fallen on hard times. In three years Gulf was transformed and went from a market value of $650 million to $6.5 billion. For his efforts, JP was recognized as the Canadian Oil and Gas Producer of the year in 1996.
Continuing his passion for restoration and collecting, JP and his wife, Mary Jon, purchased the Gage Hotel in 1978, and began returning the hotel to its original stature. In addition, they have restored numerous structures on their ranches as well as an extensive effort to restore the original grasslands. These efforts resulted in awards for Grass Lands improvement; Wheat Award for Historical Preservation, Texas Historical Foundation; Honoree as Founder of the Torch Collection at Old South Lone Star Ball; Museum of Southern History, and Stephen F. Austin Leadership Award from The Brazoria County Museum as well as accolades from Architectural Digest.
The Torch Collection, the largest private collection of Texana, is housed primarily in Houston and offers visitors a rare view into the history of the West.
JP’s mother told him to serve those things that serve your interest. In response he has served the cause of Texas History as President of the Texas State Historical Association, President of Texas Historical Foundation, Chairman of the Institute of Texan Cultures, member of Texas Historical Commission and Brazoria County and Briscoe Museums. JP has written and spoken frequently on subjects related to the history of Texas and the Settlement of the West.