Calvin Tillman was born in 1972 in the rural Oklahoma town of Pawnee to Julius (Junior) Tillman, and Mattie (Margaret) Tillman. Pawnee is just a short distance from Jennings, OK, where he grew up. Calvin was the youngest of five children in a blended family. He attend grade school and junior high at Jennings Elementary, however the small town did not have a high school, so Calvin needed to be bused to nearby Oilton, OK to attend high school. Tillman played four years of football in high school, and in 1990 he graduated from Oilton High School at the age of 17, the youngest in his graduating class. Although he had completed a two year program in auto mechanics, Tillman chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the United States Air Force before his graduation date. With his parents’ approval, Tillman left home for the Air Force prior to his 18th birthday.
Both of Tillman’s parents grew up in rural Oklahoma, and both were born when this country was beginning to emerge from the Great Depression. Therefore, Calvin was taught to work hard and be dependable. Tillman was also highly scrutinized by his parents for teasing or criticizing those less fortunate than him. At the age of 13 Tillman began doing side jobs, primarily working for Flatt’s auction house in Jennings. By the time he was 16 he was running the floor of this auction house, and traveled around the state of Oklahoma with Mr. Flatt working at a number of other auctions. During his senior year in high school he worked full time at Varnell’s Auction just outside of Mannford, OK, and began trading merchandise himself. He worked for the Varnell family until he left for Air Force Basic Training.
Calvin began Air Force Basic Training at Lackland AFB, TX August of 1990, shortly after Iraq invaded the small oil rich country of Kuwait. Tillman never served in the Middle East during this conflict. After graduating from Basic Training, Tillman went to Sheppard AFB, TX and Chanute AFB, IL to train as an Aircraft Structural Technician. He was then stationed in the Mojave Desert at George AFB, CA. After the closing of George AFB, Tillman was transferred to McClellan AFB, CA, and then on to Tinker AFB, OK. In 1999, Tillman chose to start his civilian life.
While in the Air Force, Tillman took advantage of the educational benefits, attending college, and pursuing his Airframe and Powerplant certificates. By the time Tillman separated from the Air Force he was a certificated aircraft mechanic and had earned a degree in aircraft maintenance from the Community College of the Air Force. As a civilian, Tillman continued his education, and began training as a pilot in 2001. After earning his Private’s Pilots Certificate, Tillman turned his attention to formal education. He utilized his GI Bill benefits and attended an adult education program with Concordia University of Texas. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business with honors in 2008.
While serving at Tinker AFB, OK, Tillman met the love of his life, Tiffiney Hamshar, who was a student at Oklahoma State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Tiffiney graduated with honors in the spring of 1998. The two were married in November of 1998. Shortly after, the two married and Calvin separated from the Air Force and they moved to Bartlesville, OK. In Bartlesville, Tiffiney worked as a veterinarian, and Calvin commuted to Tulsa, OK to work as an aircraft mechanic.
Calvin’s career moved the couple to Kenosha, WI, where he worked for the airlines at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The couple’s long term plans were foiled by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. After living through three Chicago winters, the couple moved back south to the tiny town of Clark, TX. While living in Kenosha, Tiffiney gave birth to the couple’s first child, Julius “Clay” Tillman. Clay was born 10 weeks premature and spent his first six weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit at a hospital in Racine, WI. The couple spent the majority of their time in the hospital with Clay until they brought him home. During this stay the couple noticed that many children in the hospital with Clay did not get visitors. When speaking with nurses it was found that many of the children in this unit were abandoned. God began pulling at the couple’s heart to adopt an infant child. Therefore, after moving to Texas the couple adopted Joshua. Joshua was only three weeks old when joining the Tillman family. After more than a year of paperwork, the adoption was completed, and Joshua officially became a Tillman, and has brought joy to the Tillman family ever since.
The couple moved from DISH to the small North Texas town of Aubrey in March of 2011. After this move, the couple decided to have another child, and in August of 2012, Tiffiney gave birth to Evangeline Hope Tillman, which was the couple’s first daughter.
Tiffiney no longer works as a veterinarian, but spends the majority of her time caring and homeschooling the three children. She also volunteers at several area churches. Calvin still works in aviation, but has long since put away his wrenches. He now wears a tie to work on most days, and spends the majority of his time at work behind a desk.
When moving to Texas, the couple wanted to move into the country and have horses. Therefore, they bought a home with some land in what they thought was the country. However, they soon learned that their home was in downtown Clark, TX. When purchasing the home the mailing address was out of Justin, TX, and the Town of Clark was not mentioned.
As Calvin began investigating how this town came to be, he found that the town was formed shortly after the City of Fort Worth annexed the property, and subsequently condemned most of the land that is now Texas Motor Speedway. The founders of the town of Clark were concerned that they would be next on Fort Worth’s radar if they did not incorporate. So in late 2000 they town of Clark, TX was formed, taking the name of its founder L.E. Clark.
The more Calvin learned about the town, the less he liked it. He soon found out that this little town had two groups that were adamantly opposed to one another and it appeared that the average citizen of this community was unwillingly placed in the middle of this fight. This was when he met the other half of this battle, Bill Merritt. Bill and his father were developers in this area and were attempting to dis-annex their manufactured housing subdivision from the corporate limits of the town in 2004. Calvin immediately supported this idea, thinking that this would be the demise of the incorporated town. However, after the dis-annexation, to Calvin’s surprise the town survived.
Calvin joined Bill Merritt who was running for mayor, and ran for a seat as a town commissioner. Tillman ran unopposed and Merritt won the mayor’s seat over Clark after a couple of scandals and a court battle. However, it soon became apparent that Merritt did not intend to abolish the town, and it certainly appeared that the feud that had consumed this small community was still prevalent. This was highlighted when the town changed its name to DISH in exchange for ten years of free dish network satellite television, which was overwhelmingly supported by the citizens. Although LE Clark received the free dish network himself, he was furious over change, which removed his name from the town.
As it appeared that this battle would never end, Calvin sent a letter to every citizen of the town recommending that the town be abolished. While visiting with the citizens of the community about this, most of the citizens wanted to keep the town and urged Calvin to run for mayor. So in May of 2007 Tillman became mayor of the town of DISH, TX.
Another thing that became apparent while Tillman was serving as a commissioner was the downside to the oil and gas exploration in the area. There were some facilities being constructed at the Southern edge of the community. This construction turned out to be a natural gas compressor station, or actually several compressor stations, and treatment facility. The problems were highlighted late one evening when a relief valve went off for several hours, shooting millions of cubic feet of natural gas into the air. As it turned out, this was only the beginning for Calvin and the citizens of DISH dealing with the natural gas industry.
Soon after the compressors began to be installed, DISH became a major hub for a majority of the natural gas coming north out of the Barnett Shale. Calvin soon learned that the pipeline companies had been given tremendous power from the State of Texas, including the power of eminent domain. Therefore, several more pipelines were installed in DISH, against the will of the citizens who owned the land where the pipes were laid. At the urging of his citizens, Calvin got involved. This led to the passing of a resolution urging the Texas State Legislature to give municipalities more local control over pipeline routing. DISH was joined by more than 40 towns and cities in passing this resolution. The resolution did not result in legislation; however, several civic leaders, and pipeline industry executives did come together to form the best practices for pipeline routing.
After the town of DISH performed a comprehensive air quality test near the compressor site, it was determined that several chemicals were being emitted from this site. This study was the first of this kind that was released to the public. Since the release of this document the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has performed numerous tests finding similar result throughout the Barnett Shale. Therefore, they have installed sixteen permanent continuous air monitors, one of which is located in DISH.
Once the data was released on the air study, DISH became the tip of the spear in the battle for the natural gas industry to conduct business in a more responsible and respectful manner. Calvin was asked to travel to other parts of the United States to talk about what happened in DISH. In the winter and spring of 2010, Calvin traveled to New York and Pennsylvania to urge responsible natural gas operations. This trip was highlighted when he spoke at the famed Cooper Union in New York City. This was the site that Abraham Lincoln began his campaign for president. During this trip Calvin spoke at 20 events to thousands of people. He has also spoken in Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, California, Washington D.C., Austria, Canada, and Berlin on the subject of responsible natural gas drilling and processing. Calvin also had a part in several documentaries over the subject of gas drilling and the future of energy. These include the widely acclaimed Gasland and Gasland 2 directed and narrated by Josh Fox, Shattered Ground and Beyond the Light Switch by Detroit Public Television.
Calvin is not opposed to drilling for natural gas and realizes the need to for an abundant energy source, but rather supports responsible and respectful exploration. He also realizes that a push for renewable energy and conservation are needed for the future of this country, and therefore Calvin had solar panels installed on the DISH municipal building, decreasing the amount of energy consumed by the town. He also supported citizens installing both wind and solar technologies on their homes.
Tillman finished his second term as mayor of DISH in May of 2011. DISH was home to area’s lowest tax rate and smallest local government. While Tillman served as mayor, the town has built a municipal park, town library and remodeled the town’s municipal building, while keeping taxes low. The town’s geographic doubled, and the population increased by 25%. The town installed solar panel on the municipal building in the spring of 2011, and is working towards installing another municipal park. Calvin is also involved with other area civic leaders and is involved in issues that affect all citizens at the state level.
In March of 2011 the Tillman family moved from DISH, due to concerns of the health impacts that the massive gas processing facility was having on the children. Therefore, Calvin did not seek reelection in May of 2011. However, he again ran for office for a spot on the Aubrey, TX City Council and was elected in 2015, and served a two year term. In 2017 after serving a total of eight years in local government, Tillman officially retired from public office. In 2018 the family moved back to the county to unincorporated Cooke County, TX.
Tillman is still active politically, making several trips to Austin to visit the legislature every legislative session. Currently Tillman has no plans to seek another political office, but vows to stay involved in politics in both the state of Texas and around the country. Tillman may not had been born it Texas, but intends to die in Texas. In the meanwhile, he has vowed to fight for eminent domain reform and private property rights.
Calvin has continued to go on several more speaking tours, including Canada, Austria, and California. He also does a limited number of speaking events upon request. He helps local groups and communities that are dealing with oil and gas development, and he receives no compensation for his speaking or consultation.
Calvin has also worked on political campaigns around the state, and local races in his new hometown of Aubrey, TX. Primarily, Tillman works on protection of private property rights and eminent domain reform, as well as speaking out for impacted property owners.