Frank A. McPherson was born in Stilwell, Oklahoma, in 1933. He is the older of two children and was raised on a farm in eastern Oklahoma. When McPherson was 13, his family was able to afford equipping the water well with an electric pump to provide indoor plumbing. McPherson financed his college education by working summers on the Gulf Coast; as a shipyard welder’s helper, a tugboat deckhand, and at offshore oil riggings. After graduation, McPherson began working for Kerr McGee Corporation, a natural resource and chemcial company. He left there later that year to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force.
After completion of serve, he returned to Kerr McGee as a petroleum engineer. He rose through the corporate ranks with the company and served as its Vice Chairman and CEO from 1983 until 1997.