John D. Williams named Progressive Citizen of the Year
Randy Cowling Editor
From humble beginnings, John D. Williams has left a trail of footsteps across Claremore and Rogers County, leading thousands of families and hundreds of businesses to locate and make this their home.
Williams was named Progressive Citizen of the Year Saturday evening during a banquet at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum. The Claremore Daily Progress sponsored the award.
His parents purchased a ranch north of Claremore — Co-Line Ranch — where he visited as a boy. It left fond memories with him that led him to relocate to Claremore in 1968, after serving a 4-year term in the U. S. Air Force.
“I loved Claremore and all the possibilities it had to offer, so we made it our home,” he said.
Williams was nominated by many local business leaders.
“John is a generous, unpretentious servant,” said Edward F. Keller, chairman of Commerce Bank of Tulsa. “Generally, deferring to others for the public recognition or leadership positions, but always available. The best friend one could ever have; it is my sincere pleasure to recommend John for this significant honor.”
“I know of no one in Rogers County who has done more for Claremore and Rogers County than John Williams,” said Frank C. Robson, Robson Properties and RCB Bank.
“He stands as a silent hero, citizen that believes in responsiblity to the community. He is an example of altruism — representative of the area whose purpose is to help others,” said Rogers County Sheriff Scott Walton. “He has proven to be concerned with the future of residents of Rogers County. Simply stated, he is determined to make our community a better place to live by helping its future citizens.”
Dr. Larry Rice, President of Rogers State University, said, “John Williams, in my opinion, is very deserving and perhaps long overdue in being recognized and honored by the community for his passion, generosity and integrity.”
Local attorney Bill Higgins said, “First and foremost, John Williams is a family man, having been blessed with his wife, Penny, who epitomizes the old adage ‘behind every successful man is a strong woman.’ Throughout their marriage, Penny has provided unwaivering support and encouragement which no doubt has contributed to John’s success.”
Early Real Estate Business
With the encouragement of Robson, Williams went to real estate school. Upon completion, he began work with Whiteside Grant Realtors, where he worked for two years before beginning his own company — John Williams Company.
It began in a one-room metal building across from the old Rogers County courthouse. Williams has moved his office several times. It was once located where Carl’s Jr. is and then where the city’s first QuikTrip on J. M. Davis Boulevard is located.
The John Williams Company quickly became the largest volume real estate brokerage company in Rogers County for 19 of the 25 years they were active in the residential aspect of the business.
During this time, Williams was a major contributor in developing residential subdivisions, including Westwood, Colonial Estates and six other developments in Rogers County.
Williams worked with Sam Walton in the site selection for Claremore’s Walmart. In his relationship with Walton, Williams helped locate sites for more than 50 Walmart stores throughout several states.
Today, the company places its emphasis primarily on commercial real estate. In addition to Walmart locations, he has worked with QuikTrip, Mazzio’s, Kum & Go and Pizza Hut.
Williams has more than 45 years of experience and education in various aspects of the real estate industry.
In 1980, Pat Burns sought Williams out to help bring Borg Warner to Claremore. It became Centralift Inc., now known as Baker Hughes.
In 1982, he was encouraged to help established the United Way in Claremore and Rogers County.
He, along with Mayor Liz Gordon, Frank Robson, Phil Viles, Bob Roden, Phil Smith, Warren Pixley, Paul Neely, Warren Johnson, Dr. Richard Mosier and many others, helped form the United Way.
Today, the Rogers County United Way supports 27 non-profit agencies that provide a variety of assistance to the community.
With the help of the late Mickey Perry, Williams formed the Junior Chamber of Commerce. For nine years, it oversaw and managed the 4th of July celebration in Claremore.
Williams recalls one day he was asked to meet with Viles and Robson under the pretense that he had missed a payment on a $2,000 loan.
The meeting was a ruse.
Viles and Robson had asked him to lunch at Howard Johnson’s to invite him to become a member of the RCB Bank Board of Directors.
“What a wonderful learning experience that was. Through that experience it led me to other financial and banking institution boards. To this day, I am still involved in the banking industry and sit on the Board of Commerce Bank in Tulsa, previously Summit Bank,” he said.
Williams served on the Claremore Board of Adjustments and was president of the Rogers County Planning Commission, where he served for eight years.
The community has been the benefactor of many gifts from Williams including land for the First United Methodist Church, the Northeast Technology Center and the Rogers County 911 Call Center.
Over the years, Williams has served and continues to serve on many boards. He currently is on the Finance Board at First United Methodist Church, the Commerce Bank Advisory Board and the Boy Scouts of America.
He has a Bachelors of Science degree in Economics and Business Administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. He is a licensed real estate broker in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas. He has been an instructor and taught real estate courses at Rogers State University.
John and Penny have two children, Suzanne and John Jr., who are active in the day-to-day operations of the family business.
Higgins sums up Williams impact on Claremore and Rogers County.
“John Williams has brought to Claremore and Rogers County the example of what a progressive citizen should be. He and his family has benefited from being here as have Claremore, Rogers County and Northeastern Oklahoma. Every town needs a John Williams.”
Williams says his parents instilled three principles in him — honesty, integrity and character. Those qualities continue to shine bright through John D. Williams’ life.