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Tulsa civic leader and pioneer Howard Orton McClure was born in Wabash, Indiana, on December 23, 1865. Beginning in 1887 he worked as a fireman and engineer for Chicago and Western Indiana Railroad. In 1891 he switched to the hardware business in Chicago. In 1892 McClure married Matie Parcells and had one daughter, Sarah. In 1905 he relocated to Tulsa and opened a hardware store at the intersection First and Main streets.

McClure immediately worked to develop his new town. In his second year he unsuccessfully ran for mayor on the Republican ticket. In 1908 he presided over the first Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and chaired that year's "booster train" committee, which toured America and promoted the city. An important figure in the expansion and improvement of Tulsa's school system, he served on the school board from 1906 to 1921, many of those years as president. He has been given credit for developing the "unit school plan," in which one-story classroom units were expanded around a city block, forming a square with the playground in the middle. This system could handle a rapidly growing population and became popular nationwide. In 1923 he again was the president of the chamber of commerce. A strong booster of city parks, McClure served on the Tulsa park board from 1929 to 1933 and was reappointed in 1945. Through his work on these and other municipal entities he recruited new Tulsa businesses and acquired property for city projects. The town has honored him for this work by naming a park and an elementary school for him.

During this period of civic duty McClure's business ventures also flourished. About 1910 he entered banking, holding a vice president and director position for the First National Bank of Tulsa. In 1918, after selling his hardware enterprise, he became president of the Atlas Life Insurance Company. In 1929 he left that office and from 1933 to 1946 held the presidency of the Fourth National Bank. Instrumental in luring Kendall College, later the University of Tulsa (TU), from Muskogee in 1906, McClure and his wife established twenty scholarships for TU students in 1949. In 1950 the university presented him a honorary doctor of humanities degree. He died in Tulsa on January 5, 1955.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lyle H. Boren and Dale Boren, Who is Who in Oklahoma (Guthrie, Okla.: The Co-Operative Publishing Company, 1935). Tulsa (Oklahoma) Tribune, 6 January 1955. Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 6 January 1955. Louise Whitman, "Educational History in and about Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1839-1939," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 18 (March 1940).

Larry O'Dell

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