By TERRELL LESTER
Editor at large
GREAT COUPLE: Clem McSpadden and his wife of 45 years, Donna, after a luncheon talk at the Green Onion before an audience of the Tulsa Sports Commission on March 24.
GTR Newspapers photo
If Will Rogers is Oklahoma’s favorite son, Clem McSpadden is Oklahoma’s favorite nephew.
Clem Rogers McSpadden has walked among giants, broken bread with legends, represented the common man.
He is as much a man of the Oklahoma soil as his great-uncle.
He is as much a part of Rogers County as the name itself. He is, after all, named after his great-grandfather Clement Vann Rogers.
He is equal parts statesman, neighbor and cowboy. And every inch an icon.
He has a United States Post Office named in his honor.
A stretch of America’s Mother Road, the storied Route 66, bears his name.
He originated and hosts the world’s largest and richest roping event, a summertime milestone, right in his own backyard.
Clem Rogers McSpadden has been lionized and celebrated, hailed and treasured.
Recently, he was saluted by those who know him well, by those who knew him when.
In the Claremore memorial dedicated to the life and times of his illustrious great uncle, Clem Rogers McSpadden was honored for a lifetime of giving and doing and being.
McSpadden was presented the Lifetime Contribution Award by the Claremore Progress at a downhome soiree that brought together some of the most influential personalities in Oklahoma.
But none has cast a longer or more affecting shadow across the Oklahoma horizon than the image of Clem Rogers McSpadden.
He has served the people as their voice in the state house and in the nation’s capital.
He has entertained the people as the voice of the rodeo, in hometown arenas and in international roundups.
It is a voice as comforting as an Oklahoma sunset, as comfortable as a pair of 9-year-old boots.
It is a voice rich in timbre, richer in wisdom.
He is eloquent in his simplicity, colorful in his spontaneity, sublime in his slow-gaited drawl.
He lends that voice to political proceedings and to commercial advertisements, to charitable auctions and to grade-school spelling bees.
It is a voice that brings with it instant credibility, certified accomplishment, a corral of respect.
At a Tulsa Sports Charities luncheon, at which he was requested to reminisce on his days of living in his great-uncle’s birth home, McSpadden was introduced as “an Oklahoma original” and “an Oklahoma treasure.”
He is, indeed, both.
He has never wandered far, nor for long, from his Rogers County roots.
From the political arena, where he was elected, to the rodeo arena, where he became a Hall of Fame announcer, he remained Rogers County’s Clem McSpadden.
He flourished in both pursuits.
“There are similarities in the two arenas,” he likes to say. “There’s a lot of bull in both.”
McSpadden’s days as a student at Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State, were interrupted by a stint in the Navy during World War II, and were highlighted by a stint on the basketball team coached by Henry Iba.
McSpadden, who had played ball at Oologah High School, walked on for a season before he joined the Navy.
McSpadden’s rodeo career began to take shape during his days in Stillwater. He and five other students helped launch the collegiate rodeo team in 1947, and he graduated the following year with a bachelor’s degree in animal husbandry.
He first went off to the Oklahoma Legislature in 1954, and he has had his hand on the pulse of state politics ever since.
His counsel and insight are sought by a new generation of lawmakers.
His friendship and honesty are coveted by a past generation of politicians.
He maintains a presence in Oklahoma City as a lobbyist.
Having served as the youngest president pro tempore in state history, McSpadden held sway in the Oklahoma Senate until 1972, when he was elected to represent his state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
After one term, he determined that he might better serve Oklahoma from the office of governor.
He was endorsed by none other than his college basketball coach, Henry Iba. “The biggest thrill besides my family,” McSpadden says of Iba’s support.
Although he lost that race, it gave him the opportunity to “chase other things,” as he would say.
“No one likes to lose,” McSpadden said. “If something happens you don’t like, sure it bothers you, but the sun will rise the next day.”
And when the sun rises, it shines upon the Rogers County spread he and his wife of 45 years, Donna, call home.
“Be persistent and when you do, good will happen,” he says. “Even if you have a setback, good will come out of it. It makes you better as a neighbor and friend.”
Rogers County, shoot, all of Oklahoma, has no better neighbor, no better friend, than Clem Rogers McSpadden.