bill anoatubby

Lee Allan Smith – It’s a Wonderful Life

By Bud Elder

We are all the heroes in our own movies – we slay our own dragons, win our own battles, and, for the most part, get the guy or the girl in the end; however, there are those among us who appear to be walking embodiments of Silver Screen characters. How many times do we leave a picture saying, “That character reminded me of so-and-so?”

Take for example George Bailey, as portrayed by Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life.” George is an everyman, embodied with qualities to which all of us should aspire – selflessness, generosity and optimism. And, while he is beset by fantastical elements, angels and such, as well as a moment or two of self-doubt, it is proven in the movie, through a series of isolated incidents, that the world is a much better place with him in humanity’s mix.

Take this line, for instance:

“I’m shaking the dust of this little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. Then I’m coming back here and going to college and see what they know. And then I’m gonna build things – I’m gonna build airfields, I’m gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, I’m gonna build bridges a mile long.”

We have a George Bailey living in Oklahoma City … Lee Allan Smith.

Think about it – Lee Allan is the type of man with whom one would want to share hours in a small town barbershop, or on the front stoop playing checkers. However, this very approachable and amiable native Oklahoman has consorted with presidents and name-above-the-title celebrities. Sooner born and Sooner bred, with a built-in showman’s bravado, Lee Allan has, to quote his favorite musical, “a heart as big as all outdoors.” His best friends today were his best friends in childhood. And, to put it simply, he has spent his whole life promoting the Sooner state to the rest of the world. He loves Oklahoma, and Oklahoma loves him.

Lee Allen Smith

And, while he has recently completed what many would consider the project of a lifetime, that of steering Oklahoma through its 100th year, he is still scheming, still planning, still dreaming.

“Lee Allan Smith epitomizes the best of what it means to be an Oklahoman. It is perfectly fitting that a biography of Lee Allan is subtitled ‘Oklahoma’s Best Friend,’ and an award presented annually in his honor by Oklahoma Christian University is named the ‘Lee Allan Smith Spirit of Oklahoma Award.’ While he is probably best known for organizing amazing events that promote this great state, his own indomitable spirit and heart for service tell the deeper story of Oklahoma.
This is a man who has achieved great things not for personal glory, but because he is focused on service to others. His loyalty to our country, pride in the state of Oklahoma and genuine concern for his fellow man shine through in everything he does.
“He has served our country as an officer in the United States Air Force, where his duties included helping maintain high morale among the troops stationed in remote areas of the world. Later, he organized events that helped bring people together to celebrate the best America has to offer.
“Because of his commitment, zeal and perseverance, the dedication of the Oklahoma State Capitol Dome, the Oklahoma Centennial celebration and countless other events have elevated the status of Oklahoma and provided lifetime memories for all those in attendance.
“While some measure achievement by wealth, fame or personal recognition, Lee Allan has the wisdom to understand that none of these are true measures of success. He understands that true success is measured by the degree to which you have enhanced the quality of the lives of others and paved the way for the success of future generations.
“By that standard, Lee Allan Smith is one of the most successful men I have ever met.”

Bill Anoatubby, Chief, Chickasaw Nation

Lee AllanThose looking for a Lee Allan tell-all on these pages, full of homilies, self-reflection and revelation from the man himself, will be disappointed. For every subject brought forth with Lee Allan Smith, he takes himself right out of the equation – whatever the project, whatever the statue, whatever the program, it is always someone else’s doing.

His life is part George M. Cohan, part Horatio Alger, part Will Rogers. Born in Oklahoma City, educated at the University of Oklahoma, Lee Allan proudly served in the military, where some say he truly learned his calling by producing shows and learning how to treat entertainers. He is a loving husband and totally engaged father to his three daughters, each of whom is a vital part of the community as well.

Here’s a story to which the man himself fessed up. It gives a peek behind the curtain into the man he is, and is certainly a portent of the things that were to come in his life.

“When I was an intramurals manager at OU, there was never a trophy given for second place,” he said. “When we actually did get second place, I went around and raised money so that everyone on the team would be able to have a trophy.”

Returning home from the service, Lee Allan found his professional calling.  It took him about a year from being hired as a newbie sales person to becoming the manager of the oldest radio station west of the Mississippi, WKY. From there, he became general manager of WKY television, later KTVY, and remained at the NBC affiliate for 31 years.

It was in the late sixties that the first of many light bulbs went off over his head, resulting in a series of television specials that rivaled the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City and the Daytona 500 for location-specific syndicated television.

“Live from Oklahoma City, it’s the ‘Stars and Stripes Show,’” starred, over the course of its eight-year run, headliners such as Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Anita Bryant, Dale Robertson, the Fifth Dimension, Nancy Wilson, Telly Savalas, Les Brown, Lou Rawls and, in her last professional television appearance, Kate Smith. So popular and entertaining were the Stars and Stripes Shows that they were picked up to run on the NBC network.

At the time, Lee Allan was so eager to create a sense of community leading up to the first show that he formed an Oklahoma City Broadcasters’ Association so that even competing stations could be involved. As a result of this grand gesture, Bill Thrash, then an employee at KOCO, the ABC affiliate in the market, was able to work on the first production. Thrash would go on to direct the remaining seven programs and serve as Watson to Lee Allan’s Holmes on many television productions to come in their joint careers, up to and including the recent Centennial Spectacular.

Lee Allan during a SpeechOne imagines that Thrash’s stories regarding Lee Allan and those days of television would fill volumes. Here’s a dandy:

“Lee Allan is a true visionary who allows his creative imagination to go straight to implementation.
In 1979, we were celebrating Channel 4′s 30th Anniversary with events all day and night. At the then-National Cowboy Hall of Fame, we brought in the popular daytime syndicated Mike Douglas Show, which guest starred Bob Hope, Marty Robbins, Dale Robertson, Tanya Tucker and Will Rogers, Jr. Think about this – in front of 30 million people that morning, Douglas sang “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” in front of the Cowboy Hall. How’s that for great publicity?
For our lunch break, several of us, including Douglas and future ‘Today’ host Jane Pauley, choppered downtown for a Chamber of Commerce lunch.
After Bob Hope’s segment was taped, Lee Allan took the legendary entertainer to Oklahoma Christian University to see Enterprise Square.
That night we held a Channel 4 spectacular, with 10,000 people being welcomed by Danny Williams and Mary Hart. Tanya Tucker and Mike Douglas opened for Bob Hope performing his stage act.
After this incredibly long and beneficial day, Lee Allan asked Hope where his performance fee should be sent.
Bob Hope then said, “Donate it to Oklahoma Christian College.”
Lee Allan has said many times that moment brought chills up his spine.
Just another day in the life of Lee Allan Smith.”

– Bill Thrash


While television screens in the late ’80s continued to expand, they still weren’t large enough to hold Lee Allan Smith – he was destined for bigger and better things.

Under the umbrella of the Ackerman McQueen advertising agency, serving as vice chairman, Lee Allan formed Oklahoma Events, where he continues to work with daughters Jennifer and DeLee.

Starting with a monumental Olympic Festival and continuing on a path that would include the dedication of the newly built Capitol Dome, reopening Oklahoma City’s Civic Center and many other memorable occasions, Lee Allan made it a personal challenge to make the Sooner state ready for prime time.

“I always knew that for our city to succeed, we had to all work together, every citizen, every corporation, every public official,” he said. “What you see lacking in other states and communities is a true consensus – a buy-in from all interested parties.”

Then comes Oklahoma’s Centennial, a series of events that were years in the planning, culminating in a Centennial Spectacular musical event broadcast statewide on OETA starring the likes of Garth Brooks, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire and other Oklahoma ambassadors.

“Our Centennial events, from our appearance in Macy’s Parade in New York and the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, were all about showcasing our great state to both our citizens and the outside world as well. Lee Allan Smith and Blake Wade were the right people at the right time to spread the joy and message of our 100th year.”

Governor Brad Henry


Lee Allen With His Daughter WendySpeaking of Henry, the former state leader is a part of Lee Allan’s next major endeavor as he, along with former Governor Frank Keating, will serve as co-chairs for yet another significant development for Oklahoma City – that of the Native American Cultural Center, located at the crossroads of I-35 and I-40.

“This new facility will offer both citizens and visitors a rare insight into our extraordinary American Indian culture,” Lee Allan said. “It will combine all of our tribes’ exhibits to truly tell the real Oklahoma story. It will also serve as a destination point for travelers from all over the world, which will then add to our city coffers as economic development.”

On this same point, Lee Allan speaks to the continuance of the Oklahoma City river development, which, in his own words, is a “game changer” for the future.

“I truly treasure my relationship with Lee Allan Smith; he, along with Judy Love, served as co-chairs of my historic inaugural ball, and I can’t wait to hear what advice, counsel and vision he will bring to me as an outstanding citizen of this state.”

– Governor Mary Fallin


There are too many awards and honors to mention; however, Lee Allan’s inclusion in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Broadcasters Hall of Fame and his honorary doctorate from the University of Oklahoma have to hold high places on his mantel.

From a time when his mother urged young Lee Allan to always “be a good American,” through his pioneering spirit in local broadcasting and his skills as an impresario; his enhancing the Oklahoma landscape with everything from Bob Hope and Red Skelton busts at Stars and Stripes Park, the statues of Oklahoma’s greatest baseball players in front of the Bricktown Ballpark, and Oklahoma University’s finest in its Heisman Park; Lee Allan Smith has done so much, raised so much, contributed so much, that it can’t even be catalogued.

And, while his days of exhorting Oklahoma-based companies such as TG&Y, OTASCO, C.R. Anthony’s and Kerr McGee to participate in their community’s development have given way to modern-day corporate partners such as Chesapeake and Devon, Lee Allan realizes that there is always, in fact, a better day yet to be had in the state of Oklahoma.

Hear that sound? It’s a bell ringing for Lee Allan Smith.

The Quiet, Confident, Cooperative Leadership of Bill Anoatubby

If national leaders want to witness real leadership of change, they need only look at the work and example of Chickasaw Governor Bill Anoatubby, who, from his office in Ada, quietly yet effectively transforms Native American governments and economies throughout Oklahoma and the nation.


By David Althouse


Bill Anoatubby is too modest to bring up the subject of his phenomenally successful record of accomplishment as Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, so we’ll do it for him.

Quite simply, Anoatubby presides over a transformational era in the history of the Chickasaws in Oklahoma. Through example of leadership and innovation, he also presides over a transformation of Native American governments and economies nationwide.


That’s because Anoatubby has helped bring about self-sustaining economic development for the Chickasaw tribe in a way that advances the lives of its members as never before, and all through collaborating and sharing with other Oklahomans in a way that sets the standard in innovation for tribes across the United States.


When first elected as his tribe’s governor in 1987, he presided over a mere $11 million budget and 250 employees. Today, his charge is overseeing a $500 million budget and over 11,500 employees, most of whom live, work and pay taxes in Oklahoma.


“With an annual payroll of $235 million in Oklahoma, our employees pay more than $8 million in Oklahoma withholding taxes,” Anoatubby said. “Beyond the number of people directly employed by the Chickasaw Nation, thousands more are employed as a result of contracts with vendors, construction firms and suppliers.”


Under Anoatubby, the Chickasaw Nation garners national attention as a dynamic and enterprising tribe involved in a wide variety of commercial endeavors – from tribal gaming, newspaper ownership and hotels to ranching, chocolate manufacturing and banking.


Familiar to many Oklahomans and out-of-state residents alike are the highly popular WinStar and Riverwind casinos, the two largest gaming enterprises of the Chickasaw Nation.


“Both continue to be very successful, and we expect them to continue to do well,” Anoatubby said. “We recently opened hotels at both casinos. Our casinos, race tracks and hotels provide the basis for our focus on hospitality and tourism.”


Success in gaming led the Chickasaw Nation to establish Global Gaming Solutions, a company providing gaming consultation. The company works with Native American tribes on development, financing and management aspects of casino operations. GGS also provides a mechanism to pursue gaming opportunities outside the jurisdictional boundaries of the Chickasaw Nation, added Anoatubby.


“Our recent purchase of Remington Park in Oklahoma City and Lone Star Park in Texas are two examples of those types of opportunities.”


Later this year, the Chickasaw Nation begins construction on a nearly $22 million hotel patterned after a luxurious hotel built for the 1904 World’s Fair, then torn down and rebuilt in Sulphur. The original Artesian Hotel, which burned in 1962, served as temporary home for movie stars such as John Wayne, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, who filmed movies on location in Oklahoma in the early 1900s.


While the Artesian will look much like the original, the new hotel will be a state-of-the-art facility, offering 75 to 90 rooms, banquet and conference rooms, restaurant, café, swimming pool, full service spa, and a one-of-a-kind mineral bath (a nod to the many mineral springs in the area).


The Chickasaw Nation purchased Bedré Fine Chocolates, a Pauls Valley-based manufacturer of high-end confections, in 2000. The Chickasaw chocolatier sells a range of gourmet delights to such companies as Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Braum’s. The company boasts of state-of-the-art machinery ensuring consistent ingredient mix, guaranteeing a superior and more consistent product.


“Bedré produces very high quality chocolate, which is very popular,” Anoatubby said. “It has grown steadily since we purchased the company.”


The business of making award-winning movies can also be added to the long list of pursuits of the Chickasaw Nation. “Pearl,” a feature-length film based on the life of Pearl Carter Scott, an Oklahoma-raised Chickasaw woman who, by age 14, performed as a barnstormer and commercial pilot in the 1920s, premiered in 2009.


Based in part on Dr. Paul Lambert’s biography, “Never Give Up!: The Life of Pearl Carter Scott,” the film was shot in various locations in Oklahoma. To date, the film’s list of awards includes the prestigious Best of Show award from The Indie Fest and various feature docudrama awards at the International Cherokee Film Festival.


“Pearl was truly an amazing person,” Anoatubby said. “I was honored to have known her well and to have had the privilege to work with her for many years. This feature about her life is the first of many we hope to produce. Most of the research, writing and production were done by our communications division.”


Anoatubby went on to say that feature films are only one part of an effort to preserve Chickasaw history for future generations. Other efforts include video interviews of elders, Chickasaw Press publications, and awards to historians who conduct important research of tribal history.


“We are investing significant resources, including a large pool of talented individuals who are working to research, document and preserve these stories using the latest technology,” Anoatubby said.


The goal of self-sustaining economic development and diversification has propelled the tribe into a myriad of enterprises, not the least of which is banking.


Bank2, a full-service bank offering checking, operation, savings and money market accounts, as well as consumer, commercial and real estate loans, is owned by the Chickasaw Nation, which started the financial services company in 2002.


“Bank2 has experienced steady growth since it first opened,” Anoatubby said, “earning record profits last year.”


Bank2 enjoys two locations in the Oklahoma City metro area.


When asked of what advances for the Chickasaw Nation he is most proud, Anoatubby is quick to mention the considerable progress in health care, including such initiatives as a comprehensive diabetes center, newly opened wellness centers, the upcoming opening of a Chickasaw medical center, and a major expansion of the health clinic in Ardmore.


“We have constructed clinics throughout the Chickasaw Nation that provide Native Americans much better access to health care,” Anoatubby said. “We have developed a comprehensive diabetics’ care center, which provides a full range of services, and we have also opened several wellness centers as part of our comprehensive approach to preventive health care.”


Anoatubby said the new medical center is designed to empower staff to function more efficiently and effectively, and to enable a higher level of service with improvement in the overall quality of health care.


Revenue from the various enterprises of the Chickasaw Nation is not only used to improve the quality of life for its citizens, but also to embrace the culture and history of the Chickasaw people. Later this year, a new Chickasaw Cultural Center opens in Sulphur, Anoatubby said, with an aim to preserve history and to recognize a living, thriving and growing culture.


“The cultural center has been a vision of the Chickasaw people for more than 20 years,” Anoatubby said. “Chickasaws of all ages and from all walks of life contributed to the development of the center and the programming that will be available. It is beautiful and will be an opportunity for us to tell the remarkable history of the Chickasaw people.”


While the quiet, humble and unassuming Chickasaw groundbreaker works hard to deflect attention from his accomplishments, the importance of the Chickasaw Nation under Anoatubby to Oklahoma’s economy cannot be downplayed.


“Oklahoma has gone through a sort of oil bust as of late,” says Tom Cole, Representative for Oklahoma’s Fourth Congressional District and member of the Chickasaw Hall of Fame. “The difference between now and the 1980s is the rise of tribal economies. This has meant more economic stability for the state. Tribes are the fourth largest employer in Oklahoma. The Chickasaws have been the leader in this.”


Cole says that Anoatubby is a persistent visionary who believes in building partnerships and leading by example.


“The self-sustaining economic development of the tribe has been realized in a far greater way than even Anoatubby would ever have thought,” Cole said. “Anoatubby has helped to partner the tribe with other Oklahomans, and not at the expense of other Oklahomans. For example, 80 percent of the Chickasaw Nation’s employees are not Chickasaws.”


Slowly, quietly, but with amazing effectiveness, Anoatubby has helped revolutionize the way tribes across the country go about their business. Cole says tribes from across the United States send delegations to the Chickasaw Nation to learn and share in their innovations.


“Anoatubby is the most accomplished Chickasaw since Tishomingo,” Cole said.


To be sure, Anoatubby has earned the admiration and respect of leaders across the state.  Lee Allan Smith, prominent Oklahoma business and civic leader, says he appreciates the quiet effectiveness of the Chickasaw leader.


“Although Governor Anoatubby is mild mannered, soft spoken and humble, he is an extremely strong and effective leader of the Chickasaw Nation, and who surrounds himself with very capable people,” Smith said. “He serves the Chickasaw Nation extremely well. I also appreciate and admire the pride that he has for his home state of Oklahoma.”


Smith went on to say that although Anoatubby is based out of Ada, he gives generously of his time to various organizations around the state. These organizations include the State Fair of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Heritage Association, Integris Hospital, the Jim Thorpe Museum, the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame, the Oklahoma Creativity Project, Allied Arts, the Oklahoma Centennial, the Oklahoma City Zoo and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


“We are committed to being a good neighbor,” Anoatubby said. “What is good for the Chickasaw Nation is good for Oklahoma, and what is good for Oklahoma is good for the Chickasaw Nation.”


The story of Bill Anoatubby speaks of a man who believes in showing up, who shirks the limelight, and who is happiest when setting and reaching goals for his people. But make no mistake: Anoatubby’s quiet, far-sighted, result-oriented and cooperative style of leadership has earned him an enduring place in the history of the Chickasaw people, the state of Oklahoma and the nation.