Thomas Scott Strickland, Jr., died June 4, 2020, age 89 years. He was born on a hot day in September, 1930, in the home of a family friend in Sentinel, Oklahoma. His mother, Myrtle Elizabeth Strickland, née Snodgrass (who always detested her first name and refused ever to use it) was caught off guard when Thomas, Jr., arrived after nearly eleven months in gestation and at almost twelve pounds. Later in life he would speculate that his mother never quite forgave him for this ordeal.
Known as Tommy to family and Tom by all his friends, he graduated from Lawton Senior High School in 1948, then on C Avenue, the current Lawton City Hall. Part of the hazing he endured to become a member of the L Club involved pushing a peanut with his nose from the third floor of the school all the way to the sidewalk outside. He earned multiple letters in football and basketball.
Tom served as an Electrician’s Mate in the U.S. Navy from June 1948 to June 1952, always stationed at bases in California and most of the time attached to the Submarine Service. In four years of service he hitchhiked from Oklahoma to the west coast seventeen times in each direction.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Tom began studies at the University of Oklahoma in the Fall of 1952. He was a walk-on player for the OU football team and was allowed to practice, but never moved up the depth chart enough to dress out for a game. He met Mary Lou Moore (now Lou Moore Hale) on the steps of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity where courtship began immediately. They would later marry on Valentine’s Day, 1953, and raise three children together: Thomas, III, Gray and Elizabeth Louise, named for both of her grandmothers, but called Lisa since childhood.
When his father, Thomas, Sr., fell ill in 1955, Tom and Mary Lou moved to Lawton so that Tom could keep his father’s construction contracting business running. Later he would found a successful construction equipment rental company. He owned the franchise for Perma-Stone and his company installed the facades on many dozens of buildings in southwest Oklahoma, including Bianco’s Restaurant, a Lawton landmark for decades owned by his dear friends, John and Rose Bianco.
Shortly after his father died unexpectedly in 1963, Tom began making plans to leave the construction industry. In 1964 Tom passed the examination to become a licensed real estate agent and in 1965, became a licensed broker. Real Estate became his career for the rest of his working life. In 1967, with his then-partner, Reggie Choate, they founded Clover Realty, which was one of Lawton’s most successful real estate agencies for decades. Tom was elected President of the Lawton Board of Realtors in 1965 and then President of the Oklahoma State Board of Realtors in 1972. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Realtors for many years. He served as a Commissioner on the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission under three Governors. Appointed by a Democrat, he was re-appointed by a Republican and then by another Democrat. In those days, politics were less tribal, more bipartisan and more goal-oriented. During his tenure as a Real Estate Commissioner, he played a central figure in working with the Legislature on updating laws regulating the sale of real estate to increase the integrity of his profession.
In the 1970s he was elected to serve on the commission which re-wrote Lawton’s City Charter to use the Council–Manager form of government it has today. He also served as the Chairman of the Lawton Industrial Authority. He negotiated with Goodyear to build a tire plant in Lawton (then the largest in the world). He signed the bonds which provided much of the financing for the construction of the plant, but declined the chance to ride in the Goodyear Blimp on the day of grand opening.
He took up tennis at age 40 and soon became a competitive player. He continued to play tennis several times a week, summer, fall, winter and spring, well into his 80s. As he progressed through the decades of his life, he was nearly always ranked in the Top 10 in the State for players over 40, then over 50, and so on. Tom was instrumental in the effort to build the tennis complex in Tomlinson Park in Lawton. He also helped raise funds and lobby local government and agencies to resurface and improve the tennis courts at all three local high schools, several city parks and Cameron University. Tom was the President of the Lawton Tennis Association for many years.
Tom’s children, Tom, III, Gray and Lisa were adults when Tom’s marriage with Mary Lou ended amicably in 1982. In 1991 Tom married Ruth Spears née Orr. Tom and Ruth doted on each other and on their children, including Ruth’s sons Tod and Don, and grandchildren of their blended family. Tom and Ruth treasured each other throughout the sixteen years of their marriage, which ended, tragically with Ruth’s untimely death in 2007. Tom remained a widower the rest of his life.
Tom was preceded in death by Ruth, the love of his life, and by his parents and both of his sisters, Betty and Kay. Tom is survived by his step-sons, Tod Spears, Tod’s wife, Kelly, and their sons, Trevor and Colin; and Don Spears, Don’s wife Tammy and their children Garrett and Grace. Tom is also survived by Lou Moore Hale (previously Mary Lou) and their three children, son Tom, III, Tom’s wife, Debra, and their children Megan and Tyler; son Gray, Gray’s wife Shelley and their children Elizbeth Cooke (and her husband, Andrew), Gray Garner, Grace Louise and Graham Thomas; and daughter Lisa Burnett, Lisa’s husband, Trey, and their sons Ross and Benton (and his wife, Kylee).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no memorial gathering is planned for 2020. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Cameron University Tennis Team, 2800 West Gore Boulevard, Lawton, Oklahoma 73505, which Tom supported for years.