The Drumright Chamber of Commerce honored James Wendell Bookout, the newest addition to the Drumright Hall of Fame at the annual Chamber banquet last Thursday, Jan. 8.
Credit for accomplishing big things in a small town can usually be traced to a nucleus of civic-minded individuals. For almost 40 years our Hall of Fame Inductee has been in the middle of that nucleus in Drumright. He and his wife have been a team for Drumright since their move here in 1976.
He began his career in Drumright as president of Citizen’s Bank. He later purchased the Bill Watson Insurance Agency and changed the name to Drumright Insurance and Tag Agency.
Upon arriving in Drumright our honoree immediately became active in the Chamber of Commerce serving as president and every other office. He was named Citizen of the Year in 2000. He has served on the city council, the Creek County Industrial Authority and Drumright Industrial Authority.
He has worked with the Boy Scouts of America. He continues to serve on Central Tech’s business incubator board and is president of the Central Tech Foundation for students in need.
He is always politically involved and works with legislators to improve Drumright. Former state senator Ted Fisher refers to him as “Mr. Drumright.”
Senator Fisher says “I cannot remember a conversation (and there were many conversations) that he didn’t bring up something about the betterment of Drumright. When we started the highway 33 project it was clear that we were going to start it on the Drumright end.”
His greatest contribution to Drumright is his work to improve rural healthcare.
He became involved with the Drumright Memorial Hospital Foundation in 1982 because he believed in the work they were doing. In the late 80s the hospital foundation leased the hospital to the Oklahoma Baptist Healthcare system that later merged with Integris Home Health and became Intregis Rural Health.
In the early 90s our honoree was appointed to the Integris Rural Healthcare Board. At that time he also became chairman of the Drumright Memorial Hospital Foundation, a position he still holds today.
In the late 90s the hospital began to struggle financially. Integris did little to keep the hospital facility in good shape. Patient numbers continued to decline. But, the community still had a hospital.
It needs to be remembered that the staff of the old hospital provided outstanding care. They just did not have many patients; certainly not enough to make the hospital profitable. The facility was so old and outdated most people chose to go elsewhere for care.
Our honoree invited the Integris Board Chairman to speak at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet. At this podium the board chairman told us that if we wanted to keep our hospital, Integris would help. He said if the community of Drumright would be willing to invest in the hospital his organization would make things happen.
Shortly after, the people of Drumright were given the opportunity to vote on a bond for the purpose of renovating the hospital. Not only did the bond pass, it did so overwhelmingly, at almost 89% in favor. The community had made a statement. We wanted to keep our hospital.
However, Integris changed their minds and decided not to invest in Drumright.
Knowing the wishes of the community, our honoree met with the hospital staff and told them, “We will do what we can ourselves to keep our hospital running, or we will build a new one.”
Drumright Memorial Hospital closed in 2001.
The Drumright Memorial Hospital Foundation and people of Drumright decided to form the Drumright Healthcare Authority to begin work on a new hospital. As chairman of the Foundation our honoree helped guide the community through that difficult time.
He then provided leadership for the construction and opening of the new Drumright Regional Hospital in 2005. Located at the perfect location for a hospital on land donated by a very generous family, and followed by a brand new Drumright Medical Clinic next door to the hospital in 2011, healthcare in Drumright was back, better that ever.
Today, rural healthcare in Drumright is second to none. We owe so much to this man.
Our newest inductee into the Drumright Hall of Fame is James Wendell Bookout.
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