|Birth: ||Aug. 7, 1922|
|Death: ||Oct. 17, 2012|
Ray Ackerman died peacefully early in the morning on October 17, 2012. He was born in Pittsburgh, PA, on August 7, 1922, and moved to OKC in 1947 after 5 years in the U.S. Navy with last duty as a fighter pilot. Following 5 years as an advertising salesman with the Daily Oklahoman while earning a degree at night at Oklahoma City University (OCU), he joined a staff of 4 at the George W. Knox Advertising Agency, now Ackerman McQueen.
Ray married Lucille Frances Flanagan of OKC in 1948 and they have 6 living children, 11 grandchildren, and 1 great grandson.
In 1954 he bought the agency from Mr. Knox and over the next 16 years, built it from $250,000 to $6 million in billings. In the early 1970's, he was joined by the father-and-son team of Marvin and Angus McQueen and under their combined leadership the agency grew from handling only local accounts to serving major accounts such as the National Rifle Association, Daisy Air Rifles, Nocona Boots, Resistol Hats, Food and Wines of France, Droste Chocolates (Holland), Pizza Hut (regional), Sheraton Hotels (10 markets).
When Ray retired from active leadership and became Chairman Emeritus of the agency in 1992, it was billing $92 million and is now over $200 million, the largest agency headquartered in Oklahoma and ranked in the top 2% of all U.S. agencies. Other offices besides the headquarters in OKC are in Tulsa, Dallas, Washington D.C. and Colorado Springs.
Ray was President of the OKC Ad Club in 1954, received its Distinguished Service Award in 1964, and was honored with the AAF Silver Medal Award in 1982. He served as President of the Southwest Council of 4A's, as a member of the 4A's Board of Directors and its Committee on Government Relations. In 1982 he was selected by the 4A's to be the small agency member of a People-to-People delegation to lecture on advertising in 5 cities in China. In 1974-75 he served as International President of Worldwide Partners, an affiliation of ad agencies in the US and 60 international cities. On November 11, 2008, he was one of the inaugural class of 8 elected to the American Advertising Federations Southwest Advertising Hall of Fame.
After 5 years of active duty in the Navy, he spent 30 more years in the Naval Reserve, rising to the rank of Rear Admiral. He commanded both a Jet Fighter Squadron and the Air Wing Staff at Dallas Naval Air Station. He served as State President and National Director of the Navy League and as National President for two years, 1969-71, of the Naval Reserve Association. In 2007, he was awarded the George Washington Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge and was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.
Ray has a long history of public service in OKC, having served as general chairman of the National Finals Rodeo for 20 years and as chairman or president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the United Way, Allied Arts, Kirkpatrick Museum Center, St. Anthony Hospital Foundation, Better Business Bureau, Salvation Army, Science Museum of Oklahoma and Rotary Club 29. He also served on the boards of these organizations for many years, plus Red Earth, the Volunteer Center, the Oklahoma Heritage Association, the Oklahoma City Public School Foundation, Junior Achievement, Redlands Council of Girl Scouts, Urban League, Mercy Hospital, Last Frontier Council of the Boy Scouts, and Quail Creek Golf and Country Club. He led the annual fundraising drives for the Chamber, Allied Arts and the United Way, being active on the latter's drive for 59 consecutive years.
For 20 plus years, Ray served on the Board of Trustees of OCU, was honored with the University's School of Business Outstanding Award in 1964, as a Distinguished Alumnus in 1991, and with an honorary PhD in Commercial Science in 1996. Ackerman is listed in "Who's Who in America".
Ray was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1993 and into the Oklahoma Commerce and Industry Hall of Honor in 1998. He has been honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the United Way, Oklahoma City Beautiful, Leadership Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University's Hall of Honor and the National Association of Fundraising Executives. Other awards include the Pathmaker from Oklahoma City/County Historical Society, Humanitarian of the Year from Oklahoma County Arthritis Foundation, Dean A. McGee Award from Downtown OKC, and the Archbishop Beltran Community Service Award. In 2000, he was elected to the International Academy of Achievement of Sales and Marketing Executives and in 2003 was selected as a "Father of the Year" by the Oklahoma City Chapter of the American Diabetes Association. In 2004, Ray and his wife Lou were selected by the OK Health Center Foundation as Oklahoma "Living Treasures for Tomorrow."
Ray served on the Board of Directors of LSB Inc from 1992 til 2011. In 1993, the Greater OKC Chamber established the Ray Ackerman Award to be given annually to the person voted as the leading volunteer in service to the Chamber. In 2004, the United Way of Central Oklahoma established the Ray Ackerman Leadership Award to be given annually for outstanding leadership.
The Governor's Art Award was presented to Ray in 2000, primarily as the co-visionary of the world's longest sculpture of the Run of 1889 with 45 heroic-sized figures. Originally planned for a World's Fair in 1989, which was canceled, the idea was resurrected in 1999 for the Centennial of Statehood in 2007. The sculptures now reside along the Bricktown Canal.
Ray's enthusiasm for his adopted state resulted in his authoring "Tomorrow Belongs to Oklahoma", a review of the State's exciting past and promising future. In 2003, the Oklahoma Heritage Association published his biography, "Old Man River", by Bob Burke with Joan Gilmore. The title, an honorary one that was given him by the OKC Chamber, came from the fact he was the person who got the development of the North Canadian River and a canal from it to the Myriad Gardens, through Bricktown, the most popular tourism area in the city. They are part of the nine venues in the Chamber's "Vision of a New Frontier", a plan to improve the quality of life in OKC. The mayor renamed the plan, MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects) and in December 1993, the voters passed a 5-year 1 cent sales tax to fund it.
After an 11 year effort led by Ackerman, the Legislature renamed seven miles of the river through OKC as the Oklahoma River, signed into law by the Governor on May 21, 2004.
Ray was a member of St. Eugene Catholic Church, the Fortune Club, Rotary Club 29 and Quail Creek Golf & Country Club. In 2009, he received the Visionary Leadership Award from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful. On April 20, 2012 a statue of Ray in Regatta Park was dedicated to him as "Old Man River" and the visionary of the Oklahoma River and the Bricktown Canal.
Ray is preceded in death by: his father, Charles Raymond Ackerman and his mother, Teresa Jane Grasinger Ackerman of Oklahoma City; his brother, David Karl Ackerman of Bethesda, MD; a sister, Catherine "Kit" Winkler and her husband William F. of Oklahoma City; and a daughter, Beth Ackerman.
Ray is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lucille "Lou" Frances Flanagan Ackerman of the home; daughter and husband Patricia Ann and Mike Mehring of Redmond, WA and grandson Jason Conley and wife Jennifer and great grandson Trent Conley of Bradenton, FL; daughter and husband Ann Carol and Ron Adams and granddaughter Elizabeth Veronica "Evie" Adams of Dallas, TX; son Rev. Ray K. Ackerman of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; daughter and husband Susan Marie and Douglas Fuller and grandchildren Alexander Douglas and Alyssa Marie "Lissy" Fuller of Oklahoma City; son and wife Mark and Deanna Ackerman and grandchildren Raymond Bryan and Samantha Riley Ackerman of Oklahoma City; daughter Amy Lou Ackerman Shaver and grandchildren Sophie Elizabeth, Lucy Bernadette, Henry Maximilian, Annie Clare and Lily Therese Shaver of Oklahoma City; sister, Mary Frances Veeck, Chicago; sister-in-law Marjorie Ackerman, Bethesda, MD; and numerous nieces and nephews.
On June 14, 2012, Ray and Lou celebrated 64 glorious years of marriage and this is her message to him as they separate temporarily before their reunion in heaven:
Dear Husband and Father,
Next August 7th, you would be 91 yet, with your dignity intact, you are now gone. I am glad for you and the promise of what lies ahead, although I will miss you every day - the heartbeat under your necktie, the hand cupped on the back of my neck, shaving lotion in the air, your voice delighted with stories. On your birthday each year you loved to relate that at the moment of your birth your mother glanced out the window and saw flowers in bloom. Well, today flowers are blooming all over Oklahoma, still welcoming you.
Your loving wife, Lou
A Prayer Vigil for the deceased will be held Sunday evening, October 21 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Eugene Catholic Church, 2400 W. Hefner Road, Oklahoma City, OK 73120. The following Monday morning, October 22, 2012 a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 a.m. also at St. Eugene. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations are suggested for the new Church at St. Eugene or the United Way of Metro Oklahoma.
A native of Pennsylvania, Ray Ackerman served in the U.S. Navy for 35 years and retired from the U.S. Naval Air Force Reserves as a rear admiral. After World War II he settled in Oklahoma City to begin a career that included founding Oklahoma's largest and most successful advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, Inc. He earned his business degree from Oklahoma City University and eventually bought the agency he started, opening offices in Tulsa (1967), Dallas (1978), and Washington, D.C. (1986). Ray Ackerman's enthusiasm for his adopted state resulted in his writing and publishing the book Tomorrow Belongs to Oklahoma in 1964.
The following article was published in the Daily Oklahoman on October 17, 2012
As an advertising executive, Ray Ackerman may best be remembered for overseeing the creation of the B.C. Clark's Christmas jingle or the "Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven" campaign.
Ray Ackerman, chairman emeritus of Ackerman McQueen
As a civic leader, Ackerman is fondly remembered as "Old Man River" — the man who more than anyone else made the Oklahoma River a reality through sheer will power. Others may recall him as a proud Navy veteran, a fighter pilot who later rose to the rank of admiral.
Moreover, Ackerman, who died Wednesday morning in his northwest Oklahoma City home at age 90, is being remembered.
Ackerman's passing was observed Wednesday by Gov. Mary Fallin and Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, both of whom noted his promotion of the city and efforts to bring life to the Oklahoma River.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett called Ackerman a "can-do guy," adding that he was part of a minority of civic leaders who pushed for development of the river against the skepticism of many others who thought it could not be done.
Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy Corp., called Ackerman "a true leader" and "shameless promoter" of all matters involving Oklahoma City.
"He had a heck of a life, an incredible life," said Angus McQueen, chief executive officer of Ackerman McQueen, the firm built by Ackerman. "His 80s were as exciting as his 30s. He had a heck of a company here before I came here."
A lover of rivers
Ackerman was born in the riverside Pennsylvania city of Pittsburgh — a detail cited by himself and those who knew him as a key to his love of the Oklahoma River.
He served five years in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot, and once survived a fiery crash with another plane. He moved to Oklahoma City in 1947 and worked early on as an advertising salesman with The Oklahoman while earning a degree during night school at Oklahoma City University.
After graduation, he joined a staff of four at the George W. Knox Advertising Agency, a firm he acquired in 1954. Two years later, Ackerman's firm created the B.C. Clark Christmas jingle, a song that remains an annual holiday favorite and is widely considered the most well-known local advertising campaign in the city's history.
Between 1954 and 1970, Ackerman grew the firm's annual billings from $250,000 to $6 million. In the early 1970s, he was joined by the father-and-son team of Marvin and Angus McQueen.
Under their combined leadership, the agency grew from handling only local accounts to serving major accounts such as the National Rifle Association, Daisy Air Rifles, Nocona Boots, Resistol Hats, Food and Wines from France, Holland-based Droste Chocolates, Pizza Hut and Sheraton Hotels.
When Ackerman retired from active leadership and became chairman emeritus of the agency in 1992, its billings topped $92 million. It is now the largest agency based in Oklahoma and ranked in the top 2 percent of all agencies in the United States, with annual billings topping $200 million.
Ackerman's dedication to civic service was noted early on, and included an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1967. For 20 years he served as chairman of the hosting committee for the National Finals Rodeo.
Friends note Ackerman never retired.
Roy Williams, president of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, noted Ackerman is unique in that he served a brief stint as president just before serving as chairman in the late 1980s. He is also the only person to have an annual award issued in his name by the chamber.
"We've not had someone like him before, and likely never will again," Williams said. "Ray lived and breathed the chamber. I don't know if we ever had anymore more supportive of the chamber."
It was as chamber chairman that Ackerman helped lead planning for quality of life improvements to the city that ultimately became a part of the Metropolitan Area Projects fathered by former Mayor Ron Norick.
Norick noted that without Ackerman's relentless lobbying of state lawmakers, the North Canadian River as it flows through the city never would have been renamed the Oklahoma River. He also credited Ackerman with being a big supporter of including the creation of dams to revive the frequently dry riverbed into a recreational series of lakes.
In the 2005 biography, "Old Man River: The Life of Ray Ackerman," author Bob Burke wrote that Ackerman had a long love affair with rivers dating from childhood in Pittsburgh when he swam in the Monongahela and Ohio rivers.
His advocacy of developing the riverfront did not end with the successful completion of the MAPS project.
Mike Knopp, executive director of the Oklahoma City Boathouse Foundation, said Ackerman's role in the creation of the Boathouse District cannot be overstated, adding "the story is not over with respect for his role in riverfront redevelopment."
Knopp credited Ackerman and Pat Downes, development director of the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, with giving a fledgling rowing program the boost it needed to morph into a series of architecturally stunning boathouses that now attract regatta participants from across the country.
"Ray was like the enthusiastic coach or coxswain to our small team in the early days over development when the river was still being mowed," Knopp said. "When the challenges of developing the river seemed so great, Ray, along with Pat Downes, really provided the enthusiasm and guidance that helped drive the dramatic river transformation forward that ultimately inspired others to join the team."
Oklahoma City University President Robert Henry credited Ackerman with convincing the school to be the first to establish a rowing program on the river.
"As a trustee, he encouraged OCU to adopt rowing as a club sport in 2000," Henry said. "It was declared a varsity sport four years later when OCU hosted the first annual Head of the Oklahoma Regatta."
After successful efforts to promote the development of the Boathouse District and the renaming of the river, Ackerman continued to promote the city in his 80s with efforts to nickname the city "The Big Friendly."
Longtime friend and civic leader Lee Allan Smith noted that just earlier this month, though unable to walk anymore, Ackerman was preparing to lobby civic leaders to support campaigns to fund improvements at the Softball Hall of Fame and completion of the American Indian Cultural Center.
"He was outstanding and never stopped thinking about what he could do for Oklahoma City and the state," Smith said.
A heroic-sized statue of Ackerman was unveiled in April with more than 100 civic leaders in attendance. It was a moment that prompted a rare outing by the ailing promoter who used a wheelchair.
"Ray always dreamed of substantial civic contributions, whether it was running for office or it was his work at the chamber," McQueen said.
"Ray was one of those guys who got up in the morning to go to work for no paycheck to make the city a better place."
Services are set
A wake for Ray Ackerman is set for 7 p.m. Sunday and services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, both at St. Eugene Catholic Church.
Survivors include his wife, Lucille "Lou" Frances Flanagan Ackerman, daughter Patricia Ann Mehring and her husband Mike Mehring; daughter Ann Carol Adams and her husband Ron Adams; son the Rev. Ray K. Ackerman of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City; daughter Susan Marie Fuller and her husband Douglas Fuller; and son Mark Ackerman and his wife, Deanna Ackerman.
Charles Raymond Ackerman (1898 - 1962)
Teresa Jane Grasinger Ackerman (1900 - 1983)
Resurrection Memorial Cemetery
Created by: Steven Laird
Record added: Oct 19, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 99179969
Added: Feb. 12, 2013
You will be missed, Admiral, by all of us in the OKC Navy community. Here's to fair winds and following seas in this new voyage you are embarking on.|
Added: Oct. 21, 2012