Character, service and commitment to community are among the Norman Business Association’s core values, and it reflects those values though its membership and the speakers invited to meet with the club each week.
Another way the NBA reflects its values is through the leaders it has recognized through the years for their leadership in Norman’s business community. The NBA has designated the following list of honorees as “Norman Business Legends” for their varied achievements and contributions.
From carpenter to real estate developer, Jimmie Adair’s legacy as a Norman businessman was built on a foundation of perseverance, dedication and commitment to hard work.
Adair began working in Norman as a carpenter for $17 a week, but bigger dreams led to a career in real estate, where he established Adair & Associates Real Estate with his wife, Obreeta Von, in 1940.
Adair was a civic leader and prominent businessman, serving as president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and a leader in the redevelopment of downtown Norman. While Jimmy Adair passed away in 2010, Adair & Associates continues to operate as a family business.
While Gail Armstrong devoted his career to constructing buildings, he devoted his life to building relationships. The co-founder of Norman-based Gail Armstrong Construction placed people first. Everything else fell into place around them.
His life of building relationships started in Brownsfield, Texas, where he met Josie Grissom, his high-school sweetheart, and eventually, his wife and life-long best friend. Gail and Josie were married for 57 years and raised three children before he died in 2013 at age 76.
After moving to Norman in 1966, Armstrong partnered with his older brother, Gary, on a variety of successful business ventures, including oil marketing, oil-field drilling, commercial construction, land development and rental property management. Together, they established Gail Armstrong Construction in 1967, a business that continues to thrive as one of the most prominent privately held construction companies in Oklahoma. Their businesses took them all over the country, and the brothers built a lifetime bond as best friends.
Armstrong grew to love Norman and loved the friendships he built over his 46 years in the community. His clients became his friends and his friends became his clients. He maintained friendships for a lifetime, gladly giving the time, energy and concern necessary to support friends facing difficult times.
In addition to his business ventures, Armstrong was an active civic leader, lending expertise to city planning and municipal development issues, and he contributed volunteer time to Food & Shelter for Friends.
Jack Black began his business career in Norman as the partner of a financial firm before joining with other business leaders to form American Exchange Bank. The bank was chartered in 1962 and opened its doors in 1963.
In addition to his business enterprises, Black was active in local, state and national Republican politics, including a stint as state finance chairman for President Gerald Ford's election campaign. He also served as president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and the Norman Lions Club.
Born in Moore, Black held a degree in geology from the University of Oklahoma. He served as a bombardier during World War II and in the Korean War.
Raised in Western Oklahoma, Ed Copelin carried his work ethic and small-town values with him when he moved to Norman in 1981 to begin a career in the energy industry and later in the banking industry.
In the midst of the 1980's Oil Bust, Copelin struck out on his own, defied a depressed economy and established Copelin's Office Center, which remains a fixture near the corner of University Boulevard and Main Street.
Through the years, Copelin's has evolved with the times to capture new busness in a changing market, eventually becoming known as much for its teaching tools and toys as its office supplies and furniture.
Copelin has served in numerous community leadership positions with the Norman Chamber, the Norman Rotary Club, the Norman Public Schools Foundation, the boy Scouts of America, the Norman Business Association, Downtowners, the United Way of Norman, the Moore Norman Technology Center, Leadership Norman and the Norman Christmas Parade.
"I can't think of a more deserving person to be recognized as a Norman Business Legend," said Scott Martin, Norman Chamber president and Norman Business Association member.
"He truly loves Norman and his customers, and it's reflected in his spirit. He's humble, energetic and encouraging. He's always uplifting, and it's hard not to be positive when you're around him."
"Copelin's is a bedrock of our business community, and young entrepreneurs would be wise to seek Ed's counsel," Martin said.
Long-time Norman attorney Harold Heiple served most of his career as an advocate for businesses, individuals and other clients in front of the Norman City Council, the Norman Planning Commission and other public bodies. He took on the routine cases as well as the high-profile controversies, authoritatively representing the facts of each case to elected officials as well as the public.
Heiple was an authority on public administration, whether advocating for private citizens or for public entities. In addition to his private practice, Heiple served 40 years as legal counsel for the Moore-Norman Technology Center. He also served as a member of the Norman City Council.
The University of Oklahoma graduate obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1958 and OU law degree in 1961.
The first woman president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce in 1978, Maudine Holland was a long-time pioneer in the business community. Following her husband’s death in 1957, she took over their general merchandise store in downtown Norman and converted it into Lowes on Main Street, a women’s apparel store.
She attracted a loyal following, operating her store for more than three decades before finally closing her doors in 1994, as shopping traffic declined in Norman’s downtown business district.
Years later, she predicted downtown Norman would be revived, but not as a center for clothing retail businesses. Instead, she envisioned downtown Norman as home to offices, professional people and art specialty stores.
Born in Hobart and raised in Hugo, Charles Hooper arrived in Norman in 1947 to attend the University of Oklahoma after serving in the military. While a journalism major, Hooper gained printing experience as a Linotype operator at the student-run Oklahoma Daily and at The Norman Transcript.
Those years of experience led to a lasting enterprise that started in 1950 by Hooper and his father, James Garl Hooper. The father and son opened Hooper Printing at 217 W Main St. in Norman with $600 in capital. That was enough to purchase two printing presses and some hand-set type.
In 1957, they moved their business to 301 W Gray St., which is where the company continues to operate today.
Hooper has served as president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and was one of the original incorporators of Norman’s American Exchange Bank. He was also a partner for many years in ownership of the Little River Marina.
A long-time businessman, banker and civic leader, Pat Mayes moved to Norman in 1956 and embarked on a career that ranged from owning a funeral home to owning a bank.
Meanwhile, his civic involvement included service on the Norman School Board and as president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce. He also was a member of the state Chamber of Commerce, served as chairman of the Cleveland County Business and Industry Council and was involved in the American Red Cross.
At an age when many people would think about retiring, Mayes, in 1990, began a second career as owner of First American Bank and Trust Co. of Purcell.
The Norman native, University of Oklahoma graduate and longtime businessman touched the lives of thousands through 25 years of service on the Norman School Board and two terms on the Norman City Council. He also served as president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce.
The owner of McCall’s Super Market and Greenleaf Grocery, McCall also did business as a property owner and developer for many years.
After graduating from OU in 1940, McCall enlisted in the U.S. Army and served through the years of World War II, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He left the service and returned to Norman in 1945.
A long-time real-estate agent, home builder, Norman businessman and philanthropist, Gene McKown has helped set the standard for what it means to be a community leader.
In McKown’s early career in real estate, he worked with Gundaker Associates and later became a co-founder of Ideal Homes, helping to build the company on a foundation of friendship, local involvement and giving back. He demonstrated those values for more than 40 years, contributing his unique abilities as an auctioneer to help nonprofit organizations raise millions of dollars at hundreds of fundraisers in Norman and elsewhere.
He also has been honored with the 2017 Sam Matthews Social Justice Award in recognition of his work to build a 32-home community for Food and Shelter Inc. The village, known as McKown Village, serves many of Norman’s homeless.
After military service in World War II, Norman native Harold Powell returned to earn his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Oklahoma. Following graduation, he did not travel far to begin his career.
Across Boyd Street, on Campus Corner, he opened his first clothing store in 1948, catering to the university community. From there, he built Harold’s Stores Inc., a fashion company that expanded into 20 states.
Powell was bigger than life for most OU students in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, and he became known for his support and passion for the University of Oklahoma.
Powell is remembered for his commitment to friends, and family, and while dedicated to growing his successful business, he was gentle, and always willing to help the Norman community prosper.
Dick Reynolds first made a name for himself as the long-time owner of Reynolds Ford in Norman, but his two terms as Norman’s mayor may have been what defined him most as a Norman Legend. Elected to his first term in 1987, Reynolds took office during Norman’s recovery from the 1980s Oil Bust. It was a period marked by budget reductions, staff cuts and reduced services.
Working through a second term as mayor, he was a steady leader, working with the Norman City Council and staff to bring stability back to City Hall. With Norman city government on a firmer financial footing, Reynolds finished his second term in 1993 and did not seek a third term.
Reynolds is a 1954 graduate of the University of Oklahoma and a U.S. Army veteran. He is a former president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce and is a former chairman of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. He also has been a member of the National Automotive Dealer Council.
The great grandson of an 1889 Land Run settler, Andy Rieger is a contemporary pioneer, who has had a front-row view of Norman's remarkable growth. Rieger grew up in Norman in the 1960s, when the college town was still small and when telephone calls to Oklahoma City were still considered long distance.
Much has changed over the decades, and Rieger has not only witnessed it, he’s been part of it.
His journalism career began in the 1970s on the copy desk of The Daily Oklahoman and Oklahoma City Times. The University of Oklahoma graduate later returned to Norman to attend graduate school, teach journalism and lead the student newspaper. In the 1990s, he was co-owner and co-publisher of a weekly newspaper in Noble, and he later became managing editor of The Norman Transcript. In 2010, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame.
For two decades, Rieger led his newsroom staff, covering the people and events that transformed Norman into Oklahoma’s third-largest city. Meanwhile, he spent years embedded in the Norman community, serving as president of the Norman Rotary Club, the Norman Chamber of Commerce and the Norman Business Association. He also has served as chair of the annual United Way of Norman Fundraising Campaign.
Andy retired from The Norman Transcript in 2015 and began a new career as a member of Rieger Realty LLC. However, he continues to write columns about what he knows better than most, Norman and its history.
Arriving in Norman in 1997, Don Wood served 18 years as executive director of the Norman Economic Development Coalition before retiring from his post in 2015. Hired to help launch the unique partnership between the University of Oklahoma, the City of Norman, the Moore-Norman Technology Center and the Norman Chamber of Commerce, Wood oversaw many initiative during his tenure.
Wood developed several coalition-owned business parks, helped many local employers expand operations, worked to create the world's only weather industry cluster and helped create more than 2,700 new jobs in Norman.
In 2002, the NEDC launched one of the state's first certified business incubators, further enhancing job growth in the community. He also helped raise more than $4 million in funding for OU's research campus infrastructure.
Republic Bank President Chuck Thompson (left) recognizes
Don Wood for his achievements as NEDC director