If you’ve lived in Claremore for more than five minutes, you’ve heard of Tad Jones, the political whiz kid with red hair and an easy grin. I attended school at Oologah many moons ago, and while Tad had already moved on to the realm of higher education when I arrived, he was still a football legend to the mighty Mustangs. He went on to earn a degree in marketing at the University of Tulsa, while continuing to show his prowess on the football field.
After graduation, he decided to run for office. He’d always been interested in American history and enjoyed reading about Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. The house seat was available, so why not run? He had some t-shirts made, threw on some shorts (he cringes at this now) and hit the streets with his wife Sammi, knocking on doors. He won the election and served in the House of Representatives for 12 years. He ended his career as the majority floor leader.
Tad has spent the past four years with his family living in Grove, working as the Executive Director of the Grand Lake Association. You can catch him on RSU TV as a host of Living Grand on Grand Lake; he’s a celebrity!
However, it’s time for a change for the Jones family. Tad, Sammi, and their four boys (Logan-10, Blake-8, Connor-4 and Pierce-1) have left the lake life and moved back to Claremore, as Tad is set to take over the reins of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums as Executive Director.
I asked Tad if he’s always had a passion for Will Rogers, and I received a resounding “yes!” Growing up in the Claremore/Oologah area, Tad spent many days at both the Memorial and the Dog Iron Ranch. He has memories of singing with his middle school class on the steps of the ranch and sledding down Will’s Hill. Now Tad’s children can sled down that same hill, as it’s now their front yard! The Jones clan has settled in at the lodge on the museum property, earning a bit of historical value as having the first children to live in the home. Tad says his boys delight in exclaiming things like, “We’re the first kids to eat cereal at the lodge!” and “We’re the first kids to play soccer at the lodge!”
Tad will officially hold the title of executive director effective September 1. In the meantime, he is using every spare moment soaking up knowledge from current director Steve Gragert, who is retiring. According to Tad, “no one has more knowledge about Will Rogers than Steve.”
He is excited to work with the Will Rogers Commission, which is full of energized, passionate members who are eager to promote Will throughout the country. (The Commission consists of Phil Albert, Bill Biard, Jack Spinks, Philip Hixon, Linda Bradshaw, and Will’s granddaughter, Jennifer Rogers Etcheverry.) There are numerous plans in the works for large-scale projects, with an emphasis on education. Tad refers to himself as a big “idea man”, so he is the perfect person to contribute his thoughts on the new direction of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums. In addition, as the Museums are funded by the state, his legislative background will be an asset. He will have plenty of opportunities to visit his old stomping grounds at the Capitol, but on the other side, as an advocate for the Museums.
Tad is happy to be back home, and is excited about what the future holds. He would like to remind the public that the back porch of the Memorial has the best view in town, and folks are welcome to bring a picnic lunch, or even a sack of burgers from Mickey D’s, eat and enjoy the sights. It’s also important to remind the good people of Claremore what a cultural gem the Memorial is, and it’s probably been too long since most locals have visited. It’s open 365 days a year, and while there is an admission fee (it’s not much!), joining the Friends of Will Rogers will allow a deep discount and many other privileges.
If you happen to stop by the Memorial, be sure to say “hello” to Tad, as he steps into his new role. For now, he’s busy learning about Will Rogers, but he’s confident, as he has a terrific staff to help him, and “Steve’s cell phone number.”
Welcome home, Jones family.
Keep it local, Claremore.
-MCM Staffer Ashley
aka former Mustang