At its organizing meeting to become its own 501-c-3 organization, the Claremore Museum of History elected Hays Gilstrap as the new Chairman of the Board for the Claremore Museum of History.
Some may ask “Who is William Hays Gilstrap?” Hays is the son of Col. Lee F. & Doris Hays Gilstrap, the grandson of Dr. William F. & Geraldine Hays and Wilson G. & Ellen Ledora Julian and the brother of Mary Lee Spinks all of Claremore.
After graduating from Claremore High School in 1958, Hays and some of his classmates (Buddy Baker, Ed Sanders) went to Idaho to work for the U.S. Forest Service fighting fires throughout the great Northwest. Hays attended Oklahoma Military Academy and Oklahoma State University.
Hays married Suzanne Barger, also a Claremore High School graduate and they made their home in Houston Texas. They later moved to Austin where Suzanne was conducting a research program for Colgate Palmolive while Hays attended the University of Texas and later went to work for the American Cancer Society (ACS). He was soon transferred to Beaumont where he was responsible for the counties in Southeast Texas. In 1966 Hays was again transferred, this time to Dallas, Texas where he served as the Director of Development for Metropolitan Dallas. After a record fundraising year in Dallas Hays was transferred to Phoenix. Arizona where he became the CEO of the Arizona Division of the ACS (the youngest to hold that position with the ACS).
After eleven years with the ACS, Hays and Suzanne both decided to change careers and make Arizona their home to raise their three daughters. Suzanne attended ASU and received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and Hays went to work for Northwestern Mutual/Baird Securities. Hays was a member of the Million Dollar Roundtable and the Forum and founder and CEO of the LifeCare Company which developed and marketed products for the employee benefits market. After 35 years Hays retired from Northwestern.
In addition to his business career, Hays was quite active in his community. He was a Member and President of St Luke’s Hospital’s “Luke’s men” where he chaired the first Hon Kachina Awards Program, a program designed to recognize outstanding volunteers of Arizona and which became an annually televised program on NBC.
Hays served as a Trustee of St Luke’s Medical and Behavioral Health Center, President of Combined Health Services (a for-profit arm of St Luke’s Hospital) and was a founding board member of Youth Evaluation and Treatment Centers,a place for troubled teenagers to be housed and provided psychological counseling.
He also served as volunteer Development Director for the new Arizona Museum for Youth and was a member of Class IV of Valley Leadership, a Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program designed to recognize up and coming members of the community.
Always having a keen interest in wildlife and natural resources, Hays was asked by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to serve as Chairman of the newly-formed Arizona Natural Resource Stakeholder Group which was comprised of Federal, State, agricultural and non-governmental agencies responsible for the management of Arizona Natural Rescores. He served in this capacity through three Speakers of the House with the objective of resolving differences before they came to the floor of the House. As Hays says, “It is not what we caused to happen, it’s what we caused not to happen”.
Hays was appointed to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission by Governor Jane D. Hull where he served for eight years. One of his major accomplishments while serving on the Commission was the work he did with Arizona Indian Tribes in negotiating a “Gaming Compact” with the State which included a percentage of the gaming proceeds earmarked for a special fund to improve Arizona’s wildlife and its habitat. To date almost one hundred million dollars in additional money has been dedicated for this purpose.
Hays was instrumental in starting the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), a program for both girls and boys to learn safety and proficiency in shooting clay targets. He was the first Chairman of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, the funding and governing agency of SCTP. This program has expanded throughout the U. S. with active programs in most every State in the Union. Hays was inducted into the National Sporting Clays Hall of Fame (housed in San Antino TX) for his efforts with young people in the shooting sports arena. He was recently reappointed to a five- year term by Arizona Governor Doug Ducy to the Arizona Game & Fish Commission Recommendation Board.
Hays and Suzanne have built a new Cabin at the Claremore Outing Club on Spavinaw Creek where they are spending most of their time.