Cover photo for James Ralph McCalmont's Obituary
James Ralph McCalmont Profile Photo

James Ralph McCalmont

July 27, 1935 — November 7, 2023

Oklahoma City

James Ralph McCalmont

Ralph was born in Depression-era East Texas to Ida and Carl Berry. He and his younger brother soon lost their father, sending their mother to Austin to find work. Raised by maternal grandparents on a farm, Ralph found his love of the outdoors.

 

In 1946, Ralph and his brother rejoined Ida with her new husband, Gene McCalmont, and took their new stepfather’s last name.  At Austin High, Ralph was active in church and answered a call to serve, preaching in many churches before leaving for Howard Payne University in Brownwood.  There, his beloved professor, Dr. Nat Tracy, became a mentor to Ralph as he professed a desire to help others and live an ‘other-centered life.’ There, Ralph met and married his first wife, Betty, and had two children, Stuart and Sharon. He also served in the US Naval Reserve.

 

Graduating in 1957, Ralph worked in the financial industry while continuing his ministry education at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth. A pivotal meeting with Dr. Tracy changed the course of Ralph’s life to pursue banking and leave professional ministry.

 

In Ft. Worth, Ralph learned to fly and aviation became a passion. As an instrument-rated pilot, he flew from Alaska to Central America and most of North America. He mentored and supported young people he encountered, first through World Vision trips, sponsoring individuals from three continents over his lifetime.

 

Ralph rose through the ranks at City National Bank of Ft. Worth to become president, then graduated from Southwestern Graduate School of Banking. As a bank consultant he worked with Gene Rainbolt and acquired the First National Bank of Guthrie in 1974. He led efforts to preserve and promote the Territorial town of Guthrie as the first Main Street town in the US.  He also led Guthrie’s effort to bring outlaw Elmer McCurdy back to Guthrie as his final resting place.

 

Ralph was recognized as a national leader and speaker in the historic preservation movement and served as a Trustee for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC. 

 

Ralph moved to Oklahoma City in 1988 while working on the development of BancFirst with Gene Rainbolt. He brought his ‘service leadership’ philosophy to the company, where it remains a corporate signature. He was especially proud that his idea of the new company’s name as BancFirst was embraced.

 

He met his wife, Susan, in 1988 through the National Trust in Washington, DC, and they were married in Virginia in 1989. Their son, “Jeb” McCalmont, was born five years later. After retiring from banking in 1999, he served as Director of the Oklahoma Department of Tourism for two years at the behest of Governor Henry.

 

Ralph continued his civic leadership in Oklahoma City as chairman of the Oklahoma City Art Museum, working closely with Carolyn Hill to establish its downtown location. He served on the Finance Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma and Senior Warden of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church. He was a founder of Preservation Oklahoma and served on the boards of the Oklahoma Historical Society, Canterbury Choral Society, City Rescue Mission, and others.

 

He loved his family, his faith, aviation, storytelling, genealogy (authoring a book on his Prussian ancestors), fly fishing, Yellowstone, and the mountains. But Ralph will be best remembered by all who knew him for loving and helping others.

 

Ralph is survived by his wife, Susan; son, Jeb; son, Stuart (Sheila) and daughter, Sharon, and their mother, Betty; five grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.  He is predeceased by his parents, Ida and Carl; brother, Monroe; half-brother, Gene; and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins.

 

A Celebration of Life will be held Friday, November 17th, at 2:00 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Oklahoma City. In lieu of flowers, remembrances in Ralph’s name can be made to: Preservation Oklahoma, 405 NW 15th St, OKC, OK 73103; or The Nat Tracy Memorial Scholarship Fund, Howard Payne University, PO Box 2369, Brownwood, TX 76801.

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Past Services

Memorial Service

Friday, November 17, 2023

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral

127 NW 7th Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

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