Everyone who has walked passed Bixby High School’s basketball gym has taken notice of the large, bold white letters hanging over the entrance that so proudly display the name Whitey Ford. Yet how many of those people have stopped to ponder: Who is that? There is indeed a significance to this man’s role at Bixby, and his real name is in fact, Arthur Ford.
Ford graduated from Wainwright’s High School then attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah before earning a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from Oklahoma A&M in Stillwater. He instantly became a teacher, coach, and game official. During the 1930’s Ford was coaching in small towns such as Nuyaka, west of Okmulgee, where he was nick-named Mutt. Here he met his wife, Dorothy, who was a senior varsity basketball forward and an english student. Ford’s involvement in officiating caused him to move from Council Hill to Bixby. When he arrived, his nick-name was changed to Whitey after a New York Yankees pitcher named him Whitey Ford because of his love of baseball.
Ford started his career at Bixby during the 1955-56 academic/sports year teaching journalism and head coaching Spartanette basketball. He most likely chose to coach Spartanettes, not Spartans, because he had two daughters; one who died in a swimming accident at fourteen years old, and another named Jean who is married and currently lives in Broken Arrow. In 1956 he took his team to the state championship with 32 wins and one loss; in 1957 he won the state championship with a perfect season, 34 wins and no losses; the very first state championship won by Bixby and the only one so far won by the Spartanettes. His win-loss record at the end of his Bixby coaching career was 415-115; according to Linda Boles, president of the Bixby Historical Society, this was “an unbelievable win record”. Ford took his girls to the state championship a total of four times. He remained a coach until 1964, and was put into the Bixby Sports Hall of Fame in 1966 for his outstanding accomplishments as a girls basketball coach for eleven years. He remained employed at Bixby as a principal in 1975.
More of Ford’s achievements include being appointed Bixby’s first Athletic Director and was accorded Coach of the Year. He held the office of vice president of the OGBCA (Oklahoma Girl’s Basketball Coaches Association) and president of the OSSAA (Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association), in which he served actively. Ford has even been acclaimed with “Whitey Ford Day” and “Citizen of the Year”.
After his highly successful work at Bixby the basketball gym was first named Whitey Ford Field House in 1970 by the students that loved him.
Ford died in 1985, but left behind a Bixby legend Spartans and Spartanettes will remember forever.
Credit: Emily Thornton, Reporter