Charles "C.C." Ingram, former head of ONEOK, dies at 95
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Thursday, December 06, 2012
12/06/12 at 3:45 AM
Digging ditches at 25 cents an hour was no big deal to C.C. Ingram, who had never minded a hard day's work.
The problem was he was doing it for a natural gas company. Ingram had long wanted to break into oil.
But with the country still emerging from the Depression, the petroleum engineering graduate felt compelled to take the job that was available.
In the end, Ingram, after setting aside his shovel to serve in World War II, would stick with the company and industry that gave him his start.
And more than four decades later, after starting out at the bottom with Oklahoma Natural Gas as a laborer, he would retire at the top, having served as both the company's board chairman and chief executive officer.
Charles Clark "C.C." Ingram, an Oklahoma Hall of Fame honoree who remained active as a chairman emeritus and consultant with the Tulsa-based energy company now known as ONEOK, died Nov. 27. He was 95.
A service was held Nov. 30 at Brookside Baptist Church under direction of Moore's Southlawn Funeral Home.
Wherever on the company ladder ONEOK employees happened to be - top, bottom or in-between - chances were they knew Ingram.
His son, Jim Ingram, said the first time he saw "Undercover Boss" on television, he had to pick up the phone and call his father.
"I said 'Dad, you've got to see this show. It's about you - except that you were never undercover.' "
Embodying the show's premise, minus the subterfuge, Ingram kept close, one-on-one contact with his employees and was even known to step in and drive machinery.
"This is a company that had 3,000 employees, and every year he made it a point to sit down and have a private conversation with as many of them as he could," Jim Ingram said. "He knew all their names, about their families.
"How many times has your boss personally asked you how you felt about your job?"
A native of Henryetta who attended the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship, Ingram did not feel so good about his first job, at the time at least. That was in 1940 with ONG, when he was looking for a job in oil.
But after his return in 1946 from WWII, the Army major went back to ONG and its engineering department in Tulsa.
Over the next two decades, he rose through the ranks until his election in 1966 as board chairman and CEO.
Among the things Ingram was best known for at ONG/ONEOK was championing the advancement of women and minorities at the company.
John W. Gibson, current ONEOK CEO and chairman, said under Ingram the company saw the appointments of its first female and black officers and also elected its first female board member.
"Charlie was committed to diversity and inclusion, and that commitment continues at ONEOK today," Gibson said. "He led by example, and his legacy remains."
Ingram also gets credit for another first: When ONG changed its corporate name in 1980, it was he who came up with "ONEOK."
Ingram retired in 1987 after more than 40 years with the company but stayed involved as a consultant.
In the way he combined visionary leadership with a deep concern for people, Ingram will "always be among the leaders that I hold in the highest regard," said David L. Kyle, former ONEOK CEO and chairman.
"He was a very warm man who cared deeply about employees and their families ... He championed policies that were inclusive and fair for all. He strongly believed in supporting and improving the quality of life in the communities that the company served."
In his own community, Tulsa, Ingram was best known for his favorite pastime, golf, including as an organizer of major tournaments.
A past president of Southern Hills Country Club who served on committees for the 1970 PGA Championship and 1977 U.S. Open, Ingram most notably was chairman of the 1983 U.S. Women's Open at Cedar Ridge Country Club.
Ingram was preceded in death by his wife of 72 years, Maxine Ingram; a daughter, Vicky Ingram; and a son, Jack Ingram. His survivors include his son, Jim Ingram; seven grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Former head of ONEOK started out digging ditches
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Charles Clark "C.C." Ingram: "This is a company that had 3,000 employees, and every year he made it a point to sit down and have a private conversation with as many of them as he could," said his son, Jim Ingram. "He knew all their names, about their families."