Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning

They Became My Family

Orville D. McDonald

Orville D. McDonald, born December 31, 1922, in Wynona, Oklahoma, to Frank and Rose McDonald.

I was the seventh and last child in the family. My mother, previously married, gave birth to my half-sister, Mary, and twin half-brothers, Bill and Ivan, as well as my brothers, John E., Dewey, K., and Thomas B. My father worked as a tenant farmer a few miles outside of Stillwater, until my mother died from a long-term illness when I was about 4. The family then moved to another tenant farm because of available work milking cows at an adjacent farm.

I’m sure we must have been poor, although we didn’t know it at the time. Food was sometimes scarce and there were days when turnips donated by a neighbor were the only plentiful food—to this day, I cannot stand the taste of turnips. Medical care was non-existent. A chase between Tom and me caused a six-inch cut on my leg that chipped a small part of the bone. My father stopped the bleeding, packed it with some salve, wrapped it and we went on. The scar remains on my leg to this day. Our inability to afford medical care probably was the cause of my father’s death a year later when he stepped on a rusty nail, got lockjaw (tetanus) and died without benefit of a doctor’s care.

If times were hard before, now the times were desperate. Although we had relatives, they certainly were in no position to take us in. At this point, with no where to go, the Baptists of Oklahoma took over. Pastor Tom Collins, mother’s brother and the minister of a small country church began making inquiries, and subsequently made arrangements for Dewey, Tom and me to be admitted to the orphanage and aided Johnny, who was considered too old at age 14 to be admitted, to get a job milking cows and farming for his room and board. Johnny was never able to attend school again.

Because of the Baptist Children’s Home, Dewey, Tom and I were able to obtain high school educations and Tom and I went on to college. The help and guidance provided by Oklahoma Baptists allowed me to pursue avenues and realize dreams that would otherwise have been unreachable. I had this very helpful Sunday School teacher, John Lawhon, who, upon learning I wanted to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, volunteered to introduce me to Senator Josh Lee, who ultimately appointed me to the academy. Unfortunately, I was unable to pass the entrance exam in physics. Upon graduation from high school, with help again from Oklahoma Baptists, I got an oil-field job with Kerlyn Oil (owned by Robert S. Kerr, which later became Kerr-McGee Oil Co.).

Later, in 1941, I joined the Navy and on the way back to Pearl Harbor from the Battle of Midway, I again took the U.S. Naval Academy entrance exam, received a presidential appointment and was accepted at the Naval Academy. My naval career was not to be; a football injury that prevented a commission in the Navy resulted in a disability discharge. However, I did go to college and law school.

My education was not, by any means, the only positive result of my time in the orphanage. I received loving guidance and support, as well as discipline, from the dedicated people who ran the orphanage: Ms. McCarty who provided medical services out of the North building, Ms. Forester, the Boys building house mother, Ms. Gladys Dickens, and especially Rev. H. Truman and Alice Maxey, who came to the Children’s Home as superintendent. They provided guidance and supervision for some of the most dramatic changes in child care that Oklahoma has ever seen. To me, their names are synonymous with Oklahoma Baptist Child Care. They became my family. Pop and Mom Maxey, as they are known to my daughter and grandchildren, believed in a hands-on approach. I remember the time one of the older boys was involved in some forbidden activity and thinking Pop didn’t know who he was, tried to disappear. That’s when he learned that Pop was a world-class runner.

I met my wife of 49 years, Bettye, at the orphanage. We grew up together and when I returned from the Naval Academy, we married. In 1954, we moved to Albuquerque, where through a lot of hard work, some luck and inflation, we became successful real estate developers. Through the years we returned to Oklahoma City to visit, work, renew friendships and relive memories of our years in the Baptist Children’s Home. In 1994, Bettye died while on a Thanksgiving visit to the Maxey’s. Ironically, she died at the Waterford Hotel, which is located on the grounds of the old orphanage.

Today, the family continues to prosper. My daughter and granddaughter have actively joined the business. I know, with a certainty, that without the Oklahoma Baptists, none of this would have happened and my family would not be enjoying such success.

Orville D. "OD" McDonald passed from this world on October 11, 2014.

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