Remembering Bill Higginbotham: 1932-2017
Bill Higginbotham, the longest-serving member of Lee’s Board of Directors to date, passed away on Monday, Feb. 13. He was 85 years old.
Higginbotham served on the Board of Directors for 45 years, from 1972 until 2017, according to Lee University President Paul Conn.
Conn called Higginbotham “a great friend of Lee” during chapel on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
“[Higginbotham was] truly an iconic figure who has helped shape the modern Lee University,” Conn said. “We grieve his passing and we are deeply grateful for his gifts to Lee.”
Deborah Murray, the vice president for academic affairs, said she knew Higginbotham while she was a student at Lee.
“I have seen the transformation of this place from a small, regional college to a nationally recognized Christian University of significance, and I am convinced that Mr. Higginbotham was one of the most powerful forces in this transformation,” Murray said. “He was a man with strong opinions, keen insight, endless humor and a huge heart.”
Education Professor JoAnn Higginbotham said that Bill was also a “wonderful friend” to her and her husband Andy, and that they shared a love for golf. In 2002, Bill welcomed a group of education faculty into his Oklahoma home for the memorial of Dr. Cliff Schimmels, whose namesake is the park on Lee’s campus.
“Bill Higginbotham was a magnanimous gentleman who will be greatly missed,” JoAnn said. “He reflected Christ’s image in many ways to all who knew him. He loved Lee University with all his heart and we loved him.”
Bill Higginbotham was born on Jan. 14, 1932 in Ada, Oklahoma to Paul & Juanita Higginbotham. After graduating from Capitol Hill High School in 1950, he began a career in the oil field and worked his way up through the ranks. He began his own business that later became Capitol Well Servicing Co. and also owned and operated Oklahoma Tank Service and Trico Drilling.
On August 4, 1956, Bill married Betty Walker, and together they raised their children in Oklahoma City and Norman. Following Betty's death, Bill was fortunate to find love again and married Janie Whitley of Selma, North Carolina 29 years ago.
Bill was a charter member and actively involved in Southern Hills Church of God his whole life until Parkinsons impaired his mobility over his last few years.
In his free time Bill enjoyed good food, an afternoon nap, golf, boating, swimming and fishing on Lake Eufaula, playing cards, cheering for the Sooners and sharing laughs with friends, according to his obituary.
Jerome Hammond, the vice president for university relations, said “there is no way to repay the kind of dedication” that Bill gave to Lee.
“Bill Higginbotham gave Lee more than four decades of wise, clear-headed and bold leadership,” Hammond said. “The only proper response is to be the great university he knew we could be.”
Staff Writer Kristen Templeton contributed to this story.