These Walls: Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa

By Davis, KirLee | THE JOURNAL RECORD, April 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

These Walls: Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa


Davis, KirLee, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Sometimes grievous disputes result in amazing blessings. Such was the case with the Southern Hills Country Club.

It started with a Depression concern that rings true today: making sure our youths have public activities to keep them out of trouble. Such concerns led Dr. Sam Kennedy, whose family owned the land beneath the Tulsa Country Club, to plan on opening that course to the public when the club's lease expired.

While his 1934 motives may have been good, losing their cultural getaway didn't please many among Tulsa's social elite. Although their wealth wasn't what it had been, Kennedy's move spurred some leaders to ponder building a new club, if they could find the money.

That led point men Bill Warren and Cecil Canary to First National Bank Chairman Waite Phillips, the Tulsa oil maverick known for one of the most fortuitous financial moves in modern history: keeping his assets liquid through much of the Roaring '20s. When the world economies collapsed, Phillips entered the Great Depression with an estimated $50 million (more than $870 million today) that actually grew in value.

Of course such wealth brought social responsibilities. For Phillips that included saving First National, which may explain his initial hostility to being asked to not only give this upstart club some 360 choice acres Phillips owned five miles south of Tulsa, but also to provide financing to build the $150,000 playground.

John Brooks Walton tells what came next in his book 100 Historic Tulsa Homes.

"Every paper you see contains a request for money to help start a business venture, or support a worthy cause," the financier reportedly told Warren at his cluttered bank desk. "Not all of the business ventures are worthy of much consideration, Mr. Warren, but yours is ridiculous!"

Perhaps that was overly harsh, since the Southern Hills supporters sought many of the same things Kennedy did. They envisioned a retreat where families could play in safety: an 18,000- square-foot clubhouse and restaurant with an Olympic-sized pool, riding paths and stable, tennis courts, polo field and skeet range, not to mention a championship golf course.

The banker made Warren an offer. If 150 people would each pledge $1,000 to that cause within two weeks, Phillips would give them the land. But that was it.

"I will not personally give a nickel to finance the project," Phillips said, according to the book Southern Hills Country Club, a 57-year History, Vol. 1 and 2.

With the help of George Bole, Otis McClintock, C.W. Flint and other prominent leaders, Warren pulled together 140 pledges within two weeks. That swayed Phillips to go along, kick-starting construction even as Warren struggled to see the pledges through. …

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