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Part of the Legacy: The Hetheringtons

The Hetherington family has been a fixture at OU and around Norman for generations, and will be for generations to come.

Judge Bill Hetherington’s family has been at OU a long time. In the 30s, his grandmother Helen Hetherington became the equestrian coach for the mounted ROTC cadets. Believe it or not, the area where the softball and baseball fields are used to be stables for all the horses the University managed. 

helen hetherington on a horse
Bill Hetherington's grandmother Helen sits atop a horse on OU grounds. Photo courtesy of the OU Western History Collections

Helen’s son, Clark, was one of those ROTC cadets. Walking east past the library one day, he spied a lovely lady across the sidewalk heading the opposite direction. “The way he described it,” recalls Judge Hetherington, “he looked over, their eyes met each other, and in his mind, he thought, that’s the woman I’m going to marry!” Sure enough, they did get married, right before Clark headed off to fight in WWII. Post-war, Clark decided to try his hand at professional golfing. His father gave him two hundred dollars, and told Clark that once he lost it, he should come back and figure something else out. Three weeks later, Clark returned, ready to settle down and start a career selling insurance. That insurance company turned into a development company, and he ended up developing nearly a third of Norman over many years. 

clark hetherington in his football uniform
Clark Hetherington played football at OU for Snorter Luster and was a good friend of Bud Wilkinson. Photo courtesy of the OU Western History Collections

Not many people can say their dad was a close friend with coaching legend Bud Wilkinson. Judge Hetherington recalls OU’s November 16, 1957 loss to Notre Dame, which ended the still unbeaten 47-game winning streak under Wilkinson. In his life, Judge Hetherington had never once seen OU lose, so the 10-year-old was understandably devastated. Everyone came over to the Hetherington house after the game, as was their custom, and young Bill was completely beside himself. “I cried, bawled, was so mad, how could this happen, blah blah blah,” Judge Hetherington chuckles. “And Dad was mad as heck at me. Just called me spoiled. So we get home, and Dad corners Bud and tells him and I’m still just distraught. And I’ll never forget, Bud came over, and he looked down at me, and said ‘Son, the greatest team in the world’s gotta lose sometime.’ I thought that was pretty cool.”  

Clark also had a football background, having played for Snorter Luster before he headed off to the war. Once, he got thrown about 10 feet in the air by an All-American, and landed right at Luster’s feet. Snorter Luster looked down at Clark and said “Clark! I didn’t know you had a pilot’s license!” Incidentally, later in his life, Clark did end up getting his pilot’s license. After leaving Norman in the early 80s, Clark and Marian moved to Florida, where Clark ran the Palm Beach Polo Club, harkening back to his days as a polo player at OU.

clark hetherington
Clark was a "real character", according to his family! Photo courtesy of the OU Western History Collections

OU has brought love and life into this family, and they’ve given it back tenfold. Judge Hetherington’s granddaughter Melanie is a current student at OU, majoring in journalism. As she puts it, “my parents wouldn’t have cared if I went somewhere else, but why would I have wanted to?” After growing up on campus and living a block away from the stadium her whole life, she’s happy to continue to call OU home. 

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