Upon returning home to Oklahoma City after serving in the United States Army during the Korean War, Paul B. Odom Jr. began a dynamic and successful career as a builder, commercial and residential land developer, property manager, civic leader and aviator. For these many years, Odom has played an important role in the development of central Oklahoma, and perhaps most prominently, of south Oklahoma City. Odom isn’t the type to talk about his many accomplishments over the years, so we at Distinctly Oklahoma magazine are happy to brag a little on his behalf. As it turns out, there is a lot more to Odom than just business.
By David Althouse
Spend any amount of time with Paul B. Odom Jr. and you soon discover he prefers talking about Oklahoma and its people over business anytime. You also realize that his long and successful career in business was less about making money and more about living in the state he loves, and working with the people he enjoys most.
Upon meeting Odom, I tried steering the conversation to some of his well-known business successes in south Oklahoma City – residential communities like Chatenay, Rivendell, Talavera and Rockport; commercial properties such as 240 Penn Park, Rivendell Southeast, Rivendell Northeast, Greystone Square, Odom/Alexander and Rosebrook; and shopping centers such as Chatenay Square and Palagio Shops.
Instead, Odom directs me to an old map on his office wall and points out a ghost town just south of the Canadian River where the old Chisholm Trail crossed.
“See right there?” Odom asks. “That’s Silver City. Town had a hotel, a school and a college right near the river where the cattle crossed. The rising river brought an end to the town. See that spot right there? That’s where the Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Stores farm is today, just a little west of where the old frontier town was located. I live in nearby Newcastle. Got an airstrip out there – almost 5,000 feet.”
That’s when I discovered Odom possesses a passion for aviation as well as Oklahoma history.
“Oh yes, I love to fly! I use to fly David Boren around the state,” Odom explains. “Flew him down to southeast Oklahoma one time. Explained to him how we needed an airstrip down that way because so many people enjoy visiting there. Went over to Spiro and they gave us a tour of the Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center. Had a great time!”
Another office wall features Odom’s spectacular photography – stunning representations of such iconic American landmarks as the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley.
I’m getting a better picture of the man. Here we have a businessman, an Oklahoma history buff, an aviator and, now I find, an accomplished photographer. Odom is a man of varied pursuits and interests, just the kind of creative, dynamic and productive individual that makes great things happen and from whom we all gain inspiration.
The building and development work of Odom and his family helps sustain the continued infusion of literally hundreds of millions of dollars into the Oklahoma economy. While Odom is proud of this contribution, he speaks of it with humility.
“In today’s world, we often hear people say ‘I’ve done’ or ‘he’s done,’ but individuals don’t really accomplish a great deal without a lot of help from a lot of people,” Odom says, “and that has happened with our story.”
Odom believes in the power of people and the contributions they bring to the community. Once per month, Odom holds a luncheon that is attended by business and community leaders from a variety of backgrounds, people he genuinely counts as friends. Staying in contact with people and making new friends on a regular basis is just another way Odom stays engaged and interested.
“We’ll meet, and everyone will tell us how they are doing in business,” Odom says. “All kinds of people attend – doctors, lawyers, bankers, politicos – and we sit around the table and there is no agenda, just friends staying in contact and keeping abreast of what’s going on. With people, you really get the real stories.”
Pretty soon, it becomes apparent Odom cherishes the great people and the great stories over the great business deals.
No sooner had we begun scratching the surface of business-related topics when the conversation steered itself back to matters of greater interest to the successful builder and developer. We discuss flying, great barbeque restaurants in southern Oklahoma, and the history of the Atoka Pipeline, the 72-inch pipe through which water is transported from southeast to central Oklahoma.
“Oklahoma City bought the water rights to Lake Atoka,” Odom explains. “Then Oklahoma City sells water to cities like Moore, Newcastle and Mustang, communities that wouldn’t be in existence if we did not have the water. Water will be the secret to the growth of the Oklahoma City area.”
Another appropriate title for Odom is ‘teacher.” Spend time with this dynamic Oklahoman and you will most certainly learn new things about our state.
Along the way, I learn about Odom’s role in helping keep Oklahoma City’s I-240 a free thoroughfare instead of the toll road originally intended by those who suggested its creation. Later, when plans to upgrade the thoroughfare were underway, it was Odom who successfully lobbied for the current “Texas Turnarounds,” or “Loop-arounds,” allowing vehicles traveling on one side of the one-way frontage roads to U-turn onto the opposite frontage roads.
One can only imagine how a toll road would have stifled economic growth in south Oklahoma City, and how an I-240 without its current turnarounds would inconvenience drivers and hamper business along the passage.
Odom has made his voice heard for the good, and offered his time and expertise on behalf of countless community organizations.
So, it turns out that yet another facet of the great Oklahoma businessman is his civic involvement born from his love for Oklahoma and its people, a participation that seeks to positively affect the community in a lasting way.
Odom wants the results of his work and involvement to last. That attitude comes down to him from his father.
“My dad was originally in the oilfield business, and that branched into the construction business,” Odom explains. “When he got into construction, he first started building bridges. Then he started building homes. Ironically, he built those homes the way you build a bridge … to last! I can take you right now to homes that he built.
“It’s amazing about the history of the family. Dad started all of this, and 99.9 percent of what he started still exists, and we as a family continue with what we start. It provides shelter and it provides a tax base.”
After decades of building and developing in Oklahoma, with a long line of achievements to his name, Odom says he is most proud of his family.
“They are major contributors to the society they live in,” Odom says with a proud smile. “They’re Christian people who have paid their dues and are still paying their dues. Most developers don’t last too long. They get so big that they’re beyond their own ability to manage. Our secret comes from my father. We’ve adopted his philosophy and values of working in the best interests of the community and placing value on people.”
Odom tells a great story about how helping others reaped for him a reward ten-fold.
“Some 40 years ago, I was flying a burn victim down to Galveston,” Odom recalls. “There was a beautiful nurse on board helping with the young patient. That beautiful lady, Mary, became my wife, and the mother of my son.”
Odom impresses with his passion. He discusses land development, construction, property management, Oklahoma history, aviation, civic involvement and giving to the community with youthful zeal. There is no doubt in this writer’s mind that Odom’s contagious enthusiasm has contributed greatly to his success in changing Oklahoma for the better.
Quite literally, Odom has won friends and influenced people, much to the benefit of Oklahoma and everyone involved.
We at Distinctly Oklahoma magazine thank him for his service.