Donald R. Newlun

1932-2017Newlun, Don

Donald Ray Newlun, “Poppy Don”, left this life to be with the Lord on July 9th, 2017. Don was born on December 5th, 1932 in Gentry, Arkansas. He lived in north Tulsa with his mother, brother, and grandmother during most of his childhood. He received his GED while serving in the Air Force and continued to receive a Bachelor’s of Science degree from the University of Tulsa and a Master of Science degree from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. Don was married to Barbara Ellen Newlun (Stone) on July 5th, 1951 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary last week.

A few short years following his honorable discharge from the Air Force, Don began his employment at American Airlines as an aircraft mechanic. 25 years later he took early retirement to pursue other interests. In that time Don had risen from an aircraft mechanic to Corporate Director of Employee Relations. His career path at American took him through challenging work in labor relations both as a union vice president for the local AFL-CIO (which led him to a one- year assignment at the national union office in Washington D. C. as a Research Associate) and then back to American as the company Labor Relations Representative. American also called upon him to spend 3 years helping the company resolve labor issues in Boston. Don, in his “early retirement years”, was anything but retired. He began “retirement” by assisting in the expansion of the oil industry company, Cooper Manufacturing, then as a senior consultant in labor management and employee relations at a Tulsa based consulting firm, and during this time became “Professor” Newlun to college students at various Oklahoma universities.

In the 1980’s Don was appointed president of Tomlinson College in Cleveland Tennessee. During his tenure, he initiated the construction of a university-level library and guided the college through accreditation. Beyond employment Don tirelessly volunteered his time and energy for local civic and church organizations, a list that is much too long to fully include: Ordained Deacon, local pastor, BTI instructor, SS teacher, various local church boards, local board of education, city councilor, little league baseball coach, basketball coach (his early 1960’s American Airlines industrial league teams were not only the companies best to date, but most notably, broke the color barrier for African Americans in the league, an accomplishment which he considered his proudest achievement as coach). Don also held leadership positions on professional and denominational boards and committees of all kinds including: President of Industrial Relations Association of Tulsa, Chairman of the Tulsa Area Council on Alcoholism, Oklahoma Board of Regents and the International Ways and Means Committee (COGOP) just to name a few.

Family and close friends will always remember the joy he experienced in his later years taking care of his “family” of exotic (and not so exotic) animals. He especially couldn’t be separated from his 3 little chihuahuas Lovee, Ginger and Chico. Don and Barbara were especially proud of their 5-acre animal farm just outside the Edmond city limits. Their animals brought the two of them and all who visited tremendous joy. Don will be remembered by family, friends and associates as a man of great gifts and deep personal integrity, a man who was comfortable meeting with the President’s Council on Economic Affairs and dining with President Lyndon Johnson, but always preferred the company of those of humble roots like his own. While highly respected for his professional accomplishments, what Don valued most was his family, their successes, and their carrying forth the family’s legacy of faith.

Don leaves behind his wife Barbara along with his 6 children and their spouses: David and Gaye, Mike and Laurie, Starr, Phillip and Teressa, Adam and Rita, and Josh and Amy. He had 16 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. Don was preceded in death by his son Ty, his brother Gene, and his mother Lorraine. “Poppy Don”, you will be missed until we meet again.

In lieu of flowers Don and Barbara request that donations be made to:

General Appointees Emeriti Emergency Assistance Fund (COGOP)


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