Thomas Philip Watson, 81, was born August, 31, 1933 in Nashville, Arkansas, the youngest child of Jordan Franklin and Frieda (Pryor) Watson. His early years were spent on a peach orchard. Throughout his youth, he was a stand-out athlete, excelling at football, basketball, baseball and track. Soon after graduating from high school he enlisted in the United States Air Force and was a control tower operator during the Korean Conflict. Throughout his years in the service he faithfully kept a promise made to his mother, to write her every day.
After his discharge he returned to Arkansas to attend Harding College. While there he met and married Jacqueline Messick and in 1961 they welcomed a daughter, Angela Joyce to their lives. Later that year the family moved to Oklahoma City for him to teach speech and debate at, what was then, Oklahoma Christian College. Soon, his additional talents were recognized and he was made Vice President for Development. In this capacity he traveled across the state promoting and raising funds for the college. In September of 1963 he lost both Jackie and Angie in a tragic accident.
In 1964 Phil married Mary Alice Parks; a union that would last just over fifty-one years. Mary Rebecca and Phylis Ann were adoring “Daddy’s Girls” who completed their family.
In 1967 Phil became the full-time minister for the Edmond Church of Christ. His involvement in local civic activities during this time included being a member of the Edmond Hospital Board and the YMCA Board. These roles paved the way for his transition into Oklahoma politics. In 1972 he was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate as the first Republican to represent district 41. He held that office for 15 years earning great respect from his colleagues on both sides of the aisle as he worked to help the citizens of our state.
Governor Henry Bellmon asked Phil to assume a new role in Oklahoma state government, so in 1987 he resigned his senate seat and was appointed Director of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. During his tenure he visited every one of the 77 county DHS offices in the state and proudly continued his passion for seeing to the needs of others.
At the end of Governor Bellmon’s term, Phil made the transition to federal government when he began working with the Rural Development Cooperative in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He ended his years of public service when he retired in 1998.
In 1983 Phil was approached by his long-time mentor and friend, Dr. George Benson, about working with mission efforts in Zambia, Africa. This began the work most near and dear to Phil’s heart. Phil eventually accepted the position of Chairman of the Board for the Zambia mission efforts while Mary assumed duties as secretary, bookkeeper, and correspondent for the work.
Phil was preceded in death by his parents; first wife, Jackie, and daughter Angie; brothers James Clyde, Robert Collins, Jordan Floyd, William Ordis, John Rollin, Paul Alexander; sisters Lois Marie Womack, and Mary Jordine Hausman.
He is survived by his wife, Mary, of Edmond; daughter Mary Rebecca (Becky) Walderbach and husband Scott of Edmond, Oklahoma; daughter Phylis Frye and husband Jonathan of Houston, Texas; grandsons William Watson Walderbach, Hamilton Rhys Frye, Harrison Reid Frye, and Robert Rolland Walderbach; special family friend, Dr. James Crowder and a host of nieces, nephews and close personal friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Zambia Mission Schools in Phil’s honor.
The family will greet friends on Tuesday, March 3rd from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Matthews Funeral Home. Services will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at Edmond Road Church of Christ with interment to follow at Memorial Park Cemetery.
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