J. Ray Pence


By Kent Lagaly, 2014 OFCA President

As most of you are aware, each year at the conference, the Oklahoma Fire Chiefs Association recognizes one of our own with the presentation of the J. Ray Pence Chief Officer Leadership Award.

The Chief Officer Leadership Award was established in 1999 to “recognize actions and activities of Chief Fire Officers in Oklahoma who produce progressive improvements in safety, efficiency and effectiveness in the areas of Fire Prevention, Fire Suppression and Fire Administration that are outstanding in nature or impact.”

In 2005, the name was changed to honor the late J. Ray Pence, Stillwater Fire Department Chief from 1931 to 1945.

In order to have a better understanding of just how prestigious this award is and how deserving past winners have been, it is important to know the impact J. Ray Pence had on the Fire Service during his lifetime. If you do a little research, you quickly realize that there is not enough space in this newsletter to completely describe all of the accomplishments and innovative ideas Chief Pence brought to the Fire Service.

In the 1920s, he organized the first fire department in Healdton after a new hotel burned to the ground the same day it had opened. As the Chief of Healdton’s newly formed department, Pence quickly became active in many state and national firefighter organizations.

During his career, he held offices in the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Oklahoma Fire Chiefs Association, the Oklahoma State Firefighters Association and the Southwest Association of Fire Chiefs.

In 1931, he accepted the position of Fire Chief in Stillwater. While serving in Stillwater, he worked with others to help standardize training for firefighters by developing the 10 basic subject areas. He also put together the publication “An Introductory Course”, which was the beginning of the “Redbooks”, now known as the IFSTA Manuals.

Chief Pence also worked to help establish the Fire Service Training Association, which later became IFSTA. He, along with others and Oklahoma A&M President Henry Bennett, established the first fire service academic program in North America -- the Department of Firemanship Training -- which later was referred to as the “West Point of the Fire Service”.

I could go on and on listing the accomplishments of Chief Pence, but I think the following says it all:

     “J. Ray Pence was an innovator way before his time. He was always improving things, and he would implant ideas that challenged people to step to greater heights. He was an outstanding leader.”
-- Harold Mace, Emeritus Director, Fire Service Publications

We have numerous Chief Officers in Oklahoma who demonstrate the same characteristics of Chief Pence and are deserving of this award. If you have someone in mind, I encourage you to go to the OFCA Website and fill out the nomination form.

Any Chief Officer in the State of Oklahoma is eligible to nominate candidates. And don’t wait until it is too late. Nominations must be submitted by the last day of January.



1999 – Fire Chief Phillip Clover, Enid Fire Department (First Recipient)

2000 – Fire Chief Robert Foreman, Locust Grove Fire Department

2001 – Fire Chief Mike Bower, Midwest City Fire Department

2002 – Fire Chief Charles L. Stephens, Moore Fire Department

2003 – Fire Chief Johnny A. Vaughn, Norman Fire Department

2004 – Fire Chief Gil Harryman, Edmond Fire Department

2005 – Fire Chief Jerry S. Bower, Shawnee Fire Department

2006 – Fire Chief Allen C. LaCroix, Tulsa Fire Department

2007 – State Fire Marshall Robert Doke, Ret Chickasha Fire Department

2008 – Ret. Fire Chief James Smith, Stillwater Fire Department

2009 – Fire Battalion Chief Johnnie R. Gibbon, Edmond Fire Department

2010 – Fire Chief Keith Bryant, Oklahoma City Fire Department

2011 – Fire Chief James Fullingim, Norman Fire Department

2012 – (Not awarded)

2013 – Ret Deputy Chief Jon Hansen, Oklahoma City Fire Department

2014 – Fire Chief Jim Hock, Del City Fire Department

2015 – Fire Chief Bobby Johnson, Chandler Fire Department

2016 - Fire Chief Carl Hickman, Mustang Fire Department

2017 - (Not awarded)

2018 - Fire Chief Gary Bird, Moore Fire Department