Obituary for Lewis Ferguson

Ponca City Now - August 27, 2017 9:59 am

Lewis L. Ferguson

January 9, 1934 – August 24, 2017

Lewis L. (Lew) Ferguson, devoted husband and father, dedicated and award-winning journalist, died of heart failure on Thursday, August 24, at an Oklahoma City hospital. He was 83.

Lew Ferguson was born January 9, 1934, on the family farm that his grandfather, John S. Ferguson, claimed in the land run of 1893 in northern Oklahoma. He was the second of three children born to Luther LeRoy Ferguson and Henrietta Marie Mueller Ferguson.

Lew attended first and second grades at Fairview District No. 57’s one-room school northwest of Ponca City. The family left the farm in 1942 after Luther became a fulltime employee of Continental (Conoco) Oil Co. Lew then attended Jefferson Grade School, Ponca City Junior High, and Ponca City Senior High, graduating in 1952.

Lew enrolled at the University of Oklahoma in the fall of 1952, attending on a McMahon Journalism Scholarship. He received his B.A. degree in journalism in 1956, then did graduate work on a McMahon fellowship, sandwiched around active Army duty as an ROTC-commissioned second lieutenant. He finished a thesis and received his M.A. in journalism in 1964. He was discharged from the Army in 1964 as an infantry captain after eight years of active and reserve duty.

At OU, he was a member of Pe-Et Honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa service society, Sigma Delta Chi professional journalism society, was named a distinguished military student in Army ROTC, twice was named Big Man on Campus, and served as president of the Lutheran Student Union. He also worked four years in sports information under the legendary sports information director Harold Keith, and was sports stringer for the Daily Oklahoman and Tulsa World.

Ferguson began his professional career as sports and wire editor of his hometown paper, The Ponca City News, in 1958, when Clyde Muchmore was publisher, Gareth Muchmore was managing editor and Allan Muchmore was business manager. Lew also did play-by-play on high school football and basketball games for two years on WBBZ Radio after Bill Platt left to become voice of the Oklahoma State Cowboys in Stillwater.

Ferguson joined the Associated Press in June 1960 in its Oklahoma City bureau as a summer relief staffer. He transferred to AP’s Sioux Falls, SD, bureau in September, and covered the 1961 session of the South Dakota Legislature, as well as doing bureau sports.

He transferred to Minneapolis in January 1962 and was that bureau’s sports editor until October 1968, when he became Big Eight sports editor in the Kansas City bureau. As a sports writer, Lew covered four World Series, one Super Bowl, and was president of the Twin Cities chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America in 1967. He was also a member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

After moving to Topeka as Statehouse correspondent in June 1970, Lew directed AP’s political, election, and government coverage in Kansas until his retirement on July 1, 1999. During that period, Ferguson covered 29 sessions of the Kansas Legislature, 16 election cycles, the administrations of six governors and nine national political conventions, five Republican and four Democratic.

In 1992, he received the first award given by the Kansas City Star as AP’s top newsman in Kansas and Missouri. He was presented the prestigious Justice Award by the Kansas Supreme Court in 1993, and he is the only journalist to be so honored. He was named a distinguished alumnus of the H. H. Herbert School of Journalism (now the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication) in 1996. He was listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America for 12 years before his retirement.

In retirement, Ferguson served a four-year term, 2001-2005, on the Kansas Board of Regents, which governs the state’s six universities and sets policy for all of higher education in Kansas. He also served two years on the Washburn University Board of Regents. He wrote a biography of the late U.S. District Judge Tom VanBebber, which was published by the federal judiciary in 2005.

After living 35 years in Topeka, Ferguson and his wife, high school sweetheart the former Sue Thomson of Ponca City, moved back to their hometown in September 2005.

In addition to being survived by Sue, he is also survived by his children, Dr. Diane M. Ferguson, a physician in Hermosa Beach, CA, and John M. (Mike) Ferguson, Ph.D., a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and his wife, Dayna. He is also survived by his grandchildren, Abby and Todd Ferguson of Edmond and Helena DuGard of Hermosa Beach.

Other survivors include Lew’s sister, Louise Gelmers, a retired elementary school secretary in Ponca City, his brother, Donald G. Ferguson, who retired from Conoco, two sisters-in-law, Kathryn Ferguson, Ponca City; Linda Merrifield, Broken Arrow; a brother-in-law, Lloyd Gelmers, Ponca City; and five nieces and nephews, Shelly Holland, Edmond; Julie Lawrence, Ponca City; Andy Gelmers, Tulsa, John E. Ferguson, Littleton, CO; Keri Ferguson, Madison, WI. Another niece, Christy Elliott, preceded him in death.

A graveside service will be held at 2:00 pm on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, at Resthaven-Sunset Memorial Park, in Ponca City with Father Dee Bright officiating.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to the Robert C. and Dorothy L. Harder Book Fund through the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library Foundation, or to Peachtree Landing, in Ponca City, through United Way of Ponca City. A memorial service and celebration of Lew’s life will be held in Topeka, KS, in late September or early October. Online condolences may be made at

Source: Trout Funeral Home