Benton Clemit Ladd, 85, passed away Saturday, January 30, 2021, in Oklahoma City, OK. Benton was born June 4, 1935, in Oklahoma City to Walter and Rosa Ladd. Benton is survived by his brother, Donald of Oklahoma City; his sister, Peggy Gasparini of Cody, WY; his daughter, Ginger Kohler and husband Kurt of Camarillo, CA and their children Erik and Kelly; his son, Jim and wife Jacki of Austin, TX and their children Ava and Addis; and his son, Jack and wife Danielle of Everett, WA and their children Julia Larway, Dixie Juhree, and Josie Belle. His wife, Juhree Ladd, preceded him in death in 2014.
Benton was born and grew up in south Oklahoma City, a place where - according to Benton - you could take a beating if you were caught on the wrong side of the tracks. Perhaps this tough environment led to his love of football. Benton graduated from Capitol Hill High School in 1954 and earned All-City, All-State, and Offensive Lineman of the Year honors. In 2000, he was inducted into the Capitol Hill High School Athletic Hall of Fame.
Benton’s education and football career continued at the University of Oklahoma, where he played offensive line for the great Bud Wilkinson. Benton was number 75 for his collegiate career. A number adopted by his grandson, Erik Kohler, former offensive lineman for the Washington Huskies. Under Coach Wilkinson, during Benton’s tenure, the Oklahoma Sooners won four Big 7 Conference titles (‘54-’57), two Orange Bowl titles (‘55, ‘57), and two National Championships (‘55, ‘56).
Benton met the love of his life while attending OU, Juhree Cecille Gardner. Benton proposed to Juhree on November 16, 1957, the day Notre Dame ended the Sooners’ forty-seven game winning streak. They were married seven months later on June 27, 1958. A back injury his senior year put a professional football career out of reach for Benton. So, inspired by Bud Wilkinson, he took his young bride to Hobbs, NM, to pursue a coaching career. After a brief stint in Hobbs, Benton accepted the head coaching position at Murray State Junior College in Tishomingo, OK. In 1965, Benton put his coaching career behind him and moved his young family back to Norman.
In Norman, Benton began a 30+ year career in pharmaceutical sales with Schering; helped raise his three children; actively supported athletics through the Norman Optimist Club, and Norman High School Booster Club; joined and taught Sunday school at First Baptist Church; and on Saturday afternoons in the Fall, he attended every home football game he could to watch his beloved Oklahoma Sooners.
He was a kind and gentle man, friendly to a fault, and always ready with a funny quip or joke. He loved telling stories about his childhood and playing football but was never trapped in the past. An avid fisherman he spent many summers with his fishing buddies and two sons in southern Colorado camping and fishing for trout. He would “chew the fat” with anybody. He chewed tobacco until Juhree made him quit. He loved and was loved by his family and many, many friends.
Benton, you will be missed.
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