Clayton Keys

A memorial service for the longtime Oklahoma horseman is set for August 7.

Q-Racing Journal

Clayton Keys. PHOTO: Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association

Longtime Oklahoma horseman Clayton Keys died on Wednesday. He was 79.

Keys was born on October 2, 1937, in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Keys lived in town with his parents, his brother, Jay, and sisters Lois and Carol, but the family owned a ranch in Ochelata, Oklahoma. His uncle, Bernie Painter, a steer roper, introduced Clayton to roping and riding when he was young.

Clayton developed such a love for horses that when he graduated from high school and left for Oklahoma State University in the Fall of 1955, he insisted on taking his horse with him. He already knew he wanted a career in the horse industry.

On November 22, 1963, Clayton married Dorothy Kay. His career in the horse industry began in 1966, when he served as ranch manager at Stan-D Ranch in Beggs, Oklahoma. In the early '70s, Clayton moved to Citation Farm in Jenks, Oklahoma, where stood the accomplished stallions Triple Chick and Mr. Meyers.

Clayton was hired by the All American Sales Company (now known as the Ruidoso Sales Company) in 1972, and he served with the company until '97. For most of the '70s and '80s, his own sales company, Keys Sales, held two sales a year at the Tulsa Fairgrounds. From the late '70s through the early '90s, Clayton managed sales for many different companies, including Out Front Sales, Green Country Horse Sales and Purcell Horse Sales. He was also part-owner of the Tulsa Holiday Circuit.

Clayton also worked with the Heritage Place Sales Company from the time they broke ground in 1979. A group of owners wanted to build a premier facility that would rival those the Thoroughbred breeders had in the bluegrass of Kentucky.

One of the original organizers of Heritage Place, the late Robert Gentry, once said, "We were successful beyond our wildest dreams, and none of it would have been possible without Clayton."

Clayton’s knowledge of the horse industry, his amicable demeanor and unshakeable work ethic made him the perfect man to manage the Heritage Place operation. He once said that his goal as general manager was to treat everyone fairly, regardless of their position in the industry.

Another of the founding members, Dr. Charles Graham, once said, “There was never a time when Clayton wasn’t model of integrity, honesty, fairness, and heads-up professionalism. He did an absolutely incredible job in every aspect of the position.”

Clayton was so valued to Heritage Place that on September 22, 2007, they dedicated a bronze bust in Clayton’s image which will remain on display in the facility.

A memorial service for Clayton will be held on Monday, August 7, at First Presbyterian Church at 505 S Dewey in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, beginning at 2 p.m. (CDT). A visitation for family and friends will take place on Sunday, August 6, at Stumpff Funeral Home at 1600 SE Washington Blvd. in Bartlesville from 6-8 p.m.

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