Clifford W. Stone

Clifford W. Stone
Born: November 9, 1918 Died: January 21, 2010
Schoolmate of Stanley Dunham

Clifford W. Stone Interview

Interview ID: 04
Location: In his office, El Dorado, Kansas
Videographer: Steve Cless
Interviewer: Steve Cless

Interview Summary

Clifford Stone was interviewed by Steve Cless (also videographer) for a Butler Community College project. The college has shared this interview with the oral history collection, and permission has been granted by his family to use it for historical purposes. The exact date of the interview is unknown but was likely recorded around September, 2008.

Clifford W. Stone was interviewed around the occasion of receiving an entrepreneurship award. As a contemporary of Stanley Dunham, his memories are relevant to the time period covered by this oral history project. In this interview, he talks about the influence of oil, and the business climate in the community.

Run Time: 1:36:24

Transcript/Finding Aid:

Finding Aid Notes

00.00-00. Camera, sound adjustments
00.00-9.10 About name and connection to Clifford Township: Clifford explains how his family ended up in El Dorado, how they acquired their land and the family home. He notes the location of various local schools at the time. He was the only child of a middle class family.
9.11-16.59 About the Depression: Clifford remembers his parents helping poorer people, “particularly black people,” mostly with food. He and most of his friends were not affected (not poverty-stricken). The Discovery Well (west) was 1920. It yielded as much as twenty thousand barrels a day. The discovery changed everything. That pool of oil was one of the most prolific in the U.S. He discusses what people did with their fortunes and the dissonance between wealth and happiness.
17.00-40.50 About his father: Clifford recollects his father, touching on topics of banking, alcoholism, and the cattle business. He talks about attending college and about his first farm after college near Garden City, and how he learned to fly while he was in Garden City. He tells a compelling story about losing his B-24 during his last mission, spending 6 months as a prisoner of war, and how through access to books through a chaplain, he became an avid reader.
40.51-48.59 About his time at Butler Community College: When a senior in high school, Clifford took college classes at El Dorado Junior College in those days. He notes details about the junior college and the various school buildings. His mother’s service on the school board inspired him to be involved in helping Butler Community College. Clifford shares praise for the college and president, Jackie Vietti, and discusses what the college gives back to the community.
49.00-54.45 About being honored as an entrepreneur: Clifford recollects the history of the aircraft industry in Wichita, and connects a large portion of its success to one oilman who loved flying.
54.46-1.00.00 The banking and lending business: Clifford describes how, after leaving the Army Air Corps, he got out of the farming business and into the banking business, and how his observations and various events led him to form a small finance company with his brothers-in-law.
End of first DVD
00.00-7.19 Clifford describes the small finance company referred to above, called Prairie Finance and how he and his partners found a niche in the lending business that wasn’t being addressed by traditional banks. He explains how he acquired the controlling interest of the Walnut Valley State Bank.
7.20-12.40 Secret to success: Clifford attributes his success to having the ability to understand he didn’t know it all, that he needed proper help, and to bringing in good staff management by hiring a consultant from Wichita. The consultant developed a good aptitude testing system the bank used to help with hiring and staffing. In summary, he emphasizes the importance of generating teamwork, and having people doing what they really enjoy.
12.41-33.48 Heroes: Clifford discusses businessmen he admires, shares some of his passions—travelling, family, the theater, but mainly books. He ends with some final thoughts on El Dorado, the community college, the Susan B. Allen Hospital, the arts, and the importance of leadership, vision, and entrepreneurship. He discusses the delicacy of getting things done in a small town, the importance of remaining in the background, the futility of trying to be too many things to too many people, and humility as a hallmark.
33.49-35.30 End of interview followed by some shots of Clifford at his desk working.