Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (2024)

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (1)

Glenn Lewis, the City of Moore's former mayor and one of the longest-serving mayors in the state, died Sunday morning, family reported on social media. He was 68.

First elected in 1994, the local jeweler served as Moore’s mayor for 30 years, during which time the city has transformed from a struggling suburb within the margins of Norman and Oklahoma City into a growing hotspot for developers.

Closing in on a 30-year career as a public servant, Lewis decided last year not to seek reelection. This spring, residents elected Mark Hamm to serve as mayor, who shared his condolences in a post to the city's Facebook page Sunday morning.

"City Council recently honored him with the 'Key to the City,' symbolizing the impact he had on the community," he wrote. "Glenn had the key to our hearts.

"On behalf of the Moore City Council and Staff, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Lewis family during this difficult time."

A mayor devoted to economic development of his city

Lewis had always wanted to get things done and improve Moore, said his younger brother, Tim, co-owner of Lewis Jewelers in a previous interview with the Oklahoman. He recalled the day his older brother spontaneously announced he would file for mayoral candidacy so many years ago.

“I said, ‘Now, why on God’s green earth would you or anybody else want to be the mayor of Moore?’” Tim remembered asking his brother. “Glenn stops, hand on the front door, and he looks back at me and says, ‘Because I’m tired of hanging my head in shame when people ask me where I live.’”

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (2)

When Lewis became mayor, Moore was “a mess,” with an annual budget of $18 million, fewer than 100 city employees, and no businesses south of 4th Street. When Lewis first took office in May 1994, he said the city had to borrow money to even make payroll.

But Lewis had studied political science during college, and his focus as mayor immediately turned to economic diversification for the city. Lewis persuaded Walmart to build a supercenter in Moore, which opened the door for the newly-elected mayor to draw other major retailers to town, including Target, JCPenney, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Warren Theatres and most recently Costco.

For many of these projects, Lewis had plenty of help from the other city employees, including retired longtime City Manager Steve Eddy and Assistant City Manager Stan Drake, who had graduated from Moore High School alongside Lewis in 1973.

“Glenn built this overall attitude of, ‘Hey, we want you to succeed as a business in our town; we want you to be selling things so that you can collect sales tax dollars for the city of Moore.’ It ain’t rocket science — it’s pretty simple,” Lewis’s brother Tim said.

'The most experienced mayor in dealing with FEMA disasters'

In 1999, disaster struck in May of that year when an EF5 tornado killed more than 40 people and left a devastating trail of $1 billion in damage.

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (3)

In the wake of the 1999 tornado, Lewis became the public face of Moore, coordinating relief operations and often appearing on television stations broadcasting locally, nationally and internationally. Then-President Bill Clinton came to visit Moore, telling Lewis that he was becoming “the most experienced mayor in dealing with FEMA disasters.”

Moore proved resilient: Between 2000 and 2010, the city’s population grew from 41,000 to 55,000, and the opening of the Warren Theatre in 2008 was "another star on our crown," Eddy said.

But that post-1999 Moore renaissance was threatened after another disastrous EF5 tornado ripped through the city in May 2013, leaving $2 billion in damage, destroying schools and swaths of homes, injuring hundreds and killing at least 25 people, including 10 children.

The deaths of so many children made the response to the 2013 tornado more emotionally difficult, but Lewis and other city leaders were prepared for what they needed to do again, thanks to the blueprint they’d already laid out for themselves after 1999. When then-President Barack Obama visited Moore to see the damage himself and offer assistance, federal emergency responders followed the city’s lead, rather than the other way around.

Legacy of integrity

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, who's lived in Moore for more than 60 years, said that when his family first moved there in 1960, the city was home to 1,700 people, compared to the 63,000 that live there today. Cole praised Lewis’ competence and leadership, calling his time as mayor “the most consequential in the history of Moore, without question.”

“As a person who lives there, I think he’s the best mayor in the state, I really do, over a long period of time, and he’s been transformative,” Cole previously told The Oklahoman. “If you look at the quality of life in the city, the public works that have been done and particularly the economic development he’s attracted, it’s just unparalleled. It’s just one success after another; and the sidewalks, the roads, it’s all been done systematically within budgets, no financial crisis. It’s like Moore having its own MAPS program or something.”

City leadership also credit Lewis with helping keep the city thriving and unified over the years.His brother thinks it was because he was uniquely qualified to do so.

"He was very educated in municipal management and what that entails, instead of just kissing babies and cutting ribbons, that’s for sure," Tim Lewis told The Oklahoman. "And you know, that unimpeachable integrity that really has built our (jewelry) business here, he took that to that City Hall, and lo and behold, it transfers pretty nicely."

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (4)

Eddy, who retired after 17 years as Moore's longest-serving city manager in 2016, also believes that Lewis is the longest-serving mayor in the central Oklahoma region, if not the entire state. (The Oklahoman determined that Lewis' closest counterpart in longevity might be Larry Thoma, who served as mayor of Elgin for 25 years from 1997 to 2022.)

Lewis is so highly regarded that, in 2021, city councilmembers unanimously voted to rename a portion of SW 25 Boulevard into Glenn Lewis Boulevard, which is near the Costco that the mayor helped attract to the area.

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (5)

"I just wanted to make sure the government keeps going in a positive direction and that the citizens are well taken care of. That’s the most important part, and a lot of people lose sight of that," Lewis told The Oklahoman earlier this year. "It’s not about city government, it’s not about municipal government at all. It’s about the citizens. They’re the customers, and you’ve got to take care of the customers. So, as long as we keep doing that, we’ll have done our job well."

Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados (2024)


Glenn Lewis dies at 68: Longtime mayor who shepherded Moore through two EF5 tornados? ›

Glenn Lewis, who served as the mayor of Moore for 30 years, died Sunday morning. He was 68 years old. Originally a jeweler by trade, Lewis was elected to office in 1994. At the time, Moore had a minuscule city staff, a low budget and relied on borrowing money to function.

How many times has Moore, OK been hit by tornadoes? ›

Cleveland County is located in Tornado Alley and experiences tornadoes frequently. The city of Moore is located within the county and has been impacted by four violent tornadoes in recent history; they struck in 1999, 2003, 2010, and 2013. It is one of two places on earth with the most tornadoes per square mile.

What county is Moore, OK in? ›

The City of Moore was founded during the land-run of 1889. With the population at 6,481 in the 2010 census, Noble is the 3rd largest city in Cleveland County behind Norman and Moore and is considered the "Rose Rock Capital of the World".

What's the worst tornado in US history? ›

This article lists various tornado records. The most "extreme" tornado in recorded history was the Tri-State tornado, which spread through parts of Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925.

What was the worst tornado in Moore OK? ›

The 1999 Bridge Creek–Moore tornado was a large and exceptionally powerful F5 tornado in which the highest wind speeds ever measured globally were recorded at 135 metres per second (300 mph; 490 km/h) by a Doppler on Wheels (DOW) radar.

What is Moore, Oklahoma famous for? ›

The region in which Moore is located is colloquially known as Tornado Alley because of the frequency of intense tornadoes there. On May 3, 1999, the city and surrounding area were struck by a storm that registered wind speeds of more than 300 miles (480 km) per hour.

What is the race population in Moore Oklahoma? ›

Download Table Data
RacePopulationPercentage (of total)
Two or more races7,18611.46%
Black or African American2,9714.74%
Native American2,8124.49%
3 more rows

Can you shoot fireworks in Moore, Oklahoma? ›

It is illegal to sell, possess or discharge fireworks within the majority of cities around the state. Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman, Moore, Yukon, Del City and Midwest City all have residential fireworks bans in place for the holiday.

What city in Oklahoma has the most tornadoes? ›

What city in Oklahoma has the most tornadoes? Oklahoma County — home to Oklahoma City and Edmond — see the most tornadoes each year, totaling 125 twisters from 1950 to 2021.

Why is Moore OK so prone to tornadoes? ›

A tornado expert for The Weather Channel, Forbes said part of the answer lies in what's known as the “dry line,” a boundary separating moist and dry air masses, and an important factor in severe weather in the Midwest.

When was the F5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma? ›


How many kids died in the Moore OK tornado? ›

They Would Have Graduated Last Year: Moore's 2013 Tornado That Killed 7 School Children Sparks Change. The EF-5 tornado that hit two Moore schools in 2013 sparked demands to put storm shelters in schools. Now 10 years later, we're researching how much progress has been made since Plaza Towers.

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