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From Tennessee to Oklahoma

John Henry Bannister the son of John Simon Ban[n]ister and Martha Ellen Michael was born 24 Sep 1877 at Bradford, Gibson Co., Tennessee. Henry, as he was known, was the second of six children born to John and Martha. His siblings were: Willie Eller, Ada Florence, William Washington, James Thomas, Samuel Wilson, and Cleavy Ellen Banister.

Not wanting to be a farmer as his father and grandfather were, Henry left the family home in Gibson County after completing school and found a job in a restaurant in Mayfield, Kentucky. At the time of the 1900 Federal census, Henry now 22 years old was residing at Greenfield, Weakley Co., Tennessee. where he was occupied as a grocery dealer adding to his knowledge of working with food. Still seeking adventure and a career Henry joined a crew surveying land for a railroad. He arrived in El Reno in 1901 and established a restaurant on Russell Street in 1903. In 1907, Henry and his partner, Mr. Brechter, dissolved their partnership and the Bannister Bros. cafe was then established at 118 N. Bickford when his brother William joined him. The café was relocated to 116 N. Bickford in 1922 and remained there until Henry’s retirement.

Henry returned to Bradford, Tennessee in 1904 while recuperating from a broken leg. He married Tennessee “Tennie” Angeline King at Bradford, 18 January 1905.  They are pictured on their wedding day. Tennie was born 29 April 1879 at Carroll County, Tennessee the daughter of John Ransom King and Elizabeth Belzora “Belle” Butler. Returning to El Reno they lived at 612 S. Macomb Street where their children, Ray King was born 28 July 1907 and Kathryn Ellen was born 6 March 1909. They purchased the residence at 412 S. Macomb Street in 1911 and lived there until their deaths. Henry died 13 October 1958 and Tennie died 6 March 1968, they are buried in the El Reno cemetery.

Following his graduation from El Reno high school in 1925, Ray King Bannister, attended Oklahoma University at Norman where he was editor of the year book, was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society, and graduated from the School of Law. He married Rosemary Alice Parks at El Reno, 24 November1935. Two children were born to the couple: Linda Alice born 24 January 1939 and Ray King Jr. born 11 August 1944. In 1943 with World War II raging, Ray entered military service as an office in the U.S. Army. Ray and Rosemary divorced, and he married Doreen Constance Little of Cheshire, England. They were residing at Arlington, Virginia when their daughter Deborah Rae was born, 8 November 1949. Ray retired from the U.S. Army in 1962 with the rank of colonel. He died 11 January 1986 and is buried in the family plot at El Reno cemetery.

Kathryn Ellen Bannister graduated from El Reno high school in 1927 and was attending the Oklahoma College for Women at Chickasha when she married Thomas Hugh Willingham, 16 October 1927 at Anadarko, Caddo Co., Oklahoma. Hugh the son of Brooks Monroe Willingham and Grace Vernon Castlebury was born 30 May 1906 at Dalhart, Dallam Co., Texas. Concealing the marriage until Kathryn had completed a year of college, they had to reveal the deception when Hugh, an outstanding athlete at El Reno high school, signed a professional baseball contract to play for the Little Rock Travelers. Hugh’s baseball career spanning twenty-five years took the family from Oklahoma to Arkansas, Texas, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, North Carolina, Missouri, Iowa, New Mexico, and back to Oklahoma. Seven children were born to Hugh and Kathryn: Patti, Thomas Hugh Jr., Donald Ray, Susan Gayle, Roger Owen, Ken Regan, and Rita Ann. Returning to El Reno the couple resided in the Bannister house at 412 S. Macomb Street until their deaths. Hugh died 15 June 1988 and Kathryn died 21 September 2003, they are buried in the El Reno cemetery.

Contributed by
Roger O. Willingham
67 S. Wulff St.
Cary, IL. 60013-2525