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Dear Friends,

Dad passed away on November 19, 2023.
Mom and our entire family are very proud of Dad and his music.  We miss him very much.

Thank you for your support.

Dan Gilliam

Les Gilliam Obituary

Leslie Don Gilliam was born October 18, 1934 in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  He went to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, on November 19, 2023.

Les grew up in Gene Autry (Berwyn) and graduated from Ardmore High.  He attended Murray State College where he played baseball and football, before moving on to Oklahoma A&M.  Les Gilliam and the Western Rhythm Kings played many dates in and around Stillwater.   He graduated in 1956 with a degree in Mathematics. 

While at Oklahoma A&M, he met the love of his life, Martha Jane, and they were married on August 31, 1956.  They soon had three children, Dan Leslie, Julie Ann and Cynthia Alice.

Les worked as a computer programmer for Chance Vought in Grand Prairie, Texas, before moving to Ponca City, Oklahoma, to join the new Computer Department at Continental Oil.  He excelled at programming and quickly moved into planning and managerial roles.  He left Conoco in the early 1980’s and started his own consulting practice using his extensive computer knowledge and planning skills.

Les loved country and western music and performed many times on the Big D Jamboree in the late 1950’s, playing shows with Johnny Cash, Sonny James and Mel Tillis.  In 1998, he was named the Oklahoma Balladeer by the Oklahoma State Legislature.  Les and Martha traveled all over the country, and even to Austria, sharing his songs and stories.  In 2005, Les received the most prestigious award in western music, the coveted Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.  Les Gilliam and the Silverlake Band played many shows and dances, even playing at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO for almost 20 years.  Many of the same fans would come each year to hear Les and the band and twirl around the dance floor.  Les recorded 18 albums, including 3 gospel records, and won numerous awards.   He was very proud that he was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2010.  Over the years, Les shared the stage and became friends with Riders in the Sky, Johnny Western, Rhonda Vincent, Connie Smith, Buck Taylor, Robert Fuller, James Drury, Monty Hale and many others. 

Les had met Gene Autry as a youngster and was so proud to represent the Autry Family when Mr. Autry was inducted in the inaugural class of the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.  He and Martha became good friends with Mrs. Autry and the staff at Mr. Autry’s museum in California.

Les was a member of the First Baptist Church in Ponca City.   He served many years as a Sunday School teacher, deacon and trustee.  He chaired numerous committees and spent hours on the phone checking on his Sunday School class members.

Les was also an active member of the Lions Club.  He was honored to have received the Melvin Jones award.

Most importantly, Les loved his family.   He was a great son, brother, husband, father, uncle, granddad and great-granddad.   He will be greatly missed.

Les was preceded in death by his parents, Don Lacy and Anna Corinne Gilliam, and his sisters, Florine, Winnie and Margaret, and brother J.O. (Jake).

He is survived by his wife, Martha, and their children, Dan and Nancy Gilliam, Julie Gilliam, and Cynthia and David Nolen, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A private family service was held to celebrate his life.