At 4 p.m. today Oklahoma's best-known female politician is changing her name and in the process the state Democratic Party gets an important new convert.
Rep. Cleta Deatherage, 33, Norman, will marry Dale Mitchell, chairman of the board of Fidelity National Bank. The ceremony will be performed on Mitchell's 41st birthday in the Louise Pritchard Chapel of Oklahoma City's First Baptist Church. The Rev. Gene Garrison will conduct the ceremony.
It is the second marriage for both.
Deatherage, who has operated in political circles under her maiden name, said in the future she will be known as Cleta Mitchell. "He wanted that and it wasn't negotiable. It was important to him."
Asked if it was true that Mitchell was a registered Republican, the eight-year House veteran smiled and said, "Not any more he isn't, we just got back from the courthouse where he changed his registration."
Marriage plans for the couple almost went awry last week when Mitchell was hospitalized with a mild heart attack. That caused the couple to cancel plans for a trip to St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
Now they will go to Phoenix for a few days "because he needs to rest."
The lawmaker said she doesn't think it's going to be difficult to change names in the middle of a political career. "I have always campaigned just as "Cleta' so it won't make any difference."
And Deatherage makes no secret of the fact that she plans to continue her political career. She has announced she is running for Democratic national commiteewoman succeeding Edna Mae Phelps, Seminole, who is retiring. Then she plans another race for the House from Cleveland County.
After that term is completed, she leaves little doubt she has her eye on something else. Some people think she will challenge Lt. Gov. Spencer Bernard if the incumbent goes for a third term in 1986.
"The lieutenant governor's race is a long time off," she said. "I will run for re-election and if I am re-elected I will have been up here 10 years when the term is finished.
"I could never understand my colleagues who come to the House and stay here for 20 years."
Deatherage said she does not think her marriage will change her political life. In fact, she said Mitchell is a people-oriented individual who has added a "new dimension" to her political knowledge.
The Norman lawmaker served as House Appropriations and Budget chairman during the Dan Draper era of leadership. She was the only woman serving as a legislative appropriations chairman in the nation during her tenure.
She left this position with the change in leadership to Jim Barker and has been serving as chairman of a special committee on economic development.
Deatherage seems to enjoy her new role outside the glare of legislative leadership.
"I feel a great sense of freedom and relief. It is a mistake by people making public policy to become so consumed by what goes on in this building.
"You can't ever live a normal life and then you have to come up here and make good decisions."
Deatherage said she has made no public choice among the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. She said she is staying out of the race until the general election because she thinks a national committeewoman should be in a position to serve the party as a whole.
Mitchell is well-known in Oklahoma financial circles, where he has had a meteoric rise. He was president of First National Bank of Oklahoma City at the age of 35.
Mitchell attended the University of Oklahoma, where he was a member of the varsity baseball team. A few years ago he contributed money to build a new baseball park at OU, named after L. Dale Mitchell, his father, who was a veteran major league baseball player for the Cleveland Indians and Brooklyn Dodgers. BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 174440