As Edmondson's chief of staff, Gourley shored up the governor's effort to ensure state jobs were given based on merit and helped him enact a central purchasing system that cut the major source of kickbacks.
“He was dedicated to his public service. He was dedicated to his country for military service. He was dedicated to his family. He's been dedicated to his friends and certainly has been dedicated to his state,” Nigh said.
“He'd always been a reformer and that's what attracts anybody to journalism, is the desire to improve the quality of life for everybody around us,” Thomas said. “He was really privileged to be able to do that for much of his life and passed on a great legacy to all of us.”
Vicki Gourley met her husband in 1976, two years after he founded Oklahoma City Friday, which covers The Village and Nichols Hills.
They published the paper together for nearly 40 years. The couple had a blended family with four children, Janna and Jay Gourley and Kelly and Brandon Clark. Their brood expanded to include grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
Gourley served in leadership roles on numerous journalism, civic and business leadership organizations, such as the Oklahoma Press Association, Rotary Club and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
His columns and editorials during a half-century as a publisher in the news industry have captured hundreds of awards.
A recent column, published in The Oklahoman in July, asks Oklahoma colleges to better prepare teachers to teach low-income students to read.
Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of The Oklahoman and vice president of news for OPUBCO Communications Group, said Gourley will be missed by all.
“Leland was a close friend and colleague. He carved out a niche in Oklahoma City and brought a strong sense of community. He was a voice of reason, and we welcomed his guest commentary on our opinion pages. I, along with many others, will miss him.”
Gov. Mary Fallin released a statement after his death, calling him a talented and committed journalist who loved Oklahoma.
“He left his mark on Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “He was a personal friend who I admired and respected. My prayers and deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends during this time of loss.”
At 94, her husband went to the Friday office every working day, Vicki Gourley said.
“He was first and foremost a newspaperman, one that made it on his own,” Vicki Gourley said.
Plans are pending for memorial services.
Adam Kemp, Staff Writer