John Clabes – In Memoriam
Vol.6 Issue 3
John Clabes 1926-2020

John R. Clabes spent part of his career working in the Aviation Information Office (otherwise known as Public Affairs) at the Aeronautical Center. Prior to working for the FAA, he served as a Public Affairs Officer at Tinker Air Force Base. He had 27 years of federal service. Clabes was well-liked by aviation reporters across the country, during a time when major aircraft accidents unfortunately happened several times a year. He was known for being helpful and always searching to write positive stories about the FAA. Whenever he pitched an idea about a story, he fully expected writers to find a way to sell it to their editors. His persistence was matched only by his spirited conversations and his susceptibility to enjoy inappropriate jokes via email.

Clabes considered many aviation reporters to be personal friends and made sure that anytime one of them visited the Oklahoma City area that they stayed in his guest room. He had named the room, "The Malnic Suite," after the legendary Los Angeles Times aviation reporter Eric Malnic. John was a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, and received many honors for his pioneering efforts in typography, makeup design, and offset production.

Clabes was born March 21, 1926 in Poteau, Oklahoma and joined the Army Air Corps in 1944. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1950 with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism. He worked for newspapers in Hobart and Lawton before starting the Oklahoma Journal in 1964, which ceased publication in 1981.

John Clabes (far left) gets a pat on the head from the Aeronautical Center’s mascot, Air Bear. John was instrumental in helping to coordinate Air Bear appearances with area schools.

Among his favorite things were his family, friends, nice clothes, golf, rambunctious dogs and convertible sports cars. If you ever rode as a passenger with him, it was said to be a frightening experience. John Clabes passed away on March 27, 2020 after a short illness. Long known for being a newspaper editor and public servant, John Clabes will be sorely missed.

He is survived by his wife Shawn McBride, daughter Caitlin Victoria Clabes, two sons, Blair Clabes of Carlsbad, CA, and Brandon Clabes of Midwest City, two grandsons, Collin and Morgan, and a granddaughter, Gabriella.

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