Midwest City was founded in 1942 by Oklahoma businessman and builder W.P. “Bill” Atkinson. Atkinson learned of the United States Army’s desire to build a new airfield in the center of the country, the largest military base to ever be built, and knew central Oklahoma was the perfect location. He purchased thousands of acres of undeveloped land and began developing homes, schools, churches, parks, entertainment and shopping, creating a self-contained city for military personnel and the civilian work force. Almost simultaneously, Midwest Air Depot rose from the plains and all-important work began.
During World War II, the Midwest City Douglas Aircraft Company Plant constructed more than half of the 10,000 C-47 Skytrain United States Army cargo planes. The plant cost $24 million to build and rolled out its first C-47s in March 1943. Some 38,000 Oklahomans worked at the plant, the majority of them women. The plant closed on August 17, 1945, and was redesignated as Building 3001. On November 1, 1945, it was transferred to the Oklahoma City Air Technical Service Command and is now the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center.
Midwest Air Depot was renamed on January 13, 1948 to Tinker Air Force Base to honor Major General Clarence Tinker, a member of Osage Nation, from Pawhuska, Oklahoma. He was the first American general to be killed on a mission in World War II as he was leading a flight of B-24’s Liberators near Wake Island.
Atkinson worked fervently to create Midwest City, thinking through every detail in order to please families. He built and sold each home with a value-added incentive of owning a Shetland pony that he would house in a pony barn on the grounds of his mansion that is now deemed part of the historical museum, the Atkinson Heritage Center.
The new city gained national print and broadcast attention when it became a model for post-war community development. In 1951, Midwest City was honored as “America’s Model City.”
In 1957, Paul Hudiburg, a Buick and Pontiac dealer in Okemah, Oklahoma, moved to Midwest City and purchased the Chevrolet dealership. He built Hudiburg Auto Group into one of the largest auto sales groups in the state.
Over the next several decades, Midwest City became home to countless service men and women as well as thriving business development with opportunities for employment and education, fulfilling the quality of life needs of the community. Midwest City’s Memorial Hospital opened in 1962 and Oscar Rose Junior College in 1970, followed by the General Motors Assembly Plant in 1979.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Midwest City earned numerous awards such as the “Tree City USA” award from the Arbor Day Foundation and continued growth by establishing the Midwest City Library, an animal shelter, an industrial park and business park, nature trails and more.
On May 3, 1999, portions of Midwest City, particularly the city’s northwestern corridor, sustained extreme damage from a violent tornado that swept through the southern and eastern areas of the Oklahoma City metro. While it produced F5 damage south of the metro, the damage in Midwest City was rated F4. Another strong tornado struck almost exactly the same area four years later on May 8, 2003.
Immediately following the destruction of the 1999 and 2003 tornadoes, city officials worked to revitalize SE 29th Street, leading to the development of a new Town Center Plaza shopping area. In 2003, the Reed Conference Center, a 60,000-square-foot convention center, was built. Several premiere brand hotels were added near the Reed Conference Center, designating the area around Sooner Road and Tinker Diagonal as Midwest City’s hospitality district.
Midwest City continues to grow, while paying homage to deep roots. Look for the Ponies on Parade, a series of artistic statues spread throughout Midwest City. These colorfully-painted replicas of Atkinson’s Shetland ponies each tell part of Midwest City’s unique story.
Midwest City serves as the economic trade center for eastern Oklahoma County and is conveniently close to metropolitan area amenities. The city is alive with tourism, special events and substantial economic growth. It is a thriving community with a warm and friendly atmosphere and a ‘family first’ quality of life, and 75 years of riveting history!