Robert J. LaFortune
2007 Outstanding Entrepreneur
The LaFortune name has been a signature of public service and philanthropy in the Tulsa community for more than 80 years. Robert LaFortune is no exception to his family’s enduring legacy, having played a significant role in the cultural and physical development of the city of Tulsa.
LaFortune graduated from Cascia Hall Preparatory School in 1944 and attended The University of Tulsa. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marine Cadet Corp for two years, and then entered Purdue University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1951. He joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve, achieving the rank of captain.
LaFortune invested in Reed Drilling Company, which operated six medium-sized drilling rigs in Central Oklahoma. He sold his stake in the company in 1963 and turned his business interests to investments and independent oil and gas ventures.
In 1964, he entered city politics as commissioner of streets and public property. As mayor (1970-78), he was involved in the creation, land acquisition and building of the Port of Catoosa, the navigation channel that reshaped the economic future of the city of Tulsa.
LaFortune and his family were instrumental in the development of many of Tulsa’s business and cultural venues. He worked with John Williams in the development of the Williams Center, and he was instrumental in the private-public funding of Tulsa’s Performing Arts Center. He also shaped the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, making the Tulsa Zoo a favorite destination. He is a past chairman and current executive committee member of Philbrook Museum.
LaFortune has been recognized throughout his years of public service. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Tulsa Hall of Fame in 1988. He was also awarded the Silver Buffalo from the Boy Scouts of America in 1982 and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Tulsa in 1995. This year he received the Pathfinder Award from the Tulsa League of Women Voters.
LaFortune and his late wife, Jeanne (Morse) LaFortune, have six children and 18 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.