Paul J. Merchant
July 21, 1924 - October 10, 2020
Paul J. Merchant died peacefully at home on October 10, 2020. He was 96 years old. Born in Hackett, Arkansas, Paul was the youngest of five children. He was an orphan at age five and spent years in foster care, eventually moving in with his oldest brother and his wife in Tulsa. At Tulsa Webster High School he was a standout basketball player and worked as a golf caddie at Tulsa Country Club. He was inducted into the Tulsa Webster High School Hall of Fame and the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame.
Paul served in the United States Navy as a Gunner's Mate during World War II. After the war he returned to The University of Oklahoma to play college basketball and golf for legendary Sooners coach Bruce Drake, choosing Coach Drake's basketball team over Henry Iba and Phog Allen.
Paul was a guard on the Sooners 1946-47 basketball team that went on to play in the National Championship game at Madison Square Garden against Holy Cross. His team was considered Coach Drake's best squad with a 24-7 overall record. He played in the East-West All Star Game and was an NBA draft pick for the Syracuse Nationals. From 1951-53 he played for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots of the National Industrial Basketball League.
While at OU Paul met and later married a petite brunette art student from Oklahoma City, Patricia Nail. On their first date they discussed their shared desire for a home and family. At the time of Patricia's death in 2007 they had been married for more than 57 years. Paul had a long and successful career in the oil and gas industry. He played golf throughout his life and was a founding member at several golf clubs in Oklahoma and California. He made 9 holes in one. He was always an athlete and continued to work out regularly into his mid-90s.
From his humble beginnings and as one of the Greatest Generation, Paul lived his life as an example of kindness and respect for all he encountered. He had a subtle sense of humor and was often described, especially by golf buddies, as a lot of fun. He told great stories and freely shared advice and wisdom. He was a father figure for many and the epitome of a gentleman.
Paul is survived by his devoted family, son, Michael Merchant and wife Jeannie Merchant; daughter, Mignon Merchant Ball and husband Stan Ball; granddaughter, Amanda Merchant Mills and husband, Joshua Mills; grandsons, Braxon Ball, Hayden Ball, Patric Ball and Kemper Ball; and two great grandchildren, Sage-Belize Mills and Morrison Merchant Mills.
A private family service is planned. In lieu of flowers the family suggests making a donation to a non-profit organization of your choice.