Cover photo for Johnny Dale McMahan's Obituary
Johnny Dale McMahan Profile Photo
1957 Johnny 2024

Johnny Dale McMahan

January 26, 1957 — May 3, 2024

Woodward

Graveside services for Johnny McMahan will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, at 2:00pm at Winganon Cemetery. Visitation will be held on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, from 1:00pm-7:00pm at Chelsea Funeral Home. Johnny passed away on Friday, May 3, 2024, at the age of 67. 

Enduring and well-loved Woodward News Editor Johnny Dale McMahan, 67, wrote and photographed regional sports and news, as much with his heart as he did with his talented eye behind his camera and nimble fingers on the keys of a typewriter and later a computer.  

McMahan passed away after a short illness on Friday May 3, 2024 at about 2:30 p.m. in Chouteau.

His sister Connie Robbins and brother Bobby McMahan never left his side throughout his last days.

Visitation will be open in Chelsea under the direction of MMS Payne Funeral Home on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Graveside services will be held on Wednesday, May 8, 2024 at 2 p.m. in Winganon Cemetery in Chelsea. A Woodward memorial service is being planned at a later date.  

McMahan served Woodward in the sports and news industry for 44 years. He attended high school in Chelsea and graduated with the class of 1975. McMahan attended Northestern Oklahoma A&M College in Miami, and graduated in 1977. In 1979 he moved to Woodward to accept his dream job working as the sports editor for the Woodward Daily Press and later the Woodward News. It was his first and last job after graduating from Central State University (University of Central Oklahoma) in 1979 with a bachelors degree in journalism.

He mused, in a recent conversation, that the completion of that degree had cost him a total of $1,000.  

McMahan was born in 1957 in Nowata, the first child of Bob and Pauline McMahan.

To say his family is proud of McMahan is an understatement. “Johnny was described as ‘legend’, ‘irreplaceable’, and ‘the creator of what we put in scrapbooks’ by so many who knew him and his work,” his family said.

McMahan might have looked like the quintessential news man, but he was no stranger to farm work.

He was raised on the family farm in Chelsea – spending long hot and cold hours helping his family put up hay and work cattle.  He often commented about the work he did on the family farm being instrumental in his decision to choose another life – though the number of times he could be found struggling with stubborn news equipment until 4 a.m. to get the Woodward paper out might have made him question his choice at times.

Some of the sports and news figures he wrote about and photographed over the years are now leaders in their fields in the community and state. Those include Woodward City Manager Shaun Barnett, Woodward School Superintendent Rusty Puffinbarger, former Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture the late Terry Peach, and Woodward County Commissioner Clint White, among many others.

“From the perspective of a kid playing sports 30-years-ago or currently being the superintendent of Woodward Public Schools, Johnny Mac has been a constant in our part of the world,” Puffinbarger said. “He was consistent, predictable, kind and known by everyone. He was quiet in the spoken word but gifted in the written word. His presence with camera and notepad will be missed.”

McMahan was most known for using his talents to highlight numerous All-Stater boys and girls – including basketball player Kala Bowers-Gaines, Football player Tim Albin, and track and field champion Jolyn Cheap Meeker.

“He’s one of those rare sports reporters that comes along only once in a lifetime – his knowledge comprehension and the ability to write about that was unsurpassed,” said Woodward Radio Host and Color Man C.J. Montgomery.  “Anything our young people do is important and the ability to read that and see it in the paper was significant in their lives.”

But it was even more than that – in a world besought by the challenges of social media and the 24-hour cable news cycle – it was McMahan, perched on the sideline, or in his classic, quiet-stepping way, roving silently on the sidelines, click, click clicking his Nikon D-3500, that brought people to purchase the Woodward News and cut out his stories.

“Words are the core of what we do and yet I do not know or have the words to express what Johnny has meant to me,” said long-time Woodward Publisher Sheila Gay. “We are at a loss without him in every way.”

One community member noted recently McMahan’s signature understated presence and how, so often one never knew he was there. Yet, somehow he seemed to be everywhere. His work in the community not only transformed the newspaper, but it gave wings to the careers of so many who went on to lead college teams, as well as their industries to victory.

McMahan led the Woodward News with a classic, placid acceptance of an industry that shot out of the gate each day like a horse race. His car – usually a Honda – could be seen plugged into his parking spot behind the paper so consistently, that to not see it made residents of Woodward worry.

When he took time to go on his beloved nation-wide baseball tours each year, invariably someone would come into the paper and check to see “if everything was okay” since they had not seen his car.

McMahan led a life committed to peace – choosing, even on the most thorny news events, to write it in a way that avoided controversy, while still providing all the news information everyone needed.

He was the winner of hundreds of awards; including the Oklahoma Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame Award for Meritorious Service, The Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Ray Soldan Award for outstanding contributions to Oklahoma high school basketball, the K101 Classic Bowl “Classic Legend Award” as well as the Oklahoma Press Association's top award – “The Sequoya Award”, honoring excellence in the management of the Woodward News.

He was also honored by Boomer Sports in Woodward for his dedication over nearly 40 years of sports coverage for their program. McMahan received the “Preparing Today’s Students Award” from the Woodward Future Farmers of America and finally, he won too-many-to-mention Oklahoma Press Association (OPA)awards for excellence throughout his career, including the OPA Quarter Century Club Award.

McMahan did everything in the news business – he took late-night scores, accepted impossible drives to cover important tournaments, helped in the press-room and defined the word “serve” in a way that few can accomplish, said Woodward Mayor Tom Fisher.

“Johnny was always there, whether it was a school activity or a community event. His reporting was interesting and accurate,” Fisher said. “I always tried to visit with him at these events and I will really miss those visits. Many in the community literally grew up with Johnny. When they were in middle school and on to high school, he attended their events, took pictures and wrote wonderful articles about their events. He was a legend in the media world and he has left the community with many wonderful memories.”

McMahan is survived by his mother, Pauline McMahan of Chelsea; his brother, Bobby McMahan and his wife Molly of Chelsea and their children Christina McMahan of Catoosa, their son Dylan and his wife Maddie McMahan and their child Sunday Rae of Coweta; his sister Connie Robbins and her husband Kurt and their children Jordan Robbins of Killeen, Texas and Kellie Robbins of Pryor;

He was preceded in death by his father Bob McMahan.


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Service Schedule

Past Services

Visitation

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

1:00 - 7:00 pm (Central time)

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Starts at 2:00 pm (Central time)

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