Dr. John Coates
John Albert Coates was born December 31, 1925 in Geary, Oklahoma, a small town 30 miles west of El Reno. He was the only son of Arthur Albert Coates and Grace Blanche Spencer Coates of Madison, Wisconsin and Davis City, Iowa respectively.
John attended K–12 in Geary. He worked at his parents’ bakery before and after school from age 12. His mother purchased a cornet for John when he was eight years old, which changed his life. He then began lessons with Edgar Lehman, the town bandmaster. In 1939, Don McCartor became the Geary High School band director. Before Don took over as band director, seating for the various musicians was determined by brawn, not brain or ability – therefore John sat on the back row. With Don as conductor, for the first time ever, students had to try out for seating arrangements in the 60-piece band and John was placed first chair in the cornet section! The next year, at age 14, John was appointed assistant conductor of the Geary High School Band. Once Don joined the Air Force in December 1941 (following Pearl Harbor). John became conductor of the Geary High School Band from 1942–1943, graduating in May 1943.
John was awarded a scholarship to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to study with Dr. Frank Simon, starting in June 1943. Dr. Simon was the premier cornet-trumpet soloist in the world and John was awestruck!
On December 31, 1943, John received notice of induction into the United States Armed Forces. He went to downtown Cincinnati and joined the U.S. Navy. He had the good fortune to be placed in the U.S. Navy Music Department until the end of WWII in 1945. John played lead trumpet in a 23-piece band and toured the South Pacific, playing two U.S.O. shows daily (7 days a week) on Army, Air Corps, Marine, Navy and C.B. (Construction Battalion) bases from San Francisco to Manila and back.
In 1946, John enrolled in Pre-med at Oklahoma State University. In 1955 he graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. While at OU, John had the honor of studying with Dr. Stewart Wolf and Dr. Robert Bird. After an internship at St. Anthony Hospital and a year of general surgery, John was accepted by Dr. Harry Wilkins to study neurological surgery with him at OU. This program only accepted one candidate each year, so once again God put John into the hands of someone who was the best in the world in his field and once again John was awestruck and remains so today. Dr. Wilkins was the finest neurosurgeon, teacher and mentor John had ever seen and was dedicated to his work and his teaching all of his life. Dr. Wilkins was President of the Harvey Cushing Society of Boston, Massachusetts and was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Citation from the University of Oklahoma on May 13, 1977. Dr. Wilkins died on February 4, 1985 and John was honored to be one of the pallbearers at his funeral.
Following neurosurgical residency, John studied neuropathology at the University of Texas with Dr. Kenneth Earle and neurophysiology with Dr. Glen Russell while there.
On October 20, 1956, good fortune smiled on John once again as he married the lovely Mary Emma Dailey Coates, whom he met while working as an intern at St. Anthony Hospital in Oklahoma City.
In 1960, John was accepted as registrar (resident) in neurology at the National Hospital, Queen Square, London. Again, John was fortunate to study with Sir Charles Symonds, Macdonald Critchley, J. St. C. Elkington, William Gooddy, Denis Williams, Valentine Logue and Lord Russell Brain.
In 1961, John began practicing neurological surgery in Tulsa, Oklahoma until his retirement in 1999.
John and his wife Mary were blessed with five children, now all talented and successful Tulsans, each excelling in their chosen fields: John Arthur Coates, Christopher Thomas Coates, Patrick Edward Coates, Stephen Michael Coates and Anne Elizabeth Coates Hall. Mary was John’s teacher, doctor, partner, sidekick and mentor. She was responsible for rearing all five of their children while John worked all day and most every night in the emergency room and surgery at Saint Francis Hospital. This was difficult, but John loved it and wishes he could do it all over again!
Interview with Dr. John Coates
Müllerhaus Legacy Website Team
Date Created: March 25, 2010
Date Published: April 30, 2013
Notes: Recorded by John Erling in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Digital Audio Sound Recording, Non-Music.