Staying connected: Family, business, community
MEDICINE PARK - Just over the hill, also known as Big Rock, from Edward E. Hilliary, Jr.’s office, is a small historic town full of boyhood memories. The corporate office of Hilliary Communications on State Highway 58 sits right below Big Rock, which was part of the expansive boyhood playground of the young executive. “We were very active. Mike [his brother] and I would climb up the tower and back down. We rode our bikes on Big Rock. Everything we did was outside,” he said. Edward Jr., 44, is now a managing partner in the family-owned business; however, as a youth growing up in and around Medicine Park and Elgin, that wasn’t always his goal.
“I always wanted to be a doctor. I always wanted to be able to help people,” he said. “That’s probably related to my illness I experienced as a kid. “After contracting spinal meningitis, I spent a month in the hospital between my eighth and ninth grade years. I had been in a coma for three days. I had to learn to walk again and I almost had to learn to eat again.” As an athlete, the weight loss due to his illness forced him to give up football, but, not down for the count, he turned his attention to basketball. “I was down to 140 lbs. in the ninth grade, but I just always loved sports. I was able to be a starter on the Elgin basketball team,” he said.
Edward Jr. transferred to Lawton MacArthur his sophomore year in high school and also played basketball. He graduated from Mac in 1993. Through junior high and high school, he also worked weekends hauling hay, working cattle and with the family cable television company, Southern Plains Cable. “I did my first install when I was about 13. I worked with my uncle, Doug, who was building a cable plant. The construction was pretty cool,” he said. “We did installs, disconnects, audits and handled outages. I just grew up in the family business, but, at the time, didn’t see myself making it a career. It didn’t take a lot of people to run it then, and I didn’t think there was room to join in.”
When he enrolled at Cameron University in Lawton, Edward Jr. said he found out he wasn’t interested in medical classes. “I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I realized my interest was in history and politics. I didn’t want to teach, though. I decided I wanted to become a police officer and work with the highway patrol or the FBI,” he said. Edward Jr. majored in Criminal Justice at Cameron and earned a B.S. Applied Science degree in 2000. He was hired as a police officer with the City of Lawton and was going through training when things began to change within the family business. “Around the time I was hired [with the City of Lawton], my Dad, who was president of MPTC and had managed the company for many years, left the company. My Granddad offered me the position of helping Doug run and grow the company. “I feel like joining the family company was just meant to be. I do get to help a lot of people through what we do. We get to change the quality of people’s lives. That’s meaningful to me,” he said.
Edward Jr. attended school at Medicine Park for several grades, which is where his great-grandmother Leona Hilliary was the first schoolteacher a little over 100 years ago. A page in the book “Medicine Park: Oklahoma’s First Resort” notes that the first classes held in Medicine Park (1916-1921) were taught by Leona [Miller] [Hilliary] in a tiny cobblestone building adjacent to the park store and hotel. She was born in 1902 in Chickasha and married Edward A. Hilliary, Sr. in 1929 in Duncan. Edward A. Sr. was born Jan. 7, 1891, in Danville, Ill. He came to the Lawton area in 1901 and was a farmer before working for the Medicine Park Post Office. Leona also worked at the post office for 37 years.
MEDICINE PARK TELEPHONE COMPANY
In 1958, Edward A. Hilliary, Jr. and wife Alice Jo [Tidmore] (married in 1950) purchased the telephone system in Medicine Park from the Wolverton family of Lawton. Douglas Hilliary is their son. The Medicine Park Telephone Company had been established in 1911. At the time the Hilliary’s bought the business, the system had 100 subscribers and Junior set out to upgrade and enhance the system. Among the various upgrades was installing a Step-by-Step telephone switch that was decommissioned from a naval ship. The original Central Office is located at the corner of East Lake Dr. & Forrest Ave. The system has continued to steadily grow over the course of 60-plus years of Hilliary ownership. The growth of the Hilliary company and subsidiary businesses that became a natural offshoot from the telephone company, has always been focused on providing the most up-to-date technology and service to customers.A timeline of the growth can be found at hillcom.net/history. High- lights include that in 1979 the Medicine Park Telephone Company installed the first all-digital switch in Oklahoma, a DMS 10, which provided single-party service. By 1981, the Hilliary family was among the first in the state to provide cable television. In 2000, keeping up with new developments in technology and with the aid of a Rural Utility Service (RUS) loan, Hilliary Communications, through MPTC, began to provide high-speed internet and upgrade the exist- ing copper plant to fiber. In 2001, MPTC became the first company in Oklahoma to make broadband available to 100% of its service area. Through grants and loans, the company has continued to grow and upgrade services to many communities in Oklahoma and Texas, offering high-speed fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) and fiber-to-the-business (FTTB) accessibility. The last several years has been a tremendous growth period for the company and the trend isn’t slowing heading into the new decade.
Once Edward Jr. made the decision to join the family business, he’s never looked back. He has more than a dozen different industry-related certifications and, along with the entire executive management team, encourages Hilliary employees to consistently seek training and certifications in their field of expertise. After working as an installer, technician’s assistant as a teenager, Edward Jr. became vice-president of Medicine Park Telephone Company in 2001 and president in 2005. In other company-related subsidiaries, he has served as vice-president for Wichita Online, Inc. and is executive vice president for Southern Plains Cable. In addition to contributing to the company’s strategic planning, evaluation and implementation duties, Edward Jr. is also involved in over a dozen organizations - some professional; some community-oriented, such as being a Boy Scouts troop leader and a member of the Elgin Tip-in/Quarterback Club. He is also a board member of the Elgin Schools Education Foundation. Education and athletics have always been very important to him.
He and his wife Trinity have been married 21 years and have two children, Christian and Riley. Trinity is originally from Burkburnett, Texas. Edward Jr. and Trinity’s first trip overseas was a wedding gift to Israel and the couple have enjoyed traveling, including the children, through the years. Wherever their travels have taken them, whether through Switzerland or Italy or France or Iceland, Edward Jr. is always willing to eat the local cuisine. “It’s just food,” he said. “I will try just about anything, anywhere.” The family has welcomed other children into their home through hosting a foreign exchange student and offering love and support to local teenagers. Also members of the family are two rescue bulldogs - an English Bulldog named Ginger and a French Bulldog named Nova. “It’s actually harder to be approved to adopt a bulldog than it is to be approved to host an exchange student,” he said.
FAITH AND SERVICE
Edward Jr. and Trinity are members of Crossroads Baptist Church in Elgin and have served and volunteered in a variety of ways. “The summer after I was sick, I became a Christian,” he said. “My grandparents, who were members of First Baptist Church in Medicine Park bought a cabin at Falls Creek.” For a time, Edward Jr. and Trinity taught first and second grade Sunday School in Medicine Park. He serves on many professional and community boards and Trinity volunteers at church, at Falls Creek and at Elgin schools. As a family they hosted a fundraiser for the Elgin Middle School Winter Wishes program in December and raised just under $4,000. “It was a Fortnite and Cornhole Tournament. We had about 40 kids enter the online gaming tourney. One of our neighbors served a barbecue meal for donations,” Edward Jr. said. “It’s just about giving back to the community.”
Yes, he is still a huge sports fan. After junior high and high school basketball, he played intramural sports at Cameron. As his son, Christian, became old enough to participate in sports, he helped with his teams and also with his nephew’s teams. He has also helped with the church league teams. As a sports fanatic, Edward Jr. has a large collection of memorabilia which includes signed baseballs from former Cincinnati Reds players Pete Rose and Johnny Bench. He has been an OU Sooners season ticket holder for at least 20 years. His newest item added to the memorabilia collection is a Baker Mayfield jersey. “Oh, I have a shop full of stuff - probably over 100 little things from ball games,” he said. “My favorite item came from my wife and kids - a signed John Elway (#7) jersey that is framed.”
... AND POLITICS
Among Edward Jr.’s other activities, he is active in politics, which may have influenced his son, Christian, to become a political science major. “It’s important to be involved in politics and to support our politicians. We need good people to represent us,” he said.
Edward Jr. has recently been appointed to a national board, INCOMPAS, which represents internet, streaming, communications and technology companies both large and small, advocating for laws and policies that promote competition, innovation and economic development. He is also proud to serve on the board of directors for the Armed Services YMCA of Lawton-Fort Sill. “Growing up in this area, it’s important to be on a board that helps support our military,” he said. “I love the ‘sound of freedom’ we have here and it’s a great honor to be on the board. “And, being a part of my family’s business has allowed me to be involved in the community and to give back. I am getting to fulfill my childhood dream of helping others.”