Obituary: Lew Meibergen
Lew Meibergen, 88, former chairman and president of Johnston Enterprises, died April 16 at his home in Enid, Okla. Johnston Enterprises was founded by his grandfather, W.B. Johnston, after the Cherokee Strip Land Run in 1893. Under Meibergen’s leadership, W.B. Johnston Grain Company (WBJ), now Johnston Enterprises, became the largest independent grain company in Oklahoma.
In 1983, after difficulties in getting wheat to market due to railroad rate structures, Meibergen drew up a contract on a napkin while sitting at a table in the OSU Student Union, with majority owner Veldo Brewer, to purchase a port facility on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) off of what was then Old State Highway 33. Meibergen’s insight resolved the shipping issues with the railroad. This gave wheat farmers the means to economically ship wheat and other grains to overseas markets and subsequently bring fertilizer upriver at a largely reduced rate. His vision ultimately increased the farmers’ net profits in the four-state area, and as far north as the Canadian border for years. Decades later, Johnston’s Port 33 became the largest bulk-handling port in the state.
Meibergen was appointed by Gov. Henry Bellmon to serve as Oklahoma commissioner of agriculture in 1960. “Mr. Lew,” as those who knew him affectionately called him, served four years as the director of the National Grain & Feed Association; served as commissioner of the Kansas-Oklahoma-Arkansas River Association; was inducted into the Oklahoma Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2010; was inducted into the OSU Alumni Association Hall of Fame in 2011; received the Citizen of the Year award by the Greater Enid Chamber in 2020; served on the State Chamber Board; served on the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center board; served on the Board of Directors for the National Waterways Conference; and served on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation Waterways Advisory Board, just to name a few.
Steve Taylor, retired president of Johnston’s Port 33, stated, “After working for Lew for almost 40 years, he was the most respectful man I have ever met. He managed business with his heart and treated his employees like family. It was a great family to work for.”