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Former ALTA President John Cathey Passes Away

CatheyGolfers know how difficult it is to get a hole in one. Two? Nearly impossible for most. Three is monumental, but it’s a feat that former ALTA President John Cathey achieved during his life.

While his individual accomplishments on the golf course were outstanding, Cathey’s leadership and dedication to the title insurance industry leave an unrivaled legacy. Cathey passed away April 15 at the age of 86 after working in the title industry his entire career. Cathey is survived by his wife, Wynona. The couple was married for more than 61 years.

Described as a man of knowledge, grace and dignity, Cathey received his Certificate of Drafting from Oklahoma State Tech. This served as the background for his long-term career as an abstractor and title insurance professional. In 1977, Cathey purchased Bryan County Abstract Company in Durant, Okla. After retiring from the company in 1997, he owned and operated Cathey Consultants. He continued working in that capacity until his death.

One of Cathey’s biggest passions was advocating for the industry. He logged many hours on the phone and in person with politicians and lobbyists at the Oklahoma State Capitol and in Washington, D.C.

During his tenure as the 1986-87 ALTA president, the association worked on considering updates to the ALTA-ACSM standard minimum detail requirements for land surveys, recommendations from the Policy Forms Committee for the first comprehensive update of the forms since 1970. Cathey’s leadership was instrumental in the creation of the Title Insurance Assurance Company (TIAC). Cathey called helping solve the affordability and availability problem of obtaining E&O insurance one of his proudest accomplishments.

Jack Rattikin Jr. of Rattikin Title in Texas served on ALTA's Board of Governors with Cathey. Rattikin, who was ALTA's 1984-85 president, said the two became good friends and worked with each other whenever they had the chance.

"John was a dedicated ALTA member, and he helped me whenever I needed his advice or thoughts, as well has many suggestions," Rattikin said. "He was not only a hard worker, he was a planner for his upcoming time as president."

At the state level, Cathey was a past president of the Oklahoma Land Title Association (OLTA) serving in that role in 1974-75. In 1989, he received OLTA’s first prestigious Bill Gill Title Award, which honors those in the industry who best exemplifies the high ideals, standards and dedication to the industry.

According to OLTA, if there was a problem, the first question out of anyone’s mouth was “Has someone asked John?” He encouraged the industry to work together for the good of the association.

“His wisdom, passion and integrity have fueled so many of our traditions and values that we hold dear,” OLTA said in an email to its members. “Even if you haven't met John, as a member of this association, you've been influenced by him. Knowledge, grace and dignity, this is how John led the Oklahoma Land Title Association and the American Land Title Association. Let’s honor him in keeping his legacy going by teaching others ‘how it should be done.’”

For Herschel Beard, Cathey was more than a friend. He was a mentor. Early in his career, Beard, who served as the 1992-93 OLTA president, described Cathey as a devoted husband, father and tireless worker for the title industry. Cathey helped younger title professionals such as Beard understand the valuable work the industry provides. 

"John taught me the importance of giving back to the industry that was creating a career for me," said Beard, who is owner of Marshall County Abstract Co. in Madill, Okla. "He demonstrated leadership at the state and national level."

Beard recalled how Cathey and his wife were regular attendees at ALTA meetings.

"Even as past president, he never quit giving back to the association," Beard said. "I'll always be thankful for their friendship and the valuable lessons in leadership I learned from him."

John catheyJohn Cathey (center) talks with Sen. David Boren (D-OK) about campaign reform legislation during a TIPAC fund-raising event in 1987. Others pictured include (left to right): Roger Bell of The Security Abstract and Title Co. in Wichita, Kan., D.P. Kennedy of First American Title Insurance Co. and Joseph Burke of Commonwealth land Title Insurance Co.


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