Welcome back. This week and next as promised, I’m bringing you a larger than life story; he became the sheriff of the largest county in Oklahoma and kept that position unopposed for twenty-four years.
Sheriff Wayman as he is still known, was born in tiny Burbank in the heart of Osage County which just a few years before had been the Osage Indian Reservation. Part Indian himself, he began his career cowboying on local ranches. Then he moved on to work as a roughneck in the tough Osage oil fields. When World War II broke out young George served in North Africa with the 645th Tank Destroyer Battalion where he won the Bronze Star for valor after single handedly knocking out a Nazi Panzer tank.
After his discharge in 1945, Wayman was reactivated during the Korean conflict and fought in the well known battle of Pork Chop Hill, about which several movies have been made.
When the Korean War was over Wayman returned to the Osage oilfields until the new sheriff Dick Streetman offered him a job as a deputy. The Sheriff knew George and he was aware that he had little law enforcement experience but he also knew that he had a big heart and good instincts about people. Wayman worked as a deputy for four years, chasing bootleggers and breaking up the gangs of burglars which were out of control in the early 1950s. When he was promoted to under sheriff he gained a reputation as a clever investigator who always stood by his word. His seven years as an under sheriff gave the still young Wayman an education in law enforcement he could not have gained from books. When his boss Sheriff Streetman suddenly died of a heart attack in 1965 Wayman became Sheriff, inheriting five deputies and two jailers all of whom worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week, covering a county one hundred miles across, north, south, east and west.
Wayman first job was recruiting new deputies, selectively hiring and training the best men he could find. Then he set about campaigning for better pay and benefits along with regular days off for his staff. In exchange he demanded professionalism, not only in the way his staff acted, but also in the way that reports were written and records were kept- which he had found to be in extraordinarily poor condition.
Ten years after taking charge of what had been a bunch of cowboys and the relatives of political supporters and overhauling it, the Osage County Sheriff’s office was recognized as the best sheriff’s department in Oklahoma by both the State Legislature and the Professional Policeman’s Association. Soon Wayman was getting calls from other counties asking for help with investigations. Wayman was also the first in Oklahoma to train his staff in riot and crowd control and bomb threat investigation and management- something that was unheard of at the time.
Photos of Ben Johnson, Mel Tillis and Governor David Hall, among many others, line the walls of the Sheriff’s home, along with notes of appreciation for his many distinguished years of service. President Jimmy Carter invited him to the White House following his efforts in solving one of the deadliest gangland style bombing and murder in Oklahoma history.
It all started in 1964 when Muskogee Police Chief Earl Newton’s car was blown up. A few days later the offices of the local newspaper “The Tahlequah Press” were dynamited followed by the office of the Cherokee County D.A.
Have I lit your fuse? Next week more murder and mayhem when a Tulsa judge’s car is blown to bits and the parents of former Tulsa Mayor Bill Lafortune become targets of the Dixie Mafia. Till then I’ll see ya down the road….