Oklahoma History Part I

Welcome back. With the end of another year approaching, in keeping with tradition I am looking back at lives of a few people who have had a big impact on Oklahoma and whom I hope we never forget.

Born in 1908, Admiral John Kirkpatrick was a man who made his fortune in the oil and gas but whose legacy lives on in the trusts he and his wife established for the benefit of all Oklahomans. Today he and his family are known for their philanthropy not only here, but throughout the country. If you haven’t heard of him it may be because he lived according to one of his favorite sayings:

“I don’t believe I need to be remembered. I have the satisfaction to have done what I’ve done.”

Another man of the era was born in a log cabin near present day Ada and would go on to make the Kerr name prominent in oil, science and political. He was even once mentioned as a possible Presidential candidate. During a 1942 campaign Robert S. Kerr is known to have said: “I am just like you, except I struck oil.”

A couple of my favorite Oklahomans are brothers who grew up poor, made fortunes in the oil industry and went on to be major philanthropists.

From Frank Phillips: “Those of us who have been more fortunate owe a debt to society.”

And from his brother Waite Phillips whose gifts to the Boy Scouts have enabled generations of young men to learn leadership and the many other skills needed to be successful in life:

“Real philanthropy consists of helping others, outside our own family circle, from whom no thanks is expected or required.”

Another oil man who started his career in Bartlesville and went on to become known around the world as the back half of the Kerr-McGee Corporation was Dean McGee. Oil made Dean but his donation of millions of dollars has insured that his name lives on.

Of course there are many other Oklahomans who rose to be giants in their fields such as the Branif brothers of Oklahoma City, E. W. Marland, Alfalfa Bill Murray, Gene Autry to name a few. Sports figures like Bud Wilkinson, Jim Thorpe and Mickey Mantle are also important of our state’s history. Mantle was once quoted “I guess you could say I’m what this country is all about.”

I could go on with a list of prominent women as well, including the first female  Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller who kept my interest for years. Of course there are many famous female artists and entertainers from Oklahoma from Patti Page to Reba McIntyre and Kristen Chenoweth all of whom have given back to their home state. As did the five Native American ballerinas who were renowned throughout world.

In 1907 Theodore Roosevelt signed the official proclamation making Oklahoma the 46th state. In the early years of statehood Oklahoma also had its share of notorious residents including Henry Starr, known as the “King of Bank Robberies” who made the state the national leader in bank robberies during 1916.  In 1933 the outlaw Machine Gun Kelly along with a fellow known simply as Pretty Boy Floyd robbed 60 banks. Floyd became the very first public enemy #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list.

This is just a sampling of the many people who have contributed to Oklahoma’s distinctive history. The library is a great place to learn more about them and the many others I don’t have time to write about now.

Wishing you all a very happy holiday,

Till next time I’ll see ya down the road…….

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