Welcome back. Where do you go to get a darn good meal served to you by eighty busboys, be entertained by Vince Gill, get to rub elbows with actor Tom Selleck, Congressman Tom Cole, Olympians Shannon Miller and Mary Lou Retton and then to top it all off, listen to one of the best eighteen piece orchestras I’ve heard lately? Well if you guessed right here in Oklahoma, you guessed correctly and if you’re a regular reader of my column you probably know that this past Thursday night was the date of the ceremony in Oklahoma City to induct this year’s class into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and I was there. It was my first time to attend these awards but it was the 90th Annual Oklahoma Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony and friends this ain’t your ordinary dinner and dance fundraiser. Tears were shed by most of the inductees as they gave their acceptance speeches as well as by many of the onlookers so it was a very emotional night for sure.
Fourteen hundred people heard Justice Tom Colbert tell his story of growing up poor before going on to become a successful attorney and judge, eventually being the first African American to serve as Chief Justice on the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Hal Smith of Ardmore is another member of this year’s class who you may not have heard of but he and his partners operate many of the most popular restaurants in seven states, including Charleston’s, Mahogany Prime Steakhouse and Krispy Donuts with annual sales of over $250 million. Another less familiar but equally important honoree this year is Phil Pardhun who developed much of the traffic signal and sign infrastructure in use across the country today.
Gymnast Shannon Miller needed no introduction to the crowd as everyone was well aware of her many athletic accomplishments and her courageous battle with ovarian cancer.
Actor Tom Selleck, who as you can imagine was always surrounded by women, gave the introduction to the last inductee, co-founder of Express Employment Professionals Robert Funk. Selleck called him a visionary and a man who had fulfilled his dreams of becoming a minister, a rancher, an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.
There were two posthumous inductees this year, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher and Sequoyah. A graduate of Langston University, Sipuel dreamed of becoming a lawyer but because of her race was denied admittance to the law school at the University of Oklahoma. Her lawsuit against the University which was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court resulted in the integration of the law school. Sipuel graduated from the OU College of Law, going on to a career as a successful attorney and professor of law. This was a truly inspiring story that I had never heard before and I plan to read more about her.
The great Cherokee statesman and educator Sequoyah created the Cherokee alphabet and thus the tribe’s written language. I’ve written about his many accomplishments in the past and there is a great deal to be learned from his example.
The featured speakers inducting these notable Oklahomans were former Governor Frank Keating, Coach Barry Switzer, OSU President Burns Hargis and Kenneth Levit of the Kaiser Family Foundation. They spoke of the important contributions all the inductees had made not only in Oklahoma but around the world.
This was one of the best events I’ve been to this year and I’d highly recommend a visit to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame which is housed in the Gaylord-Pickens Museum in Oklahoma City. If you would like to see the ceremony on TV it will be showing on OETA on December 9th and 10th. With that said I’ll leave you with a quote this week from the Oklahoma Hall of Fame:
“Oklahomans are changing the world” and it’s true.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road….