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Oklahoma Memories

Governors

2011-01-11

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"I, Brad Henry..." "I, Brad Henry..."

That's the voice of Brad Henry eight years ago being sworn in as governor of Oklahoma. This week another Oklahoman has taken that same oath.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When Mary Fallon took the oath of office, she will have sworn the same oath that her predecessors swore.

"As a judge of the court of record of the State of Oklahoma, Governor, it's my honor to present you with the oath of office. Would you raise your hand and repeat after me. I, Brad Henry, [I, Brad Henry] do solemnly swear [do solemnly swear] that I must obey and defend [obey and defend] the Constitution of the United States [the Constitution of the United States] and the State of Oklahoma [and the State of Oklahoma], that I will not knowingly receive [receive], directly or indirectly [directly or indirectly], [any money or any other valuable thing], for the performance or non-performance [for the performance or non-performance][of any act or duty] pertaining to my office [pertaining to my office][other than the compensation] allowed by law [allowed by law]."

Those were the voices of Brad Henry, Henry Bellmon in 1963, Dewey Bartlett, Frank Keating, George Nigh, and David Walters. Before Governor Fallon twenty-four men served as governor, three of them twice, and one, George Nigh, served as governor on four different occasions.

Women running for public office dates back to our first statewide election in 1907. She was Kate Barnard who was born in Kansas but joined her father in Oklahoma City in 1891. In 1904 while serving as a hostess at the Oklahoma exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair, Barnard noticed urban poverty and listened to discussions by social science experts who suggested solutions. Returning to Oklahoma City, she discovered that her hometown also had developed an army of indigents, so she began a career in charity work. Believing that women had political potential, especially in the area of social justice reform, she entered politics in 1906 when Oklahoma statehood was imminent. During the Constitutional Convention she convinced delegates to adopt two reform measures: the prohibition of child labor, and the establishment of the office of Commissioner of Charities and Corrections. After the convention the Democratic Party endorsed her candidacy for the position of commissioner, and she won the office by a greater plurality than any other candidate in Oklahoma's first general election, an election in which women could not vote.

Another woman who achieved early success as a politician in our state was Alice Mary Robertson. She was born in January 1854 at the Tullahassee Mission in the Creek Nation of the Indian Territory. At the age of eighteen she was sent to Elmira College in New York, where she graduated near the head of her class then went to work as a clerk in the U.S. Indian Office in Washington. Returning to the Indian Territory, she taught in the school at Tullahassee and later at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania but in 1882 returned to Oklahoma and was placed in charge of the Indian girls' boarding school, an institution which later developed into Henry Kendall College (now the University of Tulsa).

In 1920, Robertson rode the coattails of President Warren G. Harding and was elected to Congress from the Second District as a Republican in that heavily Democratic district. She arrived in the nation's capital with much talk about her being a woman. Only the second woman elected to the Congress, Miss Alice was the first woman to preside over the House of Representatives.

You can learn more about our colorful political history by visiting the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rdStreet just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.