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Oklahoma Family Tree Stories

This beautiful sculpture of three redbud trees with gold and silver leaves by artist Robin Starke is located just outside the Eleanor & John Kirkpatrick Research Center in the Oklahoma History Center. Each leaf of the "Oklahoma Family Tree" memorializes an Oklahoma family with the family surname, first name(s), and the town or county where they lived. In addition, a short family history will be preserved in the digital family history book at the base of the tree. This is a great way for your family to make history and benefit future generations at the same time. To find out how to honor your own family with a leaf visit the Oklahoma Family Tree Project page.

Crain Family

Harold Crain learned about commitment to family from his father, Clyde, a native Texan who came as an infant to the wilderness area of Goodwater, a thriving Choctaw community. After Clyde married Mattie Mullins, the couple left Goodwater to work in the oil fields surrounding Wichita Falls and other towns in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Harold was born in Oklahoma City on June 19, 1923. His family moved to several communities around the state, including Tonkawa, Three Sands, Garber, Seminole, Shawnee, before returning to Oklahoma City. Back in the state capital, Harold attended Shields Heights, Lee, and Capitol Hill Junior High. In 1940 he graduated from high school in El Dorado, Arkansas, and enrolled at Murray State College in Tishomingo. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Harold joined the Navy as an apprentice seaman and was promoted to 2nd class petty officer. The Navy selected him for a college training program, and he studied at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and attended Cornell University. He was commissioned as an ensign in 1945 and served his first sea duty on the USS Dixie. He returned to Oklahoma City in late 1946 to finish his degree at Oklahoma City University and then applied and was accepted as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

Harold met and married Joan Renfro, and the couple moved to New Jersey in 1948. The Navy transferred him to San Diego, where two sons were born: David in 1949; and Daniel in 1953. As the senior officer in supply schools in San Diego, Harold developed a great love for teaching and instructed several courses on base. In 1950, he served on the USS Carmick, a destroyer mine sweeper that cleared the sea lanes in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan for troops involved in the Korean War. The Navy then promoted him to lieutenant junior grade and ordered him to the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi. The Crains' son, Russell, was born there before the family received orders to move to Turkey.

Carol Susan was born while the Crains were stationed in Turkey. The family enjoyed visiting many famous and holy sites throughout the region. While on assignment in Amasra, a listening post on the Black Sea, Harold participated in an elaborate plan for the evacuation of U.S. forces in Ankara. Harold served as the liaison between ambassadors at the time and had to leave his family to prepare to evacuate American families. U.S. authorities allowed families only one car and one suitcase and ordered them to the south side of the city. There, they would join 15,000 other Americans to form a convoy south to Mersin, where they would board U.S. vessels. Though an evacuation never occurred, it served as quite an adventure for the young family.

The Crain family returned to the U.S. when the Navy appointed Harold as the contracting officer for the Oceanographic Office in Washington, D.C. Their fourth son, Brian, was born at Andrews Air Force Base. After four years, the family decided to return home to live near their extended families in Oklahoma.

Harold retired from the Navy as a lieutenant commander and became a math teacher at Hoover Middle School in Oklahoma City. After three years, he applied to teach in the math department at Northwest Classen School and interviewed with Principal Jim Johnson, also a Navy veteran. Jim never hired Harold as a math teacher, but did appoint him as an assistant principal.

After he and many others weathered the 1969 Oklahoma City student riots, the principal of U.S. Grant High School retired, and Harold replaced him at the newly integrated school. He held the position for two years before Judge Luther Bohanon mandated that a white person serve as principal of Douglass High School. Harold was appointed as the first white principal of Douglass. Harold recalled it as a rewarding experience.

Harold later transferred to Harding Middle School, while his wife completed her Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Library Science at the University of Central Oklahoma. She worked at Jackson Middle School in the Capitol Hill area for 22 years. Harold also returned to school, receiving a Master's degree from the University of Central Oklahoma and a Doctorate from the University of Oklahoma. Harold then served as the principal of Capitol Hill Middle School, just two blocks from where he was born, and finally served as a teacher in the math department at Taft Middle School until his retirement in 1983.

Joan passed away in the early 2000s after a long bout with Alzheimer's. At the time, David was employed at Piedmont paper, Daniel was an attorney, Russell was an ophthalmologist, Susan was a court reporter, and Brian was an attorney and state senator from District 39 in Tulsa. Susan's daughter, Ashley, gave birth to a son, Jonathan, the Crains' first great grandson. Harold wrote family historical books. Four of his books are in the Library of Congress, and copies can be found at the Oklahoma History Center.

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