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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.

James Family

Richard James was delivered by his paternal grandmother in the early morning hours of February 9, 1926. As he was born thirty minutes past midnight, his birthday was recorded as February 8. Milestones recorded in the family Bible and school records show Richard's birth date as February 8. His delayed birth certificate from the Health Department, received in the 1940s, records his birth date as February 8. Coincidentally, Richard's father, Fred, was born on February 8.

Richard's father was eleven years old when he and his family, which included his older brothers and a married sister, left Lead Hill, Arkansas, in a covered wagon in 1902, bound for Oklahoma Territory. Richard's mother, Lena Bierman James, whose family had emigrated from Russia to Kansas in the 1870s, was born in 1897. After the Sac and Fox Reservation was opened to non-Indian settlement in 1891, her father staked a claim and homesteaded 160 acres in Lincoln County.

Richard's parents valued education. Although they needed him on the farm, they never stood in the way of school and homework. Richard attended grades 1-8 in a one-room country school where one teacher taught all grades. As they progressed, children taught younger students.

Farm life was not all work. The James's children enjoyed wonderful, homemade games such as hoop and wheel, dare base, and curling up in an old car tire and rolling along the road.

When Richard was about three years old, his sister, who was seven years his senior and often entrusted with his care, allowed him to play on a cotton wagon while his parents picked cotton. In a moment of inattention, he fell from the wagon and dropped about eight feet to the ground.

Richard enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was seventeen years old. After graduating from Tulane University, he enrolled in the University of Oklahoma Law School and graduated in 1949. In July of that year, he began his law practice in Stroud. He was one of only 18 to 20 Republicans elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 1950. He was reelected in 1952.

Governor Dewey Bartlett appointed Richard to Oklahoma State University's board of regents in 1967, and he remained on the board until 1972. He also served as Special Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court during the infamous Grime case, when Grime sought readmission to the bar after he broke the Oklahoma Supreme Court scandals in the late 1960s.

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