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Shawnee history: It happened in March

Clyde Wooldridge
Don Sumner

1873 – In March, John H. Pickering was appointed agent of the Sac & Fox agency. He requested an appropriation of $7,000 be made for building better quarters for housing the pupils at the Shawnee school. However, his request was denied.

1889 – President Benjamin Harrison issued a proclamation to open lands to settlement in Oklahoma Territory on March 23. It contained 1,887,796 acres.

1895 – The city of Tecumseh filed a bill of complaint on March 19, asking for a temporary injunction to stop the current building of the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railroad to Shawnee instead of to their city. It was granted immediately but the Choctaw workers continued to work.

100 years ago – A mob estimated at 150 men were in Shawnee on March 1, 1920, in search of Chap Davis. The black man attempted to rape a school teacher at Chandler. He was quickly sentenced to 45 years in the state pen by District Judge Hal Johnson. The deputy sheriffs quickly evacuated Davis from the jail to prevent a lynching and scurried him to the state prison in McAlester.

75 years ago – Haylor Fisher Jr., who led the Shawnee Wolves cagers in scoring during the season, was named to the All-State team in March of 1945 and went on to appear in the August 23 All-Star game.

50 years ago – Acme school voters solidly approved annexation of the Acme school district to the Shawnee Public School system on Tuesday, March 3, 1970. The election was called by County Superintendent Ralph Spencer. Guy Bias, Acme principal for 22 years, expressed pleasure in the outcome of the vote.

25 years ago – When St. Gregory’s College dropped a 79-77 heart-throbber to Eastern on March 3, 1995, in the Region II Juco Tournament at Tulsa, most fans didn’t realize the game marked the end of an era. For St. Gregory’s head coach Don Sumner, it was his final game at the helm of Cavalier basketball.

Sumner made it official during the next week as he announced that he was retiring from coaching SGC basketball after a career that spanned nearly three and one-half decades. He had informed his players and many friends earlier in the season of his decision to step down at the conclusion of the current season, his 34th at St. Gregory’s. He would remain as the college’s athletic director, continued to teach natural sciences and assist St. Gregory’s President Dr. Frank Pfaff in college development.

“Coach Sumner is a basketball legend and institution in Oklahoma and the Southwest,” Dr. Pfaff said. “He helped establish the great tradition of St. Gregory’s basketball, not only as a tremendous coach and teacher, but as an original personality who brought a love of the game and life to his coaching. He will stay as athletic director and teacher and will help ensure the basketball program’s continued success to the future.”

A search committee for Sumner’s successor had already been formed. It included Sumner, instructors Dr. Joe Barrick, the Reverends Theodore Seneschal and Victor Roberts, freshman player Jason Havens, and Sharlyn Lowrey, director of the Mabee Aerobic Center. Sumner said the committee hoped to have a successor named by the end of March or the first of April.

“It’s one by fast,” Sumner said, in reflecting on the 34 years. “It’s been fun. You just can’t believe it’s been that long.”

Sumner amassed 621 wins against 464 setbacks while at St. Gregory’s. As the men’s coach, he was (600-443). In addition to serving as head coach of the men’s team, Sumner also coached the St. Gregory’s women two years.

He joined St. Gregory’s in 1961 as the head basketball coach. He also coached college golf. At that time, St. Gregory’s was a high school also and Sumner taught biology and natural science, along with a preparatory college math course. Coaching the high school golf team was also among his duties. In 1965, the final year St. Gregory’s was a high school, he served as head football coach, along with his duties as college basketball coach, science instructor and coaching golf.

He said he well remembered his first year as college basketball coach. “We were (6-17), had no scholarships and Mont Highley went on to playa t the University of Florida,” he reflected. In 1995, Highley was a physician. Within three years, Sumner had directed his Cavaliers to the finals of the junior college regionals, where they were defeated by Bacone.

His 1967 team came within one point of a trip to the nationals as they fell in the final seconds to Cameron. His teams would reach the regional finals two more times. In 1968 they lost to Murray State and in 1970 they were defeated by Northeastern A&M.

Sumner, born and reared in Shawnee, graduated from high school in 1954, and went on to OBU. He became a starter for the Bison midway through his freshman year and helped lead the Bison to their first NAIA tournament as a senior. In 1995, he remained 12th among all-time Bison scorers with 1,328 points and held the single season free throw percentage record of .896 percent.

He was named Region II Coach of the Year in 1970-71, as well as Bi-State Conference Coach of the Year on several occasions. He was also chosen St. Gregory’s Teacher of the Year. He was elected to the OBU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1979.

10 years ago – A murder trial was under way in Pottawatomie County District Court for a Shawnee man accused of killing his wife in 2008. Edwin Leroy Scoby, 45, was charged with first-degree murder, and accused of shooting Nina E. Johnson-Scoby in the face with a .44-caliber revolver on August 5, 2008.

 Five years ago – A fourth quarter burst catapulted the Shawnee Lady Wolves to a 43-38 win over the Claremore Lady Zebras to capture the Class 5A, East Area regional title at Claremore High School Monday night, March 2. With the win, the Lady Wolves (16-9) will advance to the Area championship game, where they will face East Central at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Catoosa High School.

One year ago - Large mounds of dirt and strategically placed foundations were popping up along the south entrance of Gordon Cooper Technology Center (GCTC) in mid-March of 2019. The school’s new public safety training center was underway. In February the career tech officially marked the beginning of the huge project that was poised to make an even larger impact on the community for years to come.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. The cost of purchase is $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is now available, at a cost of $35. All three volumes are more than 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. A combination of two or three can be purchased at $30 each. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989, is scheduled for the fall of 2020; volume five 1990-2009, should be available in the fall of 2021; and volume six 2010-to the present, is scheduled for the fall of 2022. They are also available on thumb drive at the PCHS Museum.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.