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The Redbud City: It happened in the summer of 1934

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
PAWNEE BILL was one of the top celebrities in the country in 1934 and was heralded for his rodeo performances.
Dr. John Wesley Raley was chosen as president of OBU in 1934. He would serve for 27 years.


Dr. J.A. Raley, president of the board of trustees of the university and pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bartlesville, was elected president of OBU on Tuesday, May 22, 1934. He was expected to accept the position formally at a meeting of the board on Friday, May 25.

Dr. Raley and Dr. Edgar Godbolt, state secretary of the Missouri Baptist Convention, were the only names previously mentioned for the post to succeed Dr. Hale Davis. Dr. Raley was elected unanimously by the board.

The election of the faculty for the coming term was postponed until Friday so that recommendations of Dr. Raley could follow. Dr. Raley’s official acceptance of the post was delayed because of a meeting of the board of deacons of his Bartlesville church.

Dr. Raley received his Bachelor of Arts degree at Baylor University in 1923, and received his master’s degree from the Southwestern Seminary at Fort Worth in 1927. In 1930, he attended the Eastern Baptist Seminary at Philadelphia, where he received his doctorate.

Dr. Raley became the youngest man ever elected to the presidency of OBU and one of the youngest college presidents in the United States. He was 32 years of age. In 1931, he accepted the pastorate of the Bartlesville church. Rev. C.W. Meaderts, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Bristow, was elected to succeed Dr. Raley as president of the board of trustees.


The Indian Reorganization Act of June 18, 1934, or the Wheeler-Howard Act, was U.S. federal legislation that dealt with the status of the American Indians. It was the centerpiece of what was often called the “Indian New Deal.” The major goal was to reverse the traditional goal of assimilation of Indians into American society, and to strengthen, encourage and perpetuate the tribes and their historic traditions and culture.

The Act also restored to Indians the management of their assets—land and mineral rights—and included provisions intended to create a sound economic foundation for the inhabitants of Indian reservations. The law did not apply to Hawaii. Alaska and Oklahoma were added under another law two years later. Native American tribes in Oklahoma had their land allotted and land title extinguished, so did not have any reservations left. The census counted 332,000 Indians in 1930 and 334,000 in 1940, including those on and off reservations in the 48 states. Total spending on Indians averaged $38 million a year in the late 1920s, dropping to an all-time low of $23 million in 1933, and reaching $38 million in 1940.

The IRA was the most significant initiative of John Collier, who was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) from 1933 to 1945. He had long studied Indian issues and worked for change since the 1920s, particularly with the American Indian Defense Association. He intended to reverse the assimilationist policies that had resulted in considerable damage to Native American cultures, and to provide a means for American Indians to re-establish sovereignty and self-government, to reduce the losses of reservation lands, and to build economic self-sufficiency. He believed that Indian traditional culture was superior to that of modern America and thought it worthy of emulation. His proposals were considered highly controversial, as numerous powerful interests had profited from the sale and management of Native lands. Congress revised Collier’s proposals and preserved oversight of tribes and reservations by the Bureau of Indian Affairs within the Department of Interior.

The self-government provisions would automatically go into effect for a tribe unless a clear majority of the eligible Indians voted it down. When approved, a tribe would adopt a variation of the model constitution drafted by BIA lawyers.


Shawnee guests and visitors prepared for the grand finale of the city’s 43rd anniversary celebration on Saturday, June 30, 1934. After a record breaking pioneer parade on Friday morning, the city and its guests were treated to the opening exhibition of the Pawnee Bill rodeo at Athletic Park, where Bob Hulett, director of the show, and his cowhand cohorts presented plenty of entertainment before crowds that jammed the rodeo ground at both afternoon and night performances.

The parade on Friday surpassed those of previous years as W.B. Rorschach, grand marshal, and Don Foster, general director of the celebration program, assembled the biggest pioneer pageant the city ever saw with Major Gordon W. Lillie, “Pawnee Bill,” as the leader. For a full hour, the parade marched through the downtown district, bands playing, flags flying, cowboys yelling, and the crowd applauding. Main Street was lined with throngs of visitors who came to witness the parade spectacle, especially the appearance of celebrity “Pawnee Bill.”

After the parade disbanded, the center of interest went to Athletic Park, where rodeo performers began their show with a grand entrance and introduction of the cowboys. Trick roping stars followed, with the regular rodeo events of calf roping, bulldogging, and steer riding after that.

Special awards went to participants in the big parade earlier. The Oldest horse drawn vehicle went to the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. The neatest mounted horseman was Frank Fox of Tecumseh. The neatest mounted horse woman was Edith Bryant. The most elaborated Indian regalia went to George Fry, with full war paint and war dress. The oldest Indian man in the parade was Henry Murdoch. The oldest Indian woman was Ke-sha-ko-tha-ho, 92, a member of the Kickapoo Tribe. The oldest automobile, self-powered, went to Bill Stewart, who drove a Locomobile. The man with the longest whiskers was Leonard W. Beard.

(These stories appear in Volume Three of the “Redbud City” six-volume series of the history of Shawnee. The first three volumes are available and can be purchased by going onto the Pottawatomie County Historical website. Volume Four, (1970-1989) is now with the printer and should be available for purchase late in the month or in early October. Volume Five, (1990-2009) is scheduled for October of 2021. Volume Six, (2010-2022) is about 75 percent finished and should be ready in early 2022.)