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The Redbud City: Dramatics with the school board in 1934

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Superintendent Perry Carmichael, hired in 1932, was the center of controversy in the summer of 1934.

CARMICHAEL OUSTED BY SCHOOL BOARD

Disregarding advice of two leading Shawnee attorneys and notification that Superintendent Perry Carmichael would assert his rights by legal procedure against the school board, it looked like it might prove costly to the school district. Four members of the board voted to rescind their action in employing Carmichael as superintendent of the schools for the coming year, after re-employing him earlier.

Action to oust Carmichael was expected, following a similar attempt in a previous meeting, when Frank Thompson, board president, refused to call for a vote on the question. The board reversed its action of May 14, 1934, without making public any reason for the reversal. It was the second-time members of the board reversed previous decisions within the past two weeks. The first being when they voted unanimously to re-employ E.M. Watson as principal of Dunbar school after members of the anti-Carmichael group had indicated at precious meeting, they did not favor Watson’s re-employment.

A vote at the July 2 meeting ended a long session and followed a lengthy secret conference of the anti-Carmichael group, which interrupted the meeting. Appeals by Carmichael to delay action and assurance by attorneys that the board’s legal rights would not be changed by delaying the action to any time prior action on the excise board on the estimates, which could not be before July 31, were ignored. Action was taken with only six members of the board present. Frank Thompson, board president and supporter of Carmichael, was ill and unable to attend the meeting.

George C. Abernathy, who represented Carmichael, warned that the superintendent would assert his rights by such legal proceedings as were possible in such cases.

Vote on the measure was forced by Myrl Warren, who introduced a resolution to rescind their previous action and took the lead in pushing it to the 4-2 vote. The school board members were warned by Abernathy that their previous action to re-employ Carmichael was binding.

BRIBERY CHARGES AIRED BY SCHOOL BOARD

Sensational charges involving certain school board members furnished the expected fireworks for the board’s meeting on the night of July 9, 1934. This was partially brought to light through adoption of a resolution introduced by Myrl Warren.

Surrounded by attorneys, the four anti-Carmichael members of the board precipitated announcement of the results of an investigation which was underway for the past three weeks by introduction of the Warren resolution. Members of the anti-Carmichael faction who attended the meeting were Warren, Dr. W.M. Gallaher, Ollie Hickman, and Mark Frazier.

The resolution revealed that one member of the board, whose name was not mentioned, “It appears … has accepted money from an employee of the school board as consideration for the employment of said person.”

It added that this member had filed his resignation with one of the persons to whom the admission was made and that “an effort has been made to connect the author of this resolution, Myrl Warren, with said illegal and reprehensive practices.”

It went ahead to state that any person guilty of such practice should be tried and punished and to deplore any attempt to smirch the character of any person through such a method. Warren read the resolution, which was couched in legal terms, and it was adopted on motion of Gallaher, seconded by Frazier.

Details indicated that a member of the board who admitted accepting money in consideration for employment in the schools, whose name was carefully refrained from use, was a member of the Carmichael faction. At the same time, it was indicated that Warren, who was elected as a board member on nomination of Tom Douglas, was unjustly connected with the money transaction.

The anti-Carmichael faction conducted the board meeting alone and passed a series of resolutions without a protest from more than a score of attorneys and citizens who gathered to see the fireworks. Frank Thompson, board president, and Frank Harris, the two Carmichael supporters on the board, were not present.

A series of resolutions were adopted to keep Carmichael from entering the board of education building, or any public schools and to gain possession of all school records and property. Board members even voted to employ two guards, Jim Adams and F.K. Davenport, for the board of education building to prevent Carmichael from entering or occupying the building. Another resolution ordered all principals and janitors to prevent Carmichael from entering any of the public schools. Still another authorized George Hunter, board secretary, to take charge of all books, records, and minutes of the board and retain them. In fact, so many resolutions were passed to keep Carmichael from school property that someone suggested that new books be purchased and the combination to the safe changed. One spectator urged that an appeal be made to Governor William H. Murray to call out the National Guard.

The resolutions demanded Carmichael to surrender his keys and school property of every kind to the secretary of the board and that in case he refused to do so, authorized employment of special counsel to institute court action. The last resolution was passed calling on competent men to submit applications for the position of superintendent of schools. The anti-Carmichael members contended it was open.

SCHOOL BOARD BRIBERY CHARGES PROBED

With evidence concerning alleged school board bribery in the hands of Clarence Tankersley, county attorney, and Perry Carmichael locked out of the school superintendent’s offices, the Shawnee school situation reached a temporary impasse by the night of July 10, 1934. Tankersley completed taking depositions in the bribery case that morning and immediately began a study of the evidence. He conferred with the state attorney general’s office in Oklahoma City that afternoon.

Despite the posting of guards at the educational building by the board members, Carmichael entered his offices as usual the next morning. One of the guards told him he could not enter the building.

“You tell me I am not to enter, and I’ll tell you that my business is in that office and we’ll get along fine,’ said Carmichael, smiling as he entered. When he returned in the afternoon, the office as locked.

 (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, or by calling (405-275-8412). 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.)