The Redbud City: It happened in April

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer

CITY ELECTION

125 YEARS AGO - The city-wide election on April 8, 1896, was a highly emotional contest between two competing political views. The local news media called it “a grand and glorious victory for the good people of Shawnee. It cannot be called a Republican victory for the fact that many good Democratic citizens voted for Mr. Search.”

Charles Knox, the Democrat, was elected as city clerk by 102 votes over George Boggs, the Republican. From the First Ward, Dr. H.J. Keith and Oscar Lee were selected as aldermen; Robert Reed and L.C. Thompson won their posts in the Second Ward; in the Third Ward, Charles Linn and Eastes tied and would have to be selected by lot, won by Linn; and finally, in the Fourth Ward, George Overstreet and C.C. Blake were elected. William S. Search was elected mayor by a count of 285-218 over Bob Galbreath. William K. Dodge earned the city attorney over Hammond by 35 votes. B.K. Brown, the incumbent, was re-elected as police judge over Judd by a count of 278-174. Rush Chrisman edged Richards by a count of 205-186 for assessor. In the city treasurer’s race, the Democratic candidate, W.C. Jones, beat his rival Ragan by a vote of 224 to 192.

DEMOCRATS DOMINATE AGAIN IN CITY ELECTIONS

100 YEARS AGO - George B. Caruth became the new mayor of Shawnee during the city-wide elections held on April 5, 1921. The popular city clerk out-distanced Frank Stearns, his Republican opponent, by 597 votes, after one of the hardest fought elections in Shawnee history. The entire Democratic ticket went into office easily.

Frank Zeliff, running for councilman for the first ward, made the best showing for the Republicans, when he held Frank Brown’s majority to 455 votes. The other councilman race was in the fourth ward, with George McMillin winning handily over B.J. Collins. Cora Stevens won the race for city treasurer over Minta Koons to become the first female treasurer of the city, a post she would hold for the next 26 years. In the school board races, Frank Keller, Dr. G.S. Baxter, and J.B. Crabb were elected.

END OF SCHOOL TRADITION GETS OUT OF HAND

75 YEARS AGO - Shawnee’s police chief, Sam Martin, admitted that in his school days he may have done something similar, on Monday, April 1, 1946, after he turned loose about 25 high school youths who were arrested during the peak of the annual “Overall and Apron Day” for seniors. Celebration of the special senior day wound up at the police station after overly-exuberant junior and senior classmen started to parade their “victims” about town in various states of nudity.

It seemed to be a class tradition that masculine members of the two classes came to school in overalls and then met in the high school stadium where the weaker class members wound up with outer clothing removed, if not torn to shreds. Athletic coaches were always there with another set of clothing for those who needed it.

First complaints began coming from residential areas in the northwest part of the city where people were complaining of speeding cars and entirely too-nude bodies, even for Shawnee’s summer-like weather. The whole celebration ended at the station after police stopped some of the cars and brought the boys along.

Fifty years ago this month, Bob Townsend Ford opened its new facilities on the corner of Harrison and MacArthur streets.

FORD DEALERSHIP OPENING

50 YEARS AGO - The new location for the Shawnee Ford dealer, which was officially opened on April 9-10, 1971, was appropriately four times as large as the old facility. According to Bob Townsend, owner and operator of Bob Townsend Ford, with the new location at Harrison and MacArthur streets, contained 2,800 square feet of floor space and approximately four acres of concrete.

Grand opening activities of the new facilities began at 8 a.m. and lasted until 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Shawnee residents were invited to view the new building and to meet Miss Ford Country, Darolyn Butler.

Townsend estimated the exterior parking space of the facility would contain about 400 cars. The opening culminated over four years of planning and almost two years of actual construction. Townsend himself served as general contractor for the new facility and sub-contracted the finishing details of the building.

INCUMBENTS RETAIN SEATS

25 YEARS AGO - Shawnee’s trio of incumbent city commissioners won new terms Tuesday, April 2, 1996, as voters demonstrated general satisfaction with things as they were. Re-elected to new four-year stints were Ron Gillham, the Ward 2 office-holder, and Vice Mayor Chris Harden, who held the Ward 4 post. Bob Downing was awarded a full four-year term to the Ward 6 post. Downing had been serving out the term of Dick Miller, who resigned when he moved out of Ward 6.

The election was devoid of issues to stir voter interest. Only a few newspaper ads nipped at the incumbents’ heels. There was no mayoral race as Pierre Taron won another four-year term without opposition. Holdover commissioners who were in the middle of their terms included: Carl Young of Ward 3; George Snider in Ward 2; and Arnold Davis of Ward 5.

SHAWNEE NATIVE ROBERT HENRY INAUGURATION HELD AT OKLAHOMA CITY UNIVERSITY

10 YEARS AGO - Oklahoma City University formally ensconced its new president, Robert Henry, a 1971 graduate of Shawnee High School and the cousin of former Gov. Brad Henry, with an installation ceremony Wednesday, April 6, 2011, at the Henry J. Freede Wellness and Activity Center.

In addition to teaching at OCU, Henry also taught at The University of Oklahoma Honors College, Oxford Program; University of Oklahoma College of Law, served as distinguished judge in residence, University of Tulsa College of Law, and taught Business Law at Oklahoma Baptist University. He was a former chairman of the Board of Trustees of St. Gregory’s College. He practiced law in Shawnee for 10 years.

MOORE TO BE RELEASED FROM CONTRACT EARLY

FIVE YEARS AGO - Superintendent Marc Moore’s request to push his resignation date up almost two months - from June 30 to May 6, was approved in April of 2016. After some discussion in executive session, the officers voted to release Moore from his contract - effective May 6 - and approved a contract to hire Dr. Bob Gragg as the district’s interim superintendent - effective May 9.

NEW MEXICO FUGITIVES NABBED IN SHAWNEE

ONE YEAR AGO - The United States Marshals Service on Thursday, April 16, 2020, released information regarding a raid that resulted in two New Mexico fugitives — on the lam for weeks — to be apprehended at a residence in the downtown Shawnee area. Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said the arrest occurred Wednesday at an apartment on Pennsylvania Street, with those suspects wanted in a New Mexico federal case that involved millions of dollars stolen from disabled persons and veterans.

These stories all appear in the six-volume history of the City of Shawnee. The first four volumes, through 1989, are now available for purchase at the Pottawatomie County Historical Society. They are now open, and you may visit them, or you may order them online at their website, or by calling (405) 275-8412. Each volume is $35, but a purchase of two or more volumes can be obtained at $30 each. We are offering a special deal. If you purchase any other volume, you may obtain Volume One (1830-1929) for just $20. Volume five, (1990-2009) is coming in May or June. Volume six, (2010-2021) should follow quickly in the fall.