The Redbud City: It happened in the spring of 1941

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
Main Street was a busy thoroughfare in 1941.


In a wild west flourish at the opening day of the district court criminal term, William Culpepper, 28-year-old Shawnee man, was captured by Pottawatomie County officers late Monday afternoon, April 14, 1941. This happened approximately two minutes after he bolted daringly from officers outside the courtroom.

Jailer “Buzz” Barton and Deputy Court Clerk Les Neiback cornered Culpepper in an alley between Broadway and Beard streets. Seven shots were fired, two by Sheriff D.O. Barton, and five by the pursuing jailer. Culpepper was unhurt.

Puffing and jaded from his quick sprint, the prisoner surrendered weakly in the alley as he attempted to climb over a board fence on the west side of the alley. Jailer Barton said Culpepper stopped after two shots were fired at him in the alley.

Culpepper’s break for freedom came shortly after a jury sentenced him to 25 years in the state pen at McAlester. He was convicted of armed robbery of the Public Market at 324 E. Highland Street the night of Dec. 29, 1940.

Crowded stairs leading to the second floor of the courthouse to the district courtroom aided Culpepper’s wild dash and officers for fear of shooting the packed spectators. They did not fire until the prisoner leaped to the bottom of the steps on his flying journey. Culpepper was between the sheriff and the jailer after leaving the courtroom on the second floor. The prisoner then suddenly sprang through the crowd and down the stairs in two leaps.

Throughout the trial, which started on Monday morning, Culpepper, dark-haired and sturdy, sat calmly. When he took the witness stand late in the afternoon, he answered questions asked him by County Attorney Claude Hendon in a voice so low it was difficult at times to hear him distinctly. He conferred with his attorney, Kenneth Kienzie, only at brief, infrequent intervals.

The jury announced the verdict at 5:20 p.m., after being out for 30 minutes. Shortly afterward, apparently unexcited by the sentence, Culpepper essayed his escape as he stepped from the courtroom to be taken to the basement and then up in the elevator to the jail atop the courthouse.

The doors of the courthouse looked as if a minor Mexican revolution had occurred, with bright dents marking the north and middle doors, where officers’ slugs had struck. Sheriff Barton fired twice as he ran down the steps, while Jailer Barton fired once before reaching the outside courthouse steps.

Culpepper’s bullet-punctuated course was west to the other side of Broadway, south to the corner of 10th Street, and then west again, where he scooted north up the alley. By then, he was a badly-winded felon.

Jailer Barton and Neiback returned Culpepper to the south end of the alley, where he was bundled into a car driven by I.B. Littleton, deputy court clerk, who also gave chase.

During the trial, it was pointed out that Culpepper had been convicted of robbery of a box car in Ohio in 1931 and sentenced to one year. In 1935, the state cited the prisoner was sentenced to five years for larceny of an automobile and, in 1938, he was given one year for the attempted felony of an automobile.


Mrs. Myra Pipkin of 1200 W. Wallace Street, at 45 still considered herself a reasonably young woman. She nevertheless achieved the distinction of being a great-grandmother during the week of April 16-20, 1941.

Mrs. Pipkin attained a title usually reserved for white-haired and feeble old ladies on Tuesday the 16th, when a ten-and-a-half pound Caroline Ann Thompson was born to Mr. and Mrs. Orval Thompson at their home on Shawnee route four. Mrs. Thompson, 16, was the granddaughter of Pikpin. Her mother, Ima Carston of Newalla route one, was herself only 30.

Early marriages brought Mrs. Pipkin her title as a great-grandmother. The Shawnee woman was married at a little past 14, and her daughter was hardly 14 when she became a mother. Mrs. Thompson, though only 16, was two years older than either her mother or grandmother when they had their first child.

Along with the great-granddaughter, Mrs. Pipkin had 13 children and 14 grandchildren. She was a pioneer settler in the area.


Washington school won the 1941 Kiwanis Little Olympics track and field meet, and permanent possession of the Sears trophy Friday, May 2, 1941 at Athletic Stadium. They piled up 75 points, while Woodrow Wilson school came in second with 48. Third place went to Jefferson school with 31 points. Washington also won titles in 1934 and 1940.

Roy Gene Cannon of Washington, competing in Class A, and Jimmie Maddon of Washington in Class B, scored 14.5 points each to claim the decathlon titles. Donald Grimes of Jefferson won the Class C title.

Grimes proved one of the individual sensations of the meet when he set two new records in Class C with only four events scheduled.


Shawnee High School’s 225 graduating seniors heard Dr. Forney Hutchinson, pastor of St. Paul’s Methodist Church, blast away Friday night, May 23, 1941, at the theory that “the good old days” were the best. The principal commencement speaker, Dr. Hutchinson, in an informal, hard-hitting speech, told the young Oklahomans to seek opportunities in their native state.

The speaker was introduced by A.L. Burks, superintendent of city schools. He compared present conditions with those of a 100 years ago. He pointed out that there were no free schools, poor health conditions existed, and economic conditions were below the present level.

Preceding Hutchinson’s address, awards were presented to outstanding senior students. The PEO cup went to Elsie Terry, while Rolan Akin and Joe Richards received the DAR history awards. James Griggs and Wyatt Needham were named for the Synthetic Music Club awards.


Shawnee turned out 1,500 strong Thursday night, May 29, 1941, to receive its welcome municipal package. The 10th Street crossing, at the dedication ceremonies, was highlighted by a speech from Judge Denver Davison of the state supreme court.

Following a parade, which started from the municipal auditorium, Judge Davison praised the city’s progress compared with other Oklahoma cities and said a warm tribute to officials who headed the campaign for the crossing built by WPA and Shawnee funds.

The WPA orchestra climaxed the festivities by playing old-fashioned square dance music for dancers on the brand new span. The Shawnee High School band, directed by Paul Boone, played earlier on the program. First, the Round-Up Club, American Legion, and Fire Department participated in the parade.

Other speakers were Charles H. Tompkins, district WPA director; T.E. Thompson, city manager; H.D. Troop, city commissioner from ward five; Randall Pitman, city attorney; and Fay Evans of the Santa Fe Railway. Robert Easley, county clerk, acted as master of ceremonies.

The ceremonies formally opened the crossing to traffic, culminating a drive that began nearly 30 years earlier to provide east-side residents with a needed roadway. Pitman was praised for his efforts in starting a mandamus action that resulted in the state supreme court authorizing the project for the citizens of Shawnee.

These stories all appear in Volume Two of 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.