The Redbud City: It happened in May

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer


100 YEARS AGO - A million-dollar campaign for the endowment and enlarging of the Oklahoma Catholic University was incepted at a meeting of 200 representative businessmen from all sections of the state on May 3, 1921. Representatives of the Bishop of the Diocese were also there.

A few years earlier, U.S. Hart, Martin Fleming, and Charles Eckert of Shawnee signed a contract for a deed and notes put at $35,000. They paid $5,000 out of their own pockets, as a cash payment on the purchase for a site for the school. That gift to the Catholic University of Oklahoma embraced 80 acres of beautiful, level and fertile land just a mile outside the city limits.


75 YEARS AGO - T.E. Thompson, Shawnee city manager, ended 16 years of service in that capacity Friday night, May 17, 1946, when he submitted his resignation, effective immediately. R.I. “Bob” Seaman, county auditor, was unanimously approved by the city commission to serve as temporary manager for $400 monthly until a permanent selection could be made. Rufus Lyon made the nomination. The commission approved Thompson’s resignation effective upon Seaman’s qualification, under bond which was expected to take two or three days.


50 YEARS AGO - Shawnee’s old City Hall was finally coming down. Demolition of the existing structures was underway and the City Hall building itself was expected to be on the ground by the end of the week on May 15, 1971.

According to Ron Gaylord, job superintendent for E.A. Cowen Construction Company, the demolition and clearing phase of the work would take about 30 days. The buildings coming down were: the old Davidson Case Lumber Company, at 9th and Beard, just east of the old fire station; the fire station and City Hall, located along 9th Street; and the City Hall Annex, the American Legion building and the old E.A. Cowen Construction building along Broadway.


25 YEARS AGO - Thomas Scott Murray, 31, of McLoud, pled nolo contendere Thursday, May 9, 1996, in district court to three counts of rape first degree, two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of robbery by force. He was sentenced to 200 years imprisonment on each of the seven counts, to run consecutively.

Associate District Judge John Gardner also sentenced him to the Department of Corrections sex offenders unit, at the request of his court appointed attorney, L. Dee Oliphant, of the Oklahoma Indigent Defenders System of Purcell. His trial was scheduled to start the following Monday.

Pursuit ends with recovery of stolen trailer AND one arrested

10 YEARS AGO - Law enforcement officers worked many cases of stolen flatbed trailers, even conducting sting operations in recent months. Following a police chase over the weekend, a trailer stolen from a Shawnee home was recovered, with one suspect arrested.

Cpl. Shawn Parsons was patrolling in the area of Independence and Pottenger Street about 1:11 p.m. Sunday, May 1, 2011, looking for a green Ford pickup pulling a stolen, 16-foot flatbed trailer. The vehicle also was being followed by a white pickup driven by the owner of that stolen trailer. Dispatchers also sent officers to a home in the 1900 block of north Beard, where the trailer had just been reported stolen.

Parsons initiated his patrol’s car lights and sirens and notified other units as a chase began, with the suspect vehicle running a stop light at Kickapoo Spur and Kennedy. The pursuit continued through several areas, where the truck went airborne at the railroad tracks on Acme Road approaching U.S. 177. The chase ended at the north end of Larry Road, where a driver and passenger bailed.

Parsons took the driver, identified as Joe Gomez Jr., 47, of Sparks, into custody, while the passenger ran into the woods. Police learned from Gomez that the passenger was Robert Cornett, 52, of Oklahoma City. Upon impound of the vehicle, police found some women’s jewelry and casino cards in the pickup. During book-in at the jail, officers also found Gomez to have a white crystal substance believed to be methamphetamine in his pocket.

Pottawatomie County authorities escorted Warren Big Eagle of Shawnee to an awaiting patrol unit May 25, 2016, for transport to jail after it was determined Big Eagle was really Ronald Lee Paulson, a fugitive from the state f Washington since the 1980s.


FIVE YEARS AGO - A fugitive on the run since the 1980s from the state of Washington was arrested in Shawnee Wednesday afternoon, May 25, 2016, where deputies say he had been living a normal life in plain sight as a well-known member of the community.

With a positive fingerprint match confirmed through a national database, Pottawatomie County Sheriff Mike Booth said deputies arrested Shawnee resident Warron Big Eagle, which was his alias name. His confirmed identity was Ronald Lee Paulson.

Deputies believed he was 70 years old, although alias birthdates listed several possible years of birth — 1944, 1945 and 1946. He also had additional alias names. Paulson allegedly fled from Port Orchard, Washington, during court proceedings on five counts of first-degree rape, Booth said, with the cases reportedly involving two victims.

Shawnee holds parade AND virtual graduation ceremony

ONE YEAR AGO - Shawnee Public Schools celebrated the class of 2020 with a graduation parade across town as well as a virtual ceremony on Monday, May 18. According to SPS Public Information Officer Cherity Pennington, SPS held its first online graduation ceremony where several seniors celebrated the end of their high school career.

During the ceremony, SPS Superintendent Dr. April Grace commended the seniors on the challenges they faced throughout their high school career. Grace also introduced guest speaker and State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who addressed the class of 2020 and congratulated the class on graduating and powering through the global COVID-19 pandemic.

These stories appear throughout 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.