The Redbud City: It happened in July

Clyde Wooldridge
Contributing writer
On July 4, 1895, the first train of the Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf Railway entered Shawnee from the west. The little village began to soar as a prominent city in Oklahoma Territory after this event. Hundreds of people lined the railroad to witness this "milestone."

1895 - The first train of the Choctaw, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway made its way into Shawnee at about noon on July 4. It was followed by an excursion train of 15 flat cars bringing sightseers. This moment marked a significant “milestone” in the early development of the city.

100 YEARS AGO - S. Atkins, member of the executive board of the Brotherhood of Railroad Car Men of America, of the Rock Island system, who was employed in the local Rock Island shops, returned to Shawnee on July 25, 1921, from Chicago, and other points. He had been gone representing the car men in the negotiations between the railroad heads and railroad labor organizations throughout the U.S. Labor Board at Chicago. Two questions of vital importance to labor stood out in the recent negotiations. The first was the wage reduction, which was handled through the Wage Board. The second was the working agreement discussed directly between the railroad heads and the labor representatives.

75 YEARS AGO - In the most spirited campaign in years, Pottawatomie County voters Tuesday, July 2, 1946, defeated three officials, returned five to office and forced two into runoffs three weeks later. Probably the biggest surprise of the campaign was the first-primary lead built up by Verdun C. Myers over a field of nine other candidates for sheriff, including Terry Owens, incumbent, who finished second and qualified for the runoff.

Defeated candidates for re-election based on the precincts included District Judge Clyde G. Pitman, County Assessor Ben Hunter, and Clarence Tankersley, state representative. Ollie Hickman, county commissioner from district one was nudged into second place by Roy Clark but would have a final chance in the second primary.

As predicted throughout the campaign, the fight for the district judgeship between Pitman and J. Knox Byrum, former judge and returned Naval veteran, was close from the first return with Byrum overcoming an early deficit to take the lead halfway through the tabulation. Byrum’s edge was 4,601 to 4,447. He would go on to serve as district judge from 1947 to 1970.

50 YEARS AGO - Construction on Shawnee’s new $1.5 million high school was underway on Wednesday, July 7, 1971, according to Superintendent Dr. Leahn Westfall. “Excavations have been made and dirt is being moved. Grade and drainage work is being done and they are staking the foundation already.”

Completion date for the new facility was set for June of 1972. The new facility would house only juniors and seniors when it opened in August of 1972. Dr. Westfall said the reason for only two classes was because, “Our application for $500,000 in federal funds to help construct a community center was turned down. The community center would have included a multi-purpose room and several classrooms, had the funds been approved.

25 YEARS AGO - District Judge Glenn Dale Carter on Monday, July 22, 1996, set an August date to impanel a grand jury to investigate the district attorney’s office. Carter set aside August 8 for the grand jury to convene to investigate alleged improprieties in Miles Zimmerman’s office, including possible civil rights violations of past and present employees; misappropriation of funds; use of state office for private practice; and use of official position for personal gain.

The grand jury petition, which was filed June 7, was validated by Election Board Secretary Diana Knight on July 16. At the time of the filing of the grand jury petition, controversy arose concerning impaneling a grand jury 30 days before an election.

10 YEARS AGO - With a red, white, and blue-clad crowd present, the newest addition to the Veterans Memorial in Woodland Park, a 1965 Huey helicopter, was dedicated Monday, July 4, 2011.

“We are here to honor America and the whole thing that we do is not for ourselves, but to be able to put together a memorial so that future generations can look around and see the things that really hold America together and those people that commit themselves to service,” said Bill Ford during the dedication ceremony.

The helicopter was a replica of Bill’s brother, Bob Ford, Vietnam helicopter pilot and native of Shawnee. He flew in 1,200 combat missions during a span of 365 days in 1967 and 1968. Shawnee Mayor Linda Peterson declared July 4, 2011, “Bob Ford Day” to thank him for his service and his commitment to Shawnee.

FIVE YEARS AGO - Several firefighters and fire trucks were present on Bell Street on July 28, 2016, where the fire department demonstrated a ladder that was 107 feet tall. Shawnee Fire Chief Dru Tischer said the device was in town for crews to evaluate.

Tischer went on to say that this reach on an apparatus with a single axle was relatively new in the fire service. The department’s current ladder was 75 feet in length, which was the maximum reach made on a single axle until about three years earlier.

ONE YEAR AGO - On Monday, July 6, 2020, Shawnee’s City Commission meeting took on some changes after the June 30 election shook up the seating chart. All the incoming city officials secured more than 50 percent, plus one, of the vote, so there was no need for runoff elections for the four city government positions, making the transition now instead of in the Fall.

Three left the board with letters of appreciation in hand and terms fulfilled that included: former Mayor Richard Finley, and former City Commissioners Ron Gillham Sr., for Ward 2; and James Harrod, for Ward 3.

After being sworn in, the newly-elected mayor, Ed Bolt, and Ward 2 City Commissioner Bob Weaver and Ward 3 City Commissioner Travis Flood took their seats to conduct the rest of the meeting. Sworn in for another term was Ward 4 City Commissioner Darren Rutherford, who retained his seat.

These stories appear in the six volumes of the history of the City of Shawnee. The first five volumes, from 1830 to 2009, 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 Six, (2010-2021) is at the printer and should be available in early July.