“OKLAHOMA HALL OF FAMER!”
Walter M. Harrison was our thirteenth president, (1922-23). “Skipper,” as he was known fondly in news circles nationally, and in what would come to be thirty-years editor of the Daily Oklahoman & Times, which made him an easy choice for the fledgling state Hall of Fame for the year 1936. The “Hall” was established by the Oklahoma Memorial association in 1927 and began celebrating with inductions made at a banquet on Statehood Day, November 16, or near the exact day since inception.
Harrison was listed on the program along with the other honorees for the 1936 induction ceremony, according to records provided by Mattie Barlow, registrar and archivist for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. She found corrections on the 1936 and a later program for 1938 which confuse the issue. But his absence at the 1936 induction appears certain in his own report published in his personal column in the Oklahoman the day after the ceremony, titled “Doghouse of Fame,” found re-published in his book, “Another Day.”
“Governor Marland does not like me,” he declared in the article. “He does not think I am entitled to a place in Mrs. Korn’s ‘Hall of Fame.”’ (Mrs. Anna Horn was a founding member and early leader in the Hall of Fame and instrumental in Harrison’s selection.) “He refused to sign the papers embossed with my name. The honorable secretary of state felt he could not stick his neck out by affixing the dignified seal …without executive approval,” allowed the article. His remarks leave little doubt he eschewed a showing there.
E.W. and Skipper were friends of long standing. Poker, Politics, Ponies on the Hunts and Polo on the rich oil baron’s grounds were commonplace with the pair and cronies. Harrison chaired the national introduction of Marland’s beloved gift to life on the frontier, the Pioneer Woman statue standing in Ponca City. Harrison gave the unveiling world acclaim by drawing Oklahoman Patrick Hurley, the former U.S. Secretary of War, and former president Herbert Hoover. A spectacular event covered nationally by NBC.
After the fall of Marland Oil Company E.W. turned to politics going to congress, where Skipper pushed his stature there by hosting gatherings in his own D.C. apartment and at Washington Press Club dinners.
Marland found congress too confining for one accustomed to running business and after only one term came home to a successful race for governor. His friendship persisted under the editorial support but after taking office his proposed programs were deemed “outrageous” by the newspapers. “Thank goodness the legislature clipped his wings,” in the words of Editor Harrison, expressing the position of the Oklahoman’s editorial board. No single issue fed the contentious relationship and Harrison insisted their papers differed on other matters as well and their “crowning act of infamy was our relentless campaign against a state graft set up on the REPEAL (sic.) measure.”
Marland and the papers may indeed have later resolved their differences, as Mattie Barlow’s research suggests. Reason, too, would suggest that Marland, after more time in office, learned where to direct his power; as the timing rolls out, it reveals a credit to the autonomous strength of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame institution. Barlow discovered programs for the 1936 induction listed Walter M. Harrison; then for 1938, officers “corrected” program drafts several times resulting with his formal installation ceremony occurring in 1938. Marland had hardly served a full year in his then – single term limit when he ignored Harrison’s first selection. The 1938 certificate is signed by Governor E.W. Marland over the official seal.
The 2019 Oklahoma Hall of Fame induction will take place Thursday, November 21, Grand ballroom, second floor, Cox Convention Center.