Though racial tension and conflict had flared in Oklahoma through the 1970s, in the midst of it, social, economic, and political progress was abundant for African Americans. Contrasted with the situation only a decade or two before, the advances, while long overdue, were virtually miraculous. Only a few examples included black access to housing, jobs, and private as well as public accommodations and businesses. Also, increasing public recognition of and popularity for African American scholars from Oklahoma such as Ralph Ellison, Melvin Tolson, and John Hope Franklin, and a galaxy of other intellectuals and artists.
Still, resentment, suspicion, and different cultural perspectives remained between the black and white, and other, races. Other ominous clouds loomed on the state’s horizon as well. Yet another political corruption investigation was mushrooming. This one involved local, state, and federal law enforcement and concerned a historic backbone of Oklahoma government: the commissioners of the state’s 77 counties.
Widespread unease existed in the state both due to the string of brutal deaths outlined in this chapter, and the sea change of moral practices and perspectives, particularly among teens and young adults. The latter emerged from generational tumult, the Vietnam War, the assassination of one U.S. President, historic failure of another, and resignation of a third, and other unsettling historic events here and abroad over the past two decades.
Yet, the decade closed with a boom, or booms, in oil and gas, real estate, and other pursuits. The latter included agricultural crops such as wheat, though farm indebtedness, government subsidies, and corporation ownership were all on the rise. Boom and bust cycles dappled Oklahoma’s past, with the fallout multiplied by lack of commercial diversification in the state beyond the dominant energy and agricultural industries.
As the curtain fell on the ‘70s, however, the newest oil boom centered in Oklahoma and including Texas and Louisiana was shaping up as one of the greatest in American history. The historic feats in deep gas drilling and production accomplished by Robert Hefner and others in western Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin spearheaded this electrifying bonanza. The selfish spiking of commodity prices by energy-rich Middle Eastern nations helped produce it.
Belatedly, America recognized the importance of its once-prized energy independence. Oil and gas was deregulated in 1979, and Oklahoma and much of the nation turned to politicians, and the occasional statesmen, who touted limited government regulations and taxation, and other policies favorable to free market enterprise.
Republican Ronald Reagan, once considered too conservative, even reactionary for a credible national candidate, now arose as a formidable 1980 presidential candidate as the totalitarian Soviet Union continued its conflict with the U.S.A., and brutally invaded Afghanistan.
Withal, one of the biggest economic booms in Oklahoma history was shaping up. How long would this one last? And then what?
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book
Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
which can be purchased HERE.
View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.