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Oklahoma Governors (1963, 1979-1987): George Nigh (1927—)

This McAlester native and high school history teacher became Oklahoma’s youngest state legislator at age 23, is the only person to serve as governor four times, and remains one of the most liked chief executives in state history.

While teaching high school history, Nigh served in the state house from 1952-1958, whereupon he won election as lieutenant governor. Here began his rise to rare, enduring statewide popularity. Nigh chewed up the scenery across Oklahoma, regaling audiences to humorous and lively talks.

Biographer Bob Burke called him “one of the nation’s most popular after-dinner speakers.” Oklahoma Hall of Fame Journalist Dick Pryor assessed Nigh’s defining impact on the place of the Oklahoma lieutenant governor:

“He probably invented the modern lieutenant governor’s office, making it about being a good guy traveling the state glad handing, pursuing economic development, and being a great spokesperson for the state of Oklahoma, in addition to his occasional gubernatorial duties as a lieutenant governor.”

Two of Nigh’s four “terms” as governor were brief flukes. Upon the death of Robert S. Kerr in 1963, Gov. J. Howard Edmondson orchestrated a controversial scheme wherein he resigned as governor nine days before Henry Bellmon took office. Nigh, as lieutenant governor, acceded to governor for those nine days, and—no doubt in a quid pro quo—appointed Edmondson to serve out Kerr’s term.