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Oklahoma Governors 1995-2003: Frank Keating (1944—)

One of the most accomplished of all Oklahoma political leaders, this St. Louis, Missouri native grew up in Tulsa and earned his bachelor degree from Georgetown University and his law degree from OU. Married since 1972 to Tulsa native Catherine Heller, he has three children and a dozen grandchildren.

His 30-year career in law enforcement and public service included duty as an FBI agent, U.S. Attorney, and Oklahoma legislator, including as Republican senate leader. He remains the only Oklahoma governor to have served in both houses of the legislature.

Keating was also the highest-ranked Oklahoman in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush presidential administrations. He possessed responsibility, in successive roles, for economic and financial sanctions against terrorists, all federal criminal prosecutions, and oversight over numerous major agencies, including the Secret Service, all federal prisons and Interpol, U.S. Customs, the ATF, U.S. Marshals, and all ninety-four U.S. Attorneys.

Keating’s lasting fame emerged after his 1994 election as only the third Republican governor in Oklahoma history. He won international acclaim for his compassionate and professional leadership following the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in OKC (OKLAHOMANS 2, Chapter 16). He helped raise more than $6,000,000 to fund scholarships for the nearly 200 children left with only one or no parents.

Only the second governor in state history to serve two consecutive terms, Keating helmed a series of landmark bills during those eight years. These included a successful, long-sought-after public vote approving a right-to-work law, which prevented Oklahoma employees from being forced to join a labor union. Also, the greatest tax reduction in state history, significant tort award corrections, and major road building, state purchasing, and education reform. Illumining Keating’s leadership skills, all of this occurred despite his own Republican Party remaining the minority in both state legislatures.

Later Accomplishments

Keating received criticism halfway through his second term as governor, when the public learned that he had received financial gifts from his friend, Wall Street financier Jack Dreyfus. Much of the $250,000 came while Keating served in the H. W. Bush administration. Federal officials approved the gifts, providing Keating declared them on financial disclosure forms, which he did. Dreyfus gave them in appreciation of Keating helping him promote Dilantin, a prescription drug that both men hoped prison officials would utilize to help control rage among inmates.

One national publication claimed that these events, which Keating himself informed incoming President George W. Bush of, damaged the Oklahoman’s chances at being appointed U.S. Attorney General. Bush denied that, and Keating returned the total amount of the gifts. He said, “It is evident from public reaction that there are questions raised for which the answers, while truthful, apparently don't adequately dispel suggestions of impropriety. If even one Oklahoman has any doubts about this issue, it's not worth it.”

Keating’s many post-gubernatorial accomplishments included serving as president and CEO of both the American Banking Association and the American Council of Life Insurers, as an OU Regent, and authoring five best-selling children’s history books.

One of his most courageous achievements occurred during one of his most difficult assignments. In the early 2000s, he chaired a panel of high profile lay Catholics investigating the sex-abuse crisis among that church’s clergy. He faced tough sledding against some of the powerful bishops who were themselves later exposed as pedophiles. Resigning from the panel when he realized his searching demand for truth and protection of the church’s young was intractably at odds with the ecclesiastical establishment, he thundered that the church is:

“home to Christ’s people. It is not a criminal enterprise. It does not condone and cover up criminal activity. It does not follow a code of silence. My remarks, which some bishops found offensive, were deadly accurate. I make no apology. To resist grand-jury subpoenas, to suppress the names of offending clerics, to deny, to obfuscate, to explain away; that is the model of a criminal organization, not my church.”

In the wake of ongoing revelations of Catholic clergy sexual abuse, more than one prominent lay Catholic has voiced the support trumpeted in one national publication, for “No More Bishops Investigating Bishops: Appoint Frank Keating to Do That.”


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.

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