Mirabeau Lamar Looney (1871-1935)
Hollywood would be hard pressed to match the epic saga of lion-hearted, Alabama-born Mirabeau Lamar Looney (1871-1935). As a child, she enjoyed reading her attorney father's law books. At age twenty, she emigrated from Texas with her husband to pioneer in Oklahoma Territory. After she bore five children in twelve years, he unexpectedly died.
Mirabeau—namesake of the second President of the Republic of Texas—taught music and served as postmistress in Hollis (now the southwestern-most community in Oklahoma) to provide for her children. Then, with only her ten-year-old son to help, she forged a farming spread near Hollis by plowing ground with mules she drove thirteen miles after trading her organ for them.
Through the 1910s, she won election to a series of Harmon County offices in the new state of Oklahoma—registrar of deeds, county treasurer, and county clerk—before women even possessed the constitutional right to vote. In 1920, the year they got it, she parleyed a campaign budget of less than $150 to unseat a male incumbent and win the election to become the first female Oklahoma state senator. There would not be another until 1975.
During her initial term in office, she introduced twenty-eight bills, chaired the State and County Affairs Committee, and won admittance to the Oklahoma Bar Association. Upon completion of that legislative session, her male colleagues demonstrated their respect and appreciation by presenting her with a splendid leather handbag. A tenacious advocate for increased opportunities for women, the concerns of farmers, and rural education funding, she held her seat until 1929. By then, she had served as chairwoman of both the Agricultural and Prohibition Enforcement Committees. Mirabeau Lamar Looney died of heart disease in Oklahoma City in 1935. Born in 1870 in an Indiana log cabin, Henry S. Johnston later started a law practice in Colorado, then trekked to settle in Perry upon the great Cherokee Outlet Opening of 1893. Between then and statehood fourteen years later, he served as an Oklahoma Territory legislator, Noble County Attorney, and Constitutional Convention delegate. His leadership role in the convention propelled him to election representing Noble and Payne counties in the first state senate, as well as president pro tempore of that body.
Elected governor in 1927, he brought a humble attitude to the office by shepherding through a bill to create a crippled children’s home. He launched the tradition of saying a prayer during Oklahoma governors’ inaugurations, and his prayer stands as the first such event broadcasted on radio.
Johnston is best remembered, though, for his impeachment as governor by the state house and removal by the state senate. He nearly got removed his first year in office over accusations of improper patronage in his appointments to the Oklahoma State Highway Commission, and particularly the controversially strong influence of his executive secretary, Mayme Hammonds. Before finally relenting, the marauding state house, having impeached Governor Jack Walton just three years earlier, defied the legal actions of a district court, the State Supreme Court, the National Guard, and the governor himself.
A year later, after Johnston campaigned across the state for unpopular Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, anti-Smith Democratic senators joined an increased Republican contingent to convict him on one of 13 charges—“general incompetency.” “It seems hardly likely that the political reputation or prestige of the Legislature was enhanced as a result of these . . . sessions,” wrote one historian, who called Johnston’s and other impeachments “an embarrassing notoriety for Oklahoma.”
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Oklahomans Vol 2 :
Statehood - 2020s
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