Twenty-six-year-old McAlester native and state representative George Nigh had loved the soaring theme song of Rogers and Hammerstein’s smash Broadway musical Oklahoma! since he first heard it in high school during World War II. Now, in 1953, he intended to make it the official state song. A fellow legislator objected, however, decrying the work of “two New York Jews” and tearfully pleading for retention of the now-painfully archaic state song “Oklahoma—A Toast.”
Young but shrewd, Nigh delayed voting on the bill for 24 hours. Meanwhile, he went to work. The next day, he secured permission for the choir of the Oklahoma College for Women—now the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma—in Chickasha to entertain his fellow legislators with songs from Oklahoma!, which they had just performed. A magnificent piano from a fellow solon’s Jenkins Music Store accompanied them.
Then Nigh’s now-famous high school buddy Ridge Bond, who had starred in Oklahoma!’s lead role of Curly on Broadway for years, burst into the chamber, in Western attire. Hands on his belt buckle, he bellowed: “O-------k! Lahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain!”
Within seconds, the entire house of representatives was on their feet, singing and clapping. Moments later, Nigh called for a vote on his bill making Oklahoma! the state song. It swept through the house and senate to passage. It didn’t hurt that 300 spectators in the gallery had thundered their own approval of the song during the house performance.
“I put all those people up there!” Nigh later said.
The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book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.