Born in El Reno to parents of mixed Native and white blood, this mighty Oklahoman volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps in 1962, at 20 years of age. While safely stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Pratt in his words “committed the cardinal sin of volunteering” for something. This led him to daring duty in the Vietnam War. He repeatedly rappelled out of airborne helicopters into the jungle to rescue downed American pilots, nearly always while under furious Communist gunfire.
After distinguishing himself in Vietnam, Pratt joined the Midwest City Police Department in 1965. His artistic brilliance soon evidenced itself. On his own initiative, Pratt started sketching the likenesses of crime suspects, based on victim and witness descriptions. His artistry immediately yielded results, as he and his fellow lawmen began to haul in elusive criminals who had previously escaped identification and capture.
As his renown spread, law enforcement agencies throughout the region, then across America, then internationally, contacted the Oklahoman for help. By the 1970s, while risking his life as an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) undercover officer busting murderous drug dealers, he was pioneering the sensational new science of forensic arts identification.
Pratt often drew not only the contemporary likenesses of both suspects and victims, but, assisted by revolutionary computer imaging that he himself helped develop, their age-progression appearances, sourced in years-old images. This helped crack cold cases from years, even decades in the past. He also pioneered skull tracing, cranial facial reconstruction, soft tissue postmortem drawings, and restoration of photographs and videos.
For half a century, Pratt helped spearhead the pursuit and capture of some of Oklahoma’s and America’s most infamous criminals. These cases included the Sirloin Stockade killers, the Green River killer, the BTK killer, the Roger Wheeler killers (Whitey Bulger, et al), the State Fair murders, the Oklahoma City bombers, the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, and the infamous Oklahoma Girl Scout rapist-murderer.
Regarding the latter, Pratt’s intrepid detective work led him and fellow OSBI agents to rapist and suspected murderer Gene Leroy Hart at a remote Cherokee country cabin. Hart had successfully eluded lawmen for four years after escaping the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, where he was serving a life sentence for multiple previous rapes. After catching him, Pratt leaned down, touched the handcuffed Cherokee, and “counted coup” on him.
Pratt, a Southern Cheyenne Chief, served as Interim Director of the OSBI and retired as Assistant Director in 1992. His crowning achievement came in 2018. Amidst treatments for the cancer that has bedeviled him since he was accidentally sprayed with Agent Orange chemicals in Vietnam, his design entitled Warriors’ Circle of Honor was selected as the National Native American Veterans Memorial.
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.